Saturday, March 31, 2012

What's that Sound? Nature Walk

Earlier in the week we started talking about using our sense of hearing while we explored our Sound Garden.  Later, we took our ears on a nature walk to discover what makes sound outside!

The rules were simple:
  1. Walk....walk...walk
  2. STOP!
  3. Listen....what do you hear?
  4. Try to look to see what is making the noise.
  5. Draw a picture of what you heard.
  6. Start all over again!
It was really neat to see my 3 year old actually pay attention to the sounds around him.  I thought for sure he would forget what we were doing and just run and play, but he would really walk a little bit, stop, and say LISTEN!  He was super excited to record what he heard by drawing it on the paper I brought along.  After he drew his picture (not his best talent =) I had him try to write the word for what he drew.  It was really a great multi-subject activity!
Here is a picture of the paper he drew his observations on...

I'm not sure what the first box was.  The second box was a bird.  The two lines coming out from it was it tweeting (I thought that was creative of him to think of).  The middle left box was a jeep (there were lots of cars driving by since we started our walk from our front door =).  The middle right box was...a box.  I don't know, some humming thing that's next to our condo.  It was definitely making noise, even thought it's not very 'natural.'  The bottom left box was a tree.  He said that he heard the wind blowing through it...creative again!  Then lastly, we heard a woodpecker even though we couldn't see it.

So if the weather is starting to be nicer in your area like it is in mine, grab a sketchbook and head outside with your kids.  Have them close their eyes and take in nature with their ears!

 Would you like to have an activity sheet and printable instructions for this and 9 other science activities for preschoolers?

Get my Preschool Science (& Nature) printable pack for free!

 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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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Science Activity - Sound Garden

Time for another science activity!  Lasts week's theme for science was the sense of hearing.  Going back to our trusty Sid the Science Kid resource, we made a sound garden!

The object of this activity was to explore our sense of hearing by comparing and contrasting sounds made by different materials.  We used plastic, wooden, and metal objects and discovered what they sound like!

First I had to gather the materials.  Most of what we needed was in our instrument bin: metal triangle and stick, wooden mallets and sticks, cymbals, etc.  I added to the mix a plastic bowl and spoon, a metal spoon, and a wooden spoon.

Then I had Trevor close his eyes and I hit together two items of each material and had him guess what they were.  He did a pretty good job identifying them.  Then I made it a little harder by choosing two different materials to hit together.  Of course this was difficult, but he had a good time trying to guess =)

Next I had Trevor separate the different items by material.  Here are the finished piles...

Then he had the chance to explore for himself what sounds different materials would make.  Of course he wanted to test me too, so I had to close my eyes and guess what he was banging together.

Trevor always loves these simple, but effective introductory science activities.  If you think your child would like this activity and others like it too (including other activities on the senses!), make sure to check out my new page (up top) of science and nature activities for every season!

Happy Listening!

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review - God Gave Us Love

God Gave Us Love, by Lisa Tawn Bergen,  is a cute book that essentially tries to answer the question, "Why do we have to love everyone?"   Grandpa bear tries to teach Little Cub about God's love and how God wants us to love others like He loves.  I think the book does a pretty good job of bringing the big subject of love, especially God's love, down to the level of a preschooler.  I also like how it ends by sharing God's ultimate act of love, sending Jesus to the earth to die on the cross for our sins (sadly, it doesn't even go into as much detail as I just did!)

That brings me to my critique of the book.  In effort to make the subject understandable to small children, it minimizes God.  For instance, the line "He always hopes for the best in us."  God is not sitting up in heaven crossing his fingers that we do the right thing.  Also, the poor theology of the line "Because God loved us that much, we won't ever be separated from him."  You won't be separated from God if you have a saving faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross, God loving you is not enough (this lines has the feel of 'everyone ultimately ends up in heaven because God could never send anyone to hell). 

I do recommend this book because it is a cute story that tackles practical issues for a youngster, like loving your siblings, not getting upset when things don't go your way, and being thankful for your family and those around you.  Just make sure that you are teaching your child sound theology so they don't get any wrong ideas from a couple of questionable lines in the book =)

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

3 Year Old Mid-Year Review

At the beginning of year I wrote down some goals that I wanted to accomplish with Trevor this year.  Most of these were academic, but a few were related to other aspects of life.  I also did this last year when Trevor turned two and when it was half way through the year I did a mid-year review to see how we were progressing on these goals.  I'm a little behind this year, but February would have been six months and I wanted to do another mid-year review to see how we are coming along on the goals for this year!  I'll copy below what the goals that I set were, and then note underneath how we are doing!

Goals for the 3 Year Old School Year:

  • Be able to write all Uppercase and Lowercase letters
    • This goal has been accomplished!  Of course they are not all as clear as they will eventually be, but they are getting better every day =)
  •  Be able to read and spell words in sections A-G in The Writing Road to Reading
    • We are a little more than a third of a way through this list, but he can really read many more words since we are also using the McGuffey Primer.  I'm using this list just to make sure that we hit all of the important words and that he learns why each of them is pronounced how it is.
  •  Be able to count to 100
    • I was hoping to nail this at the beginning of the year, but Trevor really struggled with it, so I put it on the back burner for a while.  Just a few days ago he finally broke through and counted past 20 to 30.  So we will still be working on this one for the remainder of the year.
  •  Be able to skip count by 10’s, 5’s, and 2’s
    • He's got 10's down easy.  I say 5's around him a bit, but we haven't worked too much on that one, and not at all on the 2's.  So reading this is a good reminder to work on these!
  • Be able to write numbers to 100
    • He can write all of the digits (though not perfectly!), but I hadn't thought about oral exercises past about 13 (this is about how high we go for answers to our Ray's problems). Good reminder again!  I had been quizzing him using flashcards to identify numbers up to 100, but now I'll have to ask him to write the numbers that I say.
  • Memorize 50 Bible verses (this sounds like a lot, but I'm thinking one a week)
    • He's got about 25 actual verses memorized at this point, so we are right on track!  Using our memory box is a huge help in this...honestly I don't know how we would do it without it!  We usually have to give him the first word of the verse and then he is pretty good about getting the rest.
  •  Improve fine motor skills through arts and crafts
    • He is quite good with the scissors at this point.  He is finally coloring things in on purpose (as opposed to just scribbling around).  I'm not thinking of anything else specific to comment on here...
  • Improve gross motor skills through play and possibly a ‘sport’
    • We have Trevor in a 3 yr old boys gymnastics class once a week.  This has been great for coordination and balance.  We will stop for the summer since we love to spend time outside and he will get plenty of gross motor skill practice on jungle gyms and riding his bike!
  •  Be able to dress and undress himself well (he's alright at this now, but still needs some work)
    • He is completely capable at this point (though slow with buttons) with the exception of starting a zipper on a jacket.  He usually still asks for help in getting dressed, but I try to encourage him to give it a shot himself.  I guess I should be more purposeful about the zipper, or maybe I'll wait until it's actually jacket weather again =) Oh! Also, we've never talked about tying shoes.
  •  Learn to think of others before himself (not interrupting, not taking toys from Mackenzie, etc.)
    • This is a continuous learning process, but there has been improvement.  We had him memorize a Bible verse that talks about "considering others better than yourself" and we talk about that all day, every day =)
  • Begin understanding the concept of addition and subtraction through manipulatives
    • He does perfectly using manipulatives to solve his math problems in Ray's Arithmetic.  We are going to finish going through the book using manipulatives and then start the book over again to see if he's ready to start doing some problems mentally (I don't think this will be any time soon.)
  • Understand concepts: vowel, consonant, syllable
    • Vowel - check, consonant - check, syllable - sorta  =)

Through the encouragement of my pastor's wife, I'm going to start making goals that are more spiritual now too.  It's not something where he has to check the boxes off by a certain date (because it can only be God who works in each of our hearts!), but it's more of a way for me to purposefully take time to look at my child and see where he excels (ex: he is loving, likes to help others, etc.) and where he is struggling (ex: lies to not get in trouble, doesn't obey consistently, etc.)  I made those examples up, but I can then look at the list and see where I purposely need to be shepherding his heart and where I can be an encouragement to him!  I'm not going to share his specific strengths and weaknesses and the goals I set for him in those areas because for his sake it's getting a little personal =)  I will probably find that the things I discover now (the heart related things) will be things he struggles with (or excels at!) for the rest of this life.

So where are you at now that it's more than half way through school?  Have you taken a moment to look at your children and see how far they have progressed since the beginning of the school year?  Have you found some things that they are not excelling at either because you just forgot to teach it, or maybe because they need a new way of looking at?  If you haven't done this, I encourage you to give it a shot!

Happy Teaching!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lesson Plan - Week 16

MV - Memory Verse       WM - Wisdom and the Millers           McG - McGuffey         FP - Forest People

Posts Detailing Activities Done in this Lesson Plan:

This was last week's lesson plan.  We got in our new character training book and were able to start reading it.  It is called Wisdom and the Millers.  Each chapter is a story about the Miller family that illustrates a particular Proverb.  So far I really like the book.  The stories are thought provoking, but short and simple.  They are a bit over Trevor's ability to thoroughly understand, but he asks questions as I read and it brings up many good things to talk about.

His ability to read is increasing by leaps and bounds since we started using McGuffey's Eclectic Primer.  He is really enjoying the stories and is so excited to see that the words he is reading actually fit with the little picture and also answer the questions he stops to ask.  I know everyone says it, but it truly is so rewarding to see your child read and begin to understand that words are for a purpose.  Trevor loves to ask questions when I'm reading to him, so I am most excited to show him that if you just listen (or read!) on, you question will probably be answered by the words on the page.  It's so neat to see a whole new world opening up to him =)  If you are looking for a way to teach your child to read without all the workbook pages and flashy distractions, I completely recommend McGuffey's Eclectic Primerand of course the copywork I created to go along with it!

What have you been learning with your children?

Happy Learning!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Reading and Writing - In Action

I've talked a lot about the materials that we use for our reading and writing, but I've never broken it down into what we actually do.  Since reading and writing is our main focus right now (we're learning and memorizing all the building blocks we are going to need for later learning in this grammar stage, according to the classical model of schooling) I thought I should show you all exactly how we do it!

First, we are learning the phonograms and spelling words in The Writing Road to ReadingWe have currently learned the first 45 phonograms and the first 32 spelling words.  Each week we add four new words.  I write the phonograms and words on 3x5 cards and put them into our Memorization Box (that we also use for Bible verses).  So each day, I pull out the cards that are behind that day in the box and ask Trevor to write those words (or phonograms) from memory in his writing notebook.  This is a great activity for him, because it makes him sound out each sound in the word and then think of what letter or combination of letters makes that sound.  This is very challenging, but it is great to see him work through each word and he is getting better and better by the day!

A page from Trevor's writing notebook where he writes the words I speak to him from the cards in our memorization box.  You can see we were having a little trouble with the letter 'y' that day =)

Next, we turn to the back half of his writing notebook where I have written all the spelling words that he has (officially) learned so far.  I write them with the notations recommended in The Writing Road to ReadingTrevor starts from the beginning of the list and reads through each word.  This only takes a minute because he practices these words each day.  It is also easier to read these words because the notations help him remember if there is a specific rule needed for the word or which sound a particular letter makes (if it's a letter that can make multiple sounds).

One of the pages of words that I have written in Trevor's writing notebook that he reads through each day.  Notice the notations that help him learn and remember why the words are pronounced they way they are.

After that we go to the McGuffey Primer.  I just use the free public domain version and print out the page we are using each day.  You can use McGuffey primers and readers to teach phonics or sight-words, or however you want, but we use it purely as a reader.  We have made it through 10 lessons so far (we just stared this part recently) and to my surprise, Trevor has had no problem sounding out the words.  When I first looked at it, I thought that it would quickly surpass Trevor's abilities, but instead his abilities have just increased along with it!  After he reads it, I ask him a question or two for comprehension.  Comprehension usually isn't a 3 year old boy's strong suit, but I figure at least it will be teaching him that he should be paying attention to what he reads =)

After he reads from the primer, he does copywork from the lesson.  I have created an e-book full of copywork to go along with the primer (one page of copywork for each lesson in the primer), so I print out the copywork page on the back of the lesson I printed out.  If you use McGuffey's Primer or are just looking for some good copywork for early writers, check it out here!   Trevor simply copies usually about 2 short sentences and that's it!  We talk about anything interesting like punctuation or capitalization or whatever. It's such a simple act, but it really does wonders for handwriting and is a great way to passively teach grammar.

A page from my copywork e-book that corresponded with the McGuffey's Primer lesson he read that day.

To sum it up:
  1. Written Review - write from memory the day's words in the memory box
  2. Oral Review - read the list of current and previously learned spelling words
  3. McGuffey Primer - read the lesson, ask questions for comprehension
  4. Copywork - complete a copywork page for the McGuffey's Primer lesson

So that's it =)  Like I said, reading and writing is the most important thing for us right now, so we try to work on this every day.  It really doesn't take much time (except when Trevor loses focus and wants to talk about something random in between each letter he writes on his copywork =)  I am thoroughly impressed at how well Trevor is reading and writing for a 3 year old and think that these few simple steps each day is totally worth it!

What have you found works best for you for teaching your children to read?

Happy Reading and Writing!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Five in a Row - The Story About Ping

 This past month I took my turn planning the lesson for our homeschool group.  All year I have been intrigued by the fun my friend Kristina over at School Time Snippets has been having with her son using Five in a Row, but it's not really my style for our day to day schooling, so I thought that this month's homeschool groups might be the perfect time to try it out!  If you are not familiar with Five in  Row, it is a curriculum that bases a whole week's study off of one literature book.  It hits on many different subjects, all relating in some way to the story for the week.  I chose to use The Story about Ping for our group.  Usually the lessons would last all week, but I just chose what I thought would fit nicely into our meeting time.

First we started by talking about the story.  Trevor was the only one who had heard the story before, so I told the children that Ping is a duck and that he lives on the Yangtze River in China.  We got out a globe and found China and saw how far away it is from The United States.  We colored the Chinese flag and drew in the Yangtze River on a map of China.

Now that we had the basics down, we were ready to read!  The girls were great listeners, even though Trevor kept trying to stand on the chair right in front of the book so he could see better....we'll work on that =)

Throughout the book, Ping's family is referenced.  It states how many mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins Ping has.  So we did a worksheet to practice our counting skills and colored in a duck for each person in Ping's family (for instance, color one duck blue for Ping's dad, color 42 ducks brown for Ping's 42 cousins, etc.)  Then we cut out each group of ducks and did some greater than, less than comparisons (for example, "Does Ping have more uncles or more brothers?")

Lastly, we did a fun science activity.  We talked about how ducks are able to float on the water because they fill an air sac in their bodies like a balloon.  Then when they want to dive under the water to get food, they let the air out of the sac.  We filled up a bucket with water and I put a balloon on top to show how it floated.  Then we predicted whether other items would float or sink and then tested our predictions.  The last item I brought out was a large canning jar that looked like it was filled with dried beans.  I asked the kids if they thought it would sink or float.  Of course they thought it would sink, but to their surprise it floated!  That is because I had blown up a balloon and put it in the jar and put the dried beans around it.  This was to illustrate how the duck looks big like it should sink in the water, but the filled air sac (like the balloon in the jar) enables it to float!

I didn't get a great picture of this activity in action, I was too busy trying to keep water from getting absolutely everywhere =)

I thought this was a really fun lesson for the kids!  If you aren't familiar with Five in a Row, check it out!  I bet you and your kids would have fun with it too!  If you want ideas to do activities like this for The Story about Ping and other stories, check out School Time Snippets, Delightful Learning, and Homeschool Share.  Those three sites are where I got all of my ideas from!

Happy Learning!

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Review - The World of Animals

I recently received The World of Animals to review from New Leaf Publishing Group.  This is a big, thick, 256 page textbook detailing animal life from the smallest single-celled protists (which really aren't animals at all!) to the largest of the mammals.  I love that the book is written from a Christian worldview, giving God credit where credit is due him!

Each animal type is broken down into different groups (Simple Animals, Worms-Snails & Starfish, Insects & other Arthropods, Fish, Amphibians & Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals) and each specific type of animal is given attention.  The book reads very much like a textbook (for children) in that it is jam packed with bits of information, and would be best used as a reference book rather than a main science curriculum.  While it is not the style of book I would use for actively teaching science to my children, I think it would be a great resource to have on hand for looking up particular animals of interest.  The pictures are beautiful and plentiful and therefore could engage even a child who is too small to understand the wealth of information found in the book.

If you are looking for a beautiful resource book with detailed information about all sorts of animals, but do not want your children being taught the lie of evolution, The World of Animalswould be a great book for you!  Go ahead a check it out, I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

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Friday, March 2, 2012

February Recap

Well, February flew by, didn't it?!?  I am thankful for all the seasons that God blesses us with, but I am extra excited to think that spring is right around the corner!  On the blogging front, here is the recap of the month thanking the top three sites that referred visitors to Living and Learning at Home, highlighting the three most popular posts on this site (in case you missed one!), and my favorite post from another blog.  I hope you enjoy!

Top 3 Referring Sites:
  1. Preschool Powol Packets (Teach Me Tuesday Link-Up)
  2. Homeschool Creations (Preschool Corner Link-Up)
  3. Serenity You (Featured on 52 Weeks of You)

Top 3 Posts Here at Living and Learning at Home:
  1. Paper Hats and Cute Corner Bookmarks (#1 again! Thank you Pinterest =)
  2. Science Activity - Melting Snow
  3. Marshmallow Snowflakes
If you happened to miss any of these posts, takes a minute to check them out!  I hope you won't be disappointed =)

Featured Blog Post:

This month my favorite post was Rhythm and Movement over at Train Up a Child.  The post highlights ways that you can help your child with their fine motor skills, coordination, rhythm, and more!  All you need are a set of sticks.  We have two sticks that go with our musical instrument set so Trevor used those, and I grabbed two mis-matched sticks that we use to prop up our windows =)  So, grab anything you've got and give this a try!  Trevor couldn't get enough of this.  Some of the suggestions were easy for him, while others proved quite challenging.  The post gives about two dozen different movements/actions to do with the sticks, and I'm sure they will inspire you come up with more ideas of your own!  Writing this is making me want to do this to get my son and some sticks =)

I hope you had a ....Happy February!

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