Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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  • A Balanced Approach:

    Homepreschool and Beyond will give parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family. Find out what young children need to know—and how to teach it. Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years—and beyond.

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
    • Covers all areas of development
    • Covers all areas of curriculum
    • For a ages 2-8
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Literature based
    • Spiritual and character building emphasis

Homepreschool 101: What Preschoolers Learn Through Play, Art, and Music

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 10, 2014


What’s the big deal about play? Isn’t it….just play?

If you’ve followed my blog for any time at all, you would know that I emphasize the importance of play for children—especially for preschoolers. The value of play is greatly underestimated in our society today. Not so long ago, young children spent most of their time in creative, unstructured play. Older children played from the time school let our until dinnertime. But nowadays, more and more of our children’s time is taken up with “educational” activities, parent-initiated activities, television. and computer time. Dr. Alvin Rosenfield, a noted child psychiatrist, recently quoted these startling new statistics:

“In the past twenty years, structured sports time has doubled, unstructured children’s activities have declined by 50%, household conversations have become far less frequent, family dinners have declined by 33%, and family vacations have decreased by 28%.”

This change in family dynamics seems to be a modern phenomena that affects all families, whether we realize it or not. Even families with preschoolers are often so busy driving their children from one adult initiated activity to another that little time remains for family and playtime. In fact, many parents feel guilty if they do not keep their children busy this way. They seem to think that these “enriching activities” keep children busy, happy, and learning. But the reality is, this “busyness” is stopping us from giving our children what they need most: Time to develop close bonds with family members, and time to play.

Experts agree (how often does that happen?) that play is key to normal child development: Normal social, emotional, physical, and academic development is dependent on large daily doses of unstructured play. Through play, children learn. Here is a list, off the top of my head, that shows you what I mean:

What Preschoolers Learn Through Play

Through block or building play, preschoolers learn: Shapes, sizes, pre-math/math skills, thinking skills, cause-and-effect, planning skills, one-to-one correspondence, counting skills, and more.

Creative play is what we used to call “dramatic play.” It’s the type of play your child is engaging in, either alone or with others, when they take on the “role” of another–a mother, a dad, another person in the family, a super-hero, a doctor, a policeman…you get the idea. Through such play, preschoolers learn: Social skills, emotional skills (they use play to work out their emotions and practice appropriate social reactions, and so on), as well as speech/vocabulary skills, thinking skills, and more.

Through manipulative play (puzzles, Duplo’s “fit together” toys) preschooler’s learn: Spatial awareness, size/shape awareness, matching skills, eye-hand coordination, thinking skills, planning skills, pre-math/math skills, colors, and more.

Through outside/physical play, preschoolers practice coordination, large and small-muscle strength and control, “sport” related skills, and let out pent-up emotions. Outside play is often combined with creative/dramatic play for increased learning. Outside playtime is also key to physical fitness. Additionally, much has been said of late, about the need for children to get out into nature. Richard Louv, in his book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” makes a strong case for children’s need to spend extended amounts of time in nature (not in suburban areas, but in “wild” areas.) I think time “in the woods” is good for our souls.

Other activities that I emphasize for young children are art and music. Art and music are more than just “extra curricular” activities of little import. Rather, they are also key activities in the lives of children of all ages.
Children should be exposed to music from birth. Singing calms babies and is an expression of love. I strongly believe that while musical skill can be inherited, it is usually directly related to the amount of early exposure to quality music. In fact, I believe it is directly proportional to it (i.e. the more they hear, the greater their “ear” and skill for it. That’s why, musical ability so often runs in families.) There is no replacement for developing an “ear” for music–that instinct of what comes next, as well as the ability to hear and “stay on” the melody when singing or playing an instrument–OR the ability to hear/pick out the rhythm or the harmony (and again, the ability to stay on that part.)
You can learn more about the importance of music and see my specific recommendations when it comes to choosing good music, as well as a list of activities and skills, in the chapter on music in my book, Homepreschool and Beyond. You can find a much shortened version of that chapter HERE.

What else do preschoolers learn through finger-plays and music? Preschoolers learn: Speech and vocabulary skills, grammar and language skills, small-muscle control, listening skills, counting forwards and backwards (through finger-plays), math skills (music is closely related to math, believe it or not), and more. Through listening to or participating in musical activities and musical play, preschoolers develop their “ear” for music, which is key to later skills involved in singing or playing an instrument–such as rhythm, matching pitch, and the intuitive “ear” for music. The truly amazing thing about music that should interest all parents is the fact that studies have shown that children who are involved in music do better in every other subject in school–and no one can explain why.

And what about art? Art is important to children’s development for a plethora of reasons. Art, like music, is also important for self-expression, as well as the control and release of emotions.
Through art, preschoolers learn: Through art, preschoolers learn cause and effect, colors and color mixing, small muscle control (which is vital for writing), pencil/pen control, eye-hand coordination, art appreciation, self-expression, and of course, art skills. Art experiences of all types are really “pre-writing” experiences. For a more complete list of what preschoolers learn through art, how to set up your house for art, a list of suggested supplies, as well as important things you need to know about talking to children about their art, check out the art chapter in my book OR read a very abbreviated version HERE.

Important Tips:

~Never allow yourself to think, “She’s just playing.”

~Now that you are aware of the value of play, be careful not to let play become an academic exercise. Once in a while, introducing a purposeful type of play (play with a learning goal at heart–what I call “playful learning” in Homepreschool and Beyond) is OK. But be careful not to do this too often. At its heart, play should be child-initiated and child-le. Be careful not to over-analyze your child’s play, watching for “what they are learning today.” Play for play’s sake is enough.

~Provide open-ended toys and props that your children can use in many different ways. If you buy a set of duplo legos or wooden building blocks, s/he could play all kinds of things! He could build a city, adding some cars to drive on the “roads”; add plastic animals and she could build a zoo, and on and on. It’s a good idea to avoid toys that need batteries; 100% kid-powered is better.
For creative or “dramatic” play, children also enjoy the type of toys that allow them to act out adulthood or toys that make them feel powerful. That’s why dollies and cradles, play kitchens, cars and trucks, a doctor’s kit, and dress-up clothes (including “capes” for super-hero play) continue to be popular choices.

~Play with your children, but don’t assume a leadership role in their play. Instead, follow your child’s lead.

~Limit television and computer time. Let your children come up with their own imaginary scenarios–or let them get inspiration from books (instead of acting out what they’ve seen on television.)

~Observe your children’s play: That’s what child development experts do! Watching your children’s play clues you in on their secret world.

~Children will play longer and play safely if you stay nearby to watch and give occasional feedback. Obviously it’s not safe to let your children play outside alone nowadays, so plan your days in such a way that you have free time to spend outside with your preschoolers, ideally for part of every morning and afternoon.

~Be “that Mom” or “that house” where the neighborhood kids gather. Many kids are drawn to the house on the block where a Mom or Dad is around, creative toys abound, and cookies or cool-aid is served. Really, the key is having parents around who care. (I’ve also seen that the reverse be true: The kids who are used to being totally unsupervised and who don’t want to obey our rules quickly stop coming over.) Most afternoons I have two to four children from the neighborhood either in my yard or in my house. This is a form of Christian hospitality that can even open the door for sharing the gospel.

~Try and offer your children opportunities to play outside, weather permitting, as often as possible. Outside play and exposure to nature are especially important experiences for children of all ages.

Give your children plenty of time for unstructured. uninterrupted, creative play. They need it more than you can ever imagine.

Check out these important links to learn more about the importance of play– in our homes and our homeschools.

An Excerpt from A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fanasy Play, by Vivian Gussin Paley

Why Play? The Importance of Play

Learning Through Play by David Elkind

(NOTE: I haven’t investigated the other articles on these sites, and so can only recommend the pages above, not other pages on these links or their recommended links.)

Note: Homepreschool and Beyond has a whole chapter on play, how to play with your children, how to choose good toys, and more.

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. © 2010, 2011, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool Preschool, Play, Preschool Art, preschool at home, Toys | Leave a Comment »

The Basics Of Homepreschool: Starting Early? Curriculum, Methods and More

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 3, 2014


How to Start Children Early—Curriculum, Methods, etc:

First of all, I have to make it clear that starting homepreschool–a deliberate, set-aside time to help our preschoolers learn–does not mean it is time to start formal academics. Study after study have shown that the current push-down in curriculum just doesn’t work. No study has shown any benefit at all to learning to read at age five or younger, versus learning to read at age 6, 7, or older—and in fact, studies have shown that children who learn to read later not only learn to read more quickly and easily than other children do, but they do better academically throughout their entire lives. This is because they spent their early years learning and doing real things instead of concentrating solely on formal academics.

Preschoolers should spend lots of time being read to, playing with science, taking nature walks, doing art, listening to music, singing, and playing, playing, playing! All these activities boost thinking skills, creativity, and vocabulary, and THAT benefits them throughout their whole lives. (This is true, meaningful learning for preschoolers. See the tab, “Goals of Homepreschool” and “Goals for the Balanced Mom” for more.)

Preschoolers don’t need “curriculum” as we’ve come to think of it, either. For preschoolers, life itself is the curriculum. Preschoolers can learn about science—plants, animals, weather; social studies—communities and community helpers; art; music; pre-reading skills; social skills; sport/physical skills; speech/language skills and pre-math skills—all through having parents who talk to them, read aloud to them, play with them, and provide real life experiences for them. (Don’t make the mistake of concentrating only on formal academics and “readiness” skills, when there is so much more that preschoolers can and should learn! See my tab on “Readiness” and “The Truth: Early Academics” for more, including links to research on the subject.)

How to Get Started

The best way to start homepreschooling is not by running out and buying workbooks for your preschooler, as I stated above. Workbooks are not developmentally appropriate for most preschoolers. Instead, start by establishing a simple daily routine for that includes a story time, art, music, and so on. If you want to, you can decide ahead of time what you’d like to read to your children about—choose themes or units, and then run to the library and find all the picture books you can about the subject. Then, simply read, read, read. If and when you can, throw in activities that go along with what you are learning about. For instance, when you do a farm unit, visit the grocery store and talk about how and where things grow; buy some whipping cream and shake it up to make butter. When you learn about zoo animals, visit a zoo. When you learn about community helpers, visit the police station and the airport, and so on. There are many “homepreschool” co-ops and homeschool support groups that offer these types of activities or “field trips”. (See my archives on unit studies for more.)

Methods: The Importance of Reading Aloud, Conversation, and Playing with Our Children

Reading aloud is the single most important thing parents can do to help their children learn, no matter their age. When you read to your child, you are teaching more than just the content of the book. You are teaching them about language, letters and print—that letters make sounds, and sounds make letters; you are also teaching them that we read from top to bottom and left to right. You are teaching them about grammar, vocabulary, and rhyme. You are growing their attention span, speech skills and more. {For more, see my tab, “Reading Aloud” and the archives on reading aloud and book lists.}

Conversation is vitally important to learning. Conversations always include the skills of listening, and then responding, which is different from just “talking at” our children. We can use conversations to build relationships with our children, to teach our children, and to facilitate their learning

Playing With Our Children:

It is important to watch our children’s play AND play with them. By watching their play, we can detect new behavior problems and nip them in the bud; we can discern their emotional state, and help them where needed; we can take advantage of teachable moments, and we can learn about their health (observing children’s play/behavior allows us to catch illnesses early.) Best of all, playing with our children builds close relationships and is tons of fun! {See my article, “Why Preschoolers Need to Play” for more, including links to research about the importance of play.}

Next time: Important Skills to Develop, Fun and Games!

© 2010, 2011, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post are taken from or similar to passages in Homepreschool and Beyond, used by permission of the author. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Curriculum, Early Academics, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Routines | Leave a Comment »

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God: A Reality Check, and a Suggested Book List

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 28, 2014


This next section of my three part series is going to be the toughest to stomach, but it is the most important. If you only read one part of this series, I hope you will read this part. Much of this I was already planning to post. In fact, the Lord has been convicting me to post it somewhere for a long time. It’s hard to do, because a lot of it is personal.

First of all, I want you to know that I understand that the information in this series, “Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God,” can be overwhelming. My blog can be overwhelming, and my book too, unless you approach it with the right attitude. You need to know that all the things I’ve listed in the previous posts of this series (and in my book) are ideas…lofty goals to work towards. So take the ideas I’ve shared as ideas, only. You get to choose which ideas will work in your home, with your children, and when. But don’t try to do them all (at least, not all at once!) You don’t have to do them all. You probably can’t do them all. And (here’s the important part): Even if you could do all these things, there is no guarantee that your children will grow up to have the close, personal relationship with God that you hope they will. The hard truth is, every child has free will, and can choose to live for the Lord—or choose not to. Many loving, Christian parents, who thought they did all the “right things”, including myself, have learned this the hard way, and had their hearts broken. I say this not to discourage you, but to give you a hard dose of reality. I feel I can share these things because they’ve happened to ME.

My first child has rejected the faith and is living in a way that is not pleasing to God. My daughter is living for the Lord (praise God!), but now differs from us doctrinally on a few points. And, if you met my youngest boys, you would know without a doubt that either my husband and I are imperfect parents (true), or my that my boys haven’t fully submitted themselves to God (yet!) They are not easy kids, and they never have been. They both have “flashes” that show me what Godly men they might grow up to become, but their behavior in-between those flashes, especially the way they get along treat each other, isn’t always pleasant. But we struggle along, anyway, doing the best we can, praying for them, teaching them, and never, ever, giving up.

I still believe that homeschooling is the most Biblical way to educate children, and I still believe that it is the educational choice that is the most likely to produce the results we are hoping for (children who grow up to be Christians.) But those beliefs are tempered with the reality of the fact that there are “no guarantees.” It is our responsibility to do the best we can, but we must leave the results to God. If we have taught our children about the Lord from the time they are young, we can then claim the promises in God’s Word (the principles of sowing and reaping, the scriptures He gives us regarding our children, and so on.) HERE is a site lists many of the promises that parents can claim for their children, and HERE is another great site—scroll down for an awesome list of Bible promises regarding our children.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years—things that the Lord has laid on my heart to share:

About our kids:
-Remember that God has given your children a free will. As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” We can share the Lord with our children their whole lives without result. Some children choose not to submit themselves to God. Others say they have, but their behavior shows that they are not regenerated (not new creations/not living for the Lord as they should.) Others still may out and out reject the truth we try so hard to instill into them. Pray that your children would have soft hearts towards the voice of the Lord, and would come to salvation at an early age. Pray that they would be able to discern truth from lies. Ask the Lord to open their spiritual understanding.

-Remember that your children are watching you. Set a good example for them. Rebellious children will look for any weaknesses or inconsistencies in your life, and use them to justify their own sin. They will see you as a hypocrite, and call you on it. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it. Try to live what you teach, so that this doesn’t happen. Ask the Lord to change you, grow you, a help you become more like Jesus.

-Remember that we can’t be our children’s Holy Spirit. It’s not our job. You can’t convict your children of sin, or of their need of God, and so on, anyway. Only the Holy Spirit can do that!! We can communicate our beliefs, thoughts, and personal conviction to them, but it is ultimately up to the Holy Spirit to deal with them. Pray that your children would be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and that they would be doers of the Word, not hearers only.


About us (parents):

-Be careful not to make your children or your family an idol. Whatever you esteem, value, or think about the most becomes an idol. Don’t get so caught up in the lives of your children that you neglect your own spiritual life.

-Beware of parental pride: If you find yourself looking around at other parents whose kids are struggling or whose children have turned away from the Lord, and you are assuming that yours won’t, because “you’ve done everything right…everything you are supposed to….even homeschooled them”…then be careful. Pride is a sin. Pride is not pleasing to God. God says that He opposed the proud. You can be assured that if you are prideful about your children, at some time or another you WILL be slapped down…probably by own your children’s own behavior.

-Be careful about your attitude towards other parents who are having struggles with their kids. Don’t assume that they are doing everything wrong, or that they must be “messed-up” or “bad parents.” In short, don’t judge them. Don’t shoot the wounded. For all you know, they have poured their hearts and souls into their children, only to see them do the exact opposite of all they had been taught. Instead of feeling superior or judging them, pray for them. Pray for their children to return to the Lord. Love on them, and encourage them.

That’s it for the “reality check” for now. Think about these things, and examine yourself: Do any of these cautions apply to you? Do you have any attitudes to change? I will share some more specific things that are on my heart at a later date (Important Things to Teach Your Older Children–kind of a “spiritual lessons from the Mother of a Prodigal” type of post.) I’ll also share some important links at the end of this post. But for now, let’s go back to the “how” we can help our children learn about the Lord.

Remember that if we do all that we can do to teach our children about the Lord, we can rely on the promises of God regarding our children!!

Below is a list of the Bible story books and picture books that we have enjoyed. I’ve listed them by approximate age of usage.

Bible Storybooks

We started reading Bible story books to our children when they were very young. We try to be careful to choose Bible story books that don’t “add” to the Bible—guessing what Jesus must have thought or felt, for example. The usual progression of books in our house has been something like this:

1-2 years: Read-Aloud Bible Stories, Volumes 1-4, by Ella K. Lindvall

2-3 years: The above, plus The Beginner’s Bible, by Karyn Henley

3-4 years: The above, plus My Bible Friends, by Etta H. Degering (5 volumes)

Happy Day Books (available most Bible bookstores)

4-5 years: The Golden Children’s Bible
Arch Bible Books (available at most Bible bookstores)
Egermier’s Bible Story Book, by Elsie E. Egermier (this one is another favorite.)

5+ years: The above, plus The Child’s Story Bible, by Catherine F. Vos (This book is beautifully written. I like that it explains the orgins of Satan. It also covers more of the new testament than most Bible story books do.)

6+ years: The Bible, itself. You can find a listing of all the major Bible stories to read straight from the Bible, Old Testament HERE and New Testament HERE.

Of course, every family has its own favorites, and every child is ready to move up to the “more advanced book” in his or her own time. If your children have a Bible storybook that they really love, it’s OK to stick with it longer! The important thing is to get your children to know and love the stories and concepts in the Word. Read from a Bible storybook daily, and discuss the stories. Explain, in the simplest terms you can, what the stories teach us. Be sure to teach your children that these “story books”, unlike their other “story books,” really happened; they are TRUE.
To help our children understand some of the more difficult Biblical concepts, we also use specialized storybooks that strive to explain them as simply as possible (Devotional books):

My very favorite devotional for little ones (three and four year olds) is Stepping Stones to Bigger Faith for Little People: A Collection of Family Devotions, by Joyce Herzog. Just right for preschoolers, this is a sweet book that explains difficult concepts such as forgiveness, the blood of the lamb, living without fear, growing in holiness, and lots more, in a way that young children can understand.

Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers, by Joey Allen (titles include “The Scripture”, “The Mission”, “The Trinity” and “The Gospel”.

Little Lessons for Little Learners
, by Patricia Richardson Mattozzi (titles include “Angels”, “Heaven”, and “Prayer”.

Leading Little Ones To God, a devotional that explains the main Biblical themes, by Marian M. Schooland 4-5+

The Story of The Lord’s Prayer, The Story of Ten Commandments, by Patricia A. Pingry

Three in One, a Picture of God, by Joanne Marxhausen

Tell Me a Story: Treasures for Eternity, and others by Max Lucado 5+

Comfort for a Child’s Heart: The 23rd Psalm and Bible Promises, By David and Helen Haidle (This is a favorite of ours, one that we will read several different times throughout childhood. It is beautifully illustrated, beautifully written, and shares important truths.)

Here are some of our favorites for older children:

Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress, by Oliver Hunkin (8 years and up.)

Kingdom Tales, by David and Karen Mains (grades 3-8.)

The Young Peacemaker: Teaching Students to Respond to Conflict in God’s Way, by Corlette Sande (fourth grade and up.)

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends, by Sarah, Harold, and Stephen Mally (Sixth grade and up.)

Battlefield of the Mind for Kids, by Joyce Meyers (a favorite of ours; fourth or fifth grade and up; a very important book!)
Discover 4 Yourself Inductive Bible Studies for Kids, by Kay Arthur ( I would say third or fourth grade through seventh or eighth.)

Finally: Conversations and Daily Life

Biblical concepts should be a natural part of daily conversations. If we are aware of the presence of the Lord in our daily lives, we should share this awareness with our children. Simple comments like those below are key to bringing our children into an awareness of the power of God, how to please God, how important prayer is, and so on. Talk to your children about spiritual matters on a daily basis!

“Aren’t you glad God made kittens for us to love?”

“It makes Jesus happy when you share.”

“There’s a fire truck! While we pull over and let it pass, let’s pray for the
Fire Fighters, and for whoever might have been hurt in the fire or accident they are headed to.”

“What does the Bible say about lying? Is lying pleasing to God?”

“Grandma called, and she isn’t feeling good today. Let’s stop what we are doing and pray for her right now.”

“Before we leave on our trip, let’s pray and ask God to help us have a safe trip and a fun time.” (This is a tradition at our house; we never leave on a trip without praying first.)

I hope this series of posts has been helpful and encouraging to you. As I said, I will be sharing more of my thoughts shortly. In the meantime, may the Lord bless you and yours!!
~Susan

PLEASE take the time to read the articles below. They are so important!!

Exposing the Seven Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers, by Reb Bradley

Christian Child Training Versus Free-Will by Barbara Frank.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Family Life, Holiness, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Spiritual Matters, Teaching Bible | Leave a Comment »

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 20, 2014


In my last post, I shared that two primary ways we teach our children about God are through example, and through teaching. In this post, I will share some specific thoughts/ideas about HOW to do it:

Through Example: The hardest part of parenting, I believe, is disciplining ourselves to be who we need to be, so that we are good examples for our children. (Self-control. Why does it always have to come back to that? SIGH.) In my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, I call this “teaching through parenting:”

The best definition of good parenting I’ve ever heard is from Anne Ortland, who says, “Successful parenting means: One, becoming what you should be. And two, staying close enough to the children that it will rub off.” She challenges us further by asking, “What will you become, in order that your offspring may turn out to be great human beings for God?”

We need to admit that we can’t be good examples in our own strength. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us, and help us. So we can’t be good examples for our children unless we abide in Christ. One resource that has helped me tremendously in this area is the Christian classic, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. You can even get it for FREE on your Kindle! In this book, Brother Lawrence talks about how, no matter what he is doing, a part of him can be (no, IS) in the presence of God, and how the presence of God changes everything! It even makes doing the dishes a blessing. When we are conscious of the fact that we are continually in His presence, it changes how we talk to people, react to people (often with prayer instead of anger), and most importantly, how we think. One idea that can help us with this is to set some type of alarm (on a watch, perhaps?) for every 15 or 30 minutes, just to remind us to think about God and the fact that He is with us. Then, we can pray and thank Him for that.

Another resource that has been very helpful to me is, The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Myers. The battle is in our minds, and learning about how to control our thoughts and spiritual warfare is very helpful. Her books on habits are helpful, too (replace the bad with the good!)

It is certain that the Lord is calling us to (greater) holiness. The Lord Jesus Christ wants true disciples who follow His example. No compromise. No shades of grey. No syncretism (mixing Christianity with contradictory beliefs or actions.) Are you willing to give up whatever has been holding you back from living the kind of life you should? Whatever part of YOU that you aren’t willing to totally give to God? What do you need to give up/change/start doing/surrender and submit to God in order to live in holiness?

Through Teaching:
The Word of God: Our children need to be saturated in the Word of God. In order to do this, we also need to be saturated in the Word. This is the only way to grow, to Abide in the Lord, and His Word. To do this, obviously, we need to spend time in God’s Word daily. It is easy to let this go in favor of extra sleep, more time to work, or simply being too busy. But I’ve discovered the hard way that when I don’t spend the time I need to spend in the Word (and in prayer and worship), several things happen: I’m not abiding in the Lord as well as I should be, so I start to be crabby, selfish, depressed, and…well…carnal. The old man starts to win out. OR, I begin to feel spiritually “off”, or even find myself in spiritual oppression/warfare. Satan loves to attack us when we’re down, and when we don’t spend time in the Word, we’re down…we have opened ourselves up to attack. Don’t give the devil an opportunity!!

Another point: If we aren’t in the Word, it is really difficult for us to answer our children’s questions about the Word, God, salvation, etc. We need to be growing ever stronger and more mature in the Lord, so that we can answer our children’s questions about God!!

I have to admit, this is still something that I am working on. I’m in the Word almost every day now…I still have occasional days when I slip up. I try to do my devotional times first thing in the morning. I highly recommend the “Lord” series by Kay Arthur. Buy the CD’s or MP3’s that go with them, or join a group study. I’ve especially enjoyed Lord, Heal My Hurts, Lord, is it Warfare? Teach Me to Stand, and Lord, I Want to Know You.

Another way to help our children (and ourselves) abide in the Word is by memorizing it. We use Simply Charlotte Mason’s method for memorizing scripture. I simply read the scriptures to them over and over, and they join in as they can. Sometimes I break the scriptures up into short phrases for them to repeat, or I’ll let them fill in every other word of verses that they know fairly well. I don’t care as much about memorizing the references right now as I do memorizing the verses themselves. You can also use scripture memory songs to help you memorize (you can make up your own, or find some on Amazon.)

As for what to memorize: When your children are very young, start with simple, short verses like these:
Psalms 119:105; Psalms 118:1, Psalm 147:1. You could also start with scripture memory books, designed just for preschoolers, and memorize one Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet. Scripture Memory Fellowship offers a nice one designed especially for two and three year-olds (along with lots of other topical booklets with Bible verses to memorize, for all ages,) or you can print up your own memory verse cards for FREE from Homeschool Creations. Another option that is especially good for 4-6 year olds is Susan Hunt’s book, My A, B, C Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts. This book has a devotional and a memory verse for each letter (if I remember correctly, I had to self-edit a little of the devotionals to align them with our doctrinal beliefs, so you might want to pre-read the devotions before reading them to your kids.) This book contains slightly longer verses, for kids who have already had some experience with memory work.

As your children get older, move them up to longer verses, such as Psalms 34:13; James 1:19-20; Phil. 2:14; Romans 12:21; Psalms 56:3-4; Proverbs 20:11. Once your children reach second or third grade, you can also memorize the books of the Bible, the twenty-third Psalm, Psalm 100, the Apostle’s Creed, or even whole chapters of the Bible. Psalms and Ephesians are especially good for this.

Daily “Bible” time:
A daily devotional time with your children is an important component of teaching your children Biblical concepts, as is praying together, taking our children to church regularly, and simply talking to our children about spiritual matters.

Some families have their devotionals together first thing in the morning; others at night. If possible, dads should lead the devotions (in our home, Dad is going to start reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the week every night.) Young children need spiritual input from both their mothers and their fathers. A daily devotional does not have to be long; for preschoolers, 10-20 minutes is more than enough. This is what we do: We start by gathering in a comfortable place, such as a living or family room with a comfy couch. When our children were young, we’d start by singing active Sunday School-type songs, to get the wiggles out. Next, we’d sing a hymn or two. We concentrate on one or two hymns at a time, and start with just learning the first verse and the chorus. Hymns are important because they are filled with scripture (they can help with memorization) and doctrine. They are a spiritual heritage that I don’t want my children to miss out on, even though our church does “modern” worship almost exclusively. If you learn the hymns, the Lord will bring them into your mind to help, comfort, and encourage you when you are down…IF you know them. (NOTE: You can also buy more “modern” versions of hymns, sung by many of the popular contemporary Christian singers, if you want to. We have CD’s of hymns done by Amy Grant, for example.) We also sing some of the praise songs that we hear on the radio (we like K-LOVE) or that we sing in church. After this, we work on our Bible memory work, and finally, we read together. What we read depends on our children’s ages, listening abilities, and spiritual understanding. When our children were little, we’d read a short Bible story. As they get older, we move up to longer stories, and later, we read both stories and devotional books. Finally, we move up to reading the Bible itself.

Next post: What to read for daily devotions, final tips about teaching Bible, and things we must not overlook.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Fun, Homepreschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters, Teaching Bible | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 18, 2014


Building relationships is our most important job as parents. As I stated in my previous post on relationships,

“Developing relationships is the most important part of any homepreschool/homeschool. We must help our children grow strong, loving relationships—first with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and next within our families. Many of us say that this is our priority, but in truth, it is not. If helping our children develop a close relationship with God was really our priority, it would be reflected in the amount of time we spend reading Bible stories to our children, memorizing the Word with them, praying with them (and for them), and worshiping together. (Discipleship.)
…I’m sad to say that we too often neglect what is most important (building strong relationships) in favor of other priorities (early academics, our own interests, etc.)
We must take the time to “make the main thing the main thing”, and teach our children about the Lord while they are young.”
(Excerpt from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.)

It used to be, back in the “early days” of our homeschooling (1990’s), almost all homeschoolers were Christians, and almost all were homeschooling primarily for religious reasons. It was almost a foregone conclusion. Not so any more. Homeschooling has become more acceptable, more “mainstream”, and the movement has become very diverse (which is a good thing.) Even Christian homeschooling families often start homeschooling with other priorities in mind (academics, as a reaction to problems in public schools, family issues, developmental/learning issues, and more.) But whenever I meet a Christian homeschooler, I always try to encourage them to redirect their focus, and “make the main thing the main thing.” And the “main thing” is always God.

The main reason we choose to homeschool is NOT because of curriculum problems in the public schools, common core, bullies, learning issues, or any of the PLETHORIA of reasons that many families become initially interested in homeschooling (even though these are all great reasons to homeschool.) We homeschool for eternity. Our most important goals are related to helping our children grow strong, personal relationships with God. So how do we do that? First, I will present some challenging questions for you to ponder, and then, some specific goals and examples of “how” we do it.

There are two main ways we can help our children develop close, personal relationships with God: Through example and through purposeful teaching.

*Through example: This is the hardest, but perhaps the most important way to help our children grow close relationships with God. The importance of parental example cannot be overemphasized. “Do as I say, but not as I do” just doesn’t cut it. We need to become aware of the fact that we are teaching our children all the time, whether or not we are aware of it. What have you been teaching today?
Questions to ask yourself: Do your children see you studying God’s Word consistently? Do they see you praying? Is your first course of action in case of emergency prayer? Have you ever stopped what you are doing and prayed when an ambulance or fire truck streaks by with its lights flashing? Do you pray together regularly as a family? Do you spend time praying for your children and their future spouses?
Do you attend church regularly, and take your children with you? Do your children see you giving yourself over to worship, and enjoying it?
Do you serve others in love?
And, hardest of all, do you live out the fruits of the spirit in your home-in your life? Is it obvious to others that you are a new creation in Christ? Are you growing in holiness? Does in show in your speech (what you say and don’t say), and in what you watch (or don’t watch) on television? In short, are you growing as a Christian?

*Through teaching: Do you dedicate the time you should to teaching your children about the Lord, or is teaching them their colors or learning the alphabet more important? Yes, those things are important, at the proper time. But have they become more important than God is in your home? Which do you devote more time to?
Does the topic of “God” come up in casual conversation in your house? Do you have a daily devotional/Bible reading time with your children as part of your homeschool? Do you encourage your children, once they can read, to start the habit of having their own devotions daily?
How are your daily devotions going? Do you skip them in favor of getting breakfast made or the laundry started?
Do you teach your children to memorize scripture? Do you memorize scripture?

Think on these challenging questions, and hang on for part two and three in a few days.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Holiness, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Parenting, Spiritual Matters | Leave a Comment »

Join Us on Facebook

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 8, 2014


Did you know that there is a “Homepreschool and Beyond” Facebook Group? If you have younger children (especially preschool through grade three) and are trying to “live the 4R’s” (relationship, routine, readiness and reading aloud) in your homepreschool/homeschool….OR, if you a “thinking about” homeschooling/homepreschooling, please join us! The purpose of the group is to provide information, support, and encouragement to families like you!! We have 99 members now, and are trying to get more than 100. Won’t you join us HERE?!

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Adult Peer Pressure and the Homeschooling Parent

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 6, 2014


Have you ever considered how much peer pressure homeschooling parents have to endure? First there is the objections of friends and families when we decide to homeschool/homepreschool our kids. Then there is the unrelenting comparisons and academic competition (a lot of it, developmentally inappropriate, due to the curriculum “push down” that has been happening over the last twenty or thirty years of so.)

Is your homeschool (OR homepreschool) being held hostage by the expectations of others? Sometimes it sure feels that way. This is the question Heidi St. John tackles in this wonderful article I just discovered. I really needed this article today. I sometimes feel I’m “held hostage” to the expectations of the next few years…we are starting junior high again next fall. Lots more writing and heavy “academics” are expected. What about you? One thing this article says is that we should be free NOT to do preschool. Hmm. I always enjoyed the preschool years, and it was always fun to me. But how has it been for you?

Do you feel you have to “prove” yourself, and the value of homeschooling, to your extended family? Does that take away your joy? Does planning activity after activity wear you out? Do you feel pressured academically about preschool and Kindergarten? Please. Don’t. Go. There. You have so many years ahead of you. It will all be covered, in time.

Do you have young children, and yet are already worried about “how in the world will I teach Algebra?” Don’t. Go. There. God will provide a way!! It’s OK to let your little ones be little, and enjoy them at the age they are at right now. It’s OK to let them spend the day playing. Please, DO. I would much rather see parents swing the pendulum towards “no preschool” than swing it towards an academic-type homepreschool: Worksheets, two or three years of “alphabet” type activities and so on are not what preschoolers need! Remember, they will pick up those preschool “facts” (A,B,C’s, numbers, colors, shapes, and so on) simply through good parenting, if you trust them to do so. And if they haven’t learned all their “preschool” facts before Kindergarten, then teach them to them in Kindergarten! Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to make our preschoolers “ready” for Kindergarten. Instead, we can make our Kindergarten ready for them!

Remember not to overlook the forest for the trees. Remember WHY you are homeschooling/homepreschooling. I hope that it is for spiritual reasons.

What is really most important at this age? The 4R’s: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading aloud. Throw in lots of play, art, and music and you’ve got it covered. Really. Trust me on this!! If you need a refresher, please revisit my tabs (above), and explore the articles on “readiness” in the archives. You also might want to take a moment to read the “Goals for the Balanced Mom”. But for now, PLEASE take a moment to read this fantastic article (linked above). Think about it, and pray about it. Then ask God what priorities HE would ask of you for this year. What should your children be learning this year? How should you teach it (what methods should you use?) Ask for a bold vision, and then when it is given, don’t be afraid to obey God and follow his vision…no matter what that vision may be. It may have to do with academics. It may have nothing to do with academics. Most likely, it will have to do with building relationships with God and family, teaching morals and character, learning to love those basic Bible stories, being consistent and intentional, growing your patience, spending more time in the Word and in prayer as a family, and so on.
Hugs! ~~Susan

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Early Academics, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Uncategorized, Vision | Leave a Comment »

The 4R’s Re-visited: Building Relationships With Our Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 14, 2014


Building relationships should be the focus of our lives and our homes. As I say in my tab on relationships (above),

“Developing relationships is the most important part of any homepreschool/homeschool. We must help our children grow strong, loving relationships—first with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and next within our families. Many of us say that this is our priority, but in truth, it is not. If helping our children develop a close relationship with God was really our priority, it would be reflected in the amount of time we spend reading Bible stories to our children, memorizing the Word with them, praying with them (and for them), and worshiping together. (Discipleship.)
If it really is our priority to build strong, loving relationships with our children, that priority should be reflected in our behavior as well. Specifically, it should be reflected in the amount and type of time we spend with our children. Children need both quality and quantity time. Quality time involves more than just our presence—a warm body alone is not enough. (Too often we are “with” our children without paying any real attention to them.) Instead, our relationship-building efforts should be concentrated in several specific areas: Building quality conversations (which is a two way street, involving listening and speaking), time spent playing together (which lets us into their imaginary world), and time spent reading aloud to our children. Reading aloud to our children is one of the most important ways to build relationships with them, and also, help them learn.
I’m sad to say that we too often neglect what is most important (building strong relationships) in favor of other priorities (early academics, our own interests, etc.)
We must take the time to “make the main thing the main thing”, and teach our children about the Lord while they are young.”

Here are some ways to build relationships with our children—and help our children build close relationships with God.

~Spend quality time with your children. Be fully engaged: Not half-listening while you are updating your status on Facebook, watching television, or talking on the phone. In fact, limiting your screen time will do a lot to help you build relationships. But take it even further: Limit your children’s “screen time”, too. Even having the television on in the background has been proven to be detrimental to young children. In truth, the television (and even those special “educational” programs and DVD’s) is not good for young children. They are not what they need. Nothing can replace face-to-face interaction with real people.

~Spend time talking to your children. Have real conversations, which involve listening and talking—a back-and-forth proposition. Let them tell you about their latest toy, art project, or whatever. Even if you really could care less about it, act as if you do care, and make yourself listen attentively. Pray and ask God to help you care. God cares about even the smallest detail of our lives. We should care about our children in the same way.
Set aside time for talking with your children, and take advantage of the time that happens naturally, during your normal daily routine–dinner time and bedtime are wonderful opportunities to connect with your children, no matter their age.

~Play with your children. The window of opportunity is small! Soon enough your children won’t be as open to this. While they are young, children welcome their parents into their pretend world. This not only helps you build closeness with your child, but helps you understand their thought processes, too. Often children’s play reveals a lot about how they feel, what has been bothering them, and so on.

~Play games with your children! Begin to teach your children to play games (not computer or video games, but board games and card games) when they are three and a half or four years old. You can introduce the “rules” gradually, if you want to; you can even use small treats as counters, if you want to. The key is: Make it fun!
Games teach lots of important social skills, attention skills, and can “teach” pre-math skills, too. For more game ideas, see my post on “playing games with preschoolers.”

~Reading aloud to your children: Reading aloud is a natural bonding time. Pick a classic picture book, get comfy, cuddle, and read!! Allow your children to participate in the reading by chiming in with repetitive pages, pointing to the pictures, and so on. Allow them to ask questions, and take the time to answer them….in other words, pay attention to them! Don’t just rush through the book as if reading is a chore to be done as quickly as possible. Suggested book: I Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.

~Use a gentle, loving touch: Touch communicates so much. A touch of the hand, the ruffling of the hair, holding hands, cuddling…all of these communicate love.

~Say the words: “I love you.” Say them often! In our family, we sing “I love you” songs, and even have a secret signal that means “I love you.” The words, “I love you, no matter what,” or “I love you forever, to the moon and back,” mean the world to children. We even sing songs of our love for them (“I love you, a bushel and a peck,” or “You are my sunshine.”)

~Make holidays special: Keeping family traditions gives children security, draws us closer to each other, and bonds our family together in a distinct unit. Many of the holidays also gives us the opportunity to share our faith with our children.
~Do special things for your kids: Surprise them with their favorite dinner or favorite treat. Tell them why: “Just because I love you.”

~In summary, the key to developing close relationships with our children is three-fold: love, conversation, and time.
Let your little ones be strongly attached to you. Don’t rush preschoolers into premature independence through a lack of the time and security that you can provide. Let them know you love them. Set aside/plan special time to spend with them. Talk to the all the time, and let them talk too: Really listen. Be there for them. Give them the security of knowing they can count on you to care for them, no matter what. These simple things are all you need to help you grow close, loving relationships with your children.

© 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author. Short quotes that link back to this site are OK.

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Homepreschool and Beyond Is on Facebook

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 10, 2014


I want to invite you to join me and my Facebook friends by joining our group, “Homepreschool and Beyond.” The purpose of the group is to share information and support with those families who are trying to live out the 4R’s, as listed in my book: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading Aloud. It is aimed at parents of younger children (preschoolers through third grade or so), but everyone is welcome. It is a place where I can answer your questions and share ideas, links, and more. Please join us!
If you need to know more, please check out the tabs above on the 4R’s. And keep your eyes open for new posts about the 4R’s, coming soon!

Blessings!
~Susan

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Homeschool Parents: Are You Worried About What Your Children Are Missing?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 13, 2013


   Many parents who are considering home schooling worry about what their children will miss if they are homeschooled. They worry that their children will be lonely. They worry that their children will not know how to cooperate with others during group activities. They worry that their children won’t “fit in.” These questions boil down to THE question, “What about socialization?”

   What we worry about as homeschooling’s greatest weakness is actually homeschooling’s greatest strength. Home educators have the unique opportunity to “civilize” their own children through training, teaching social skills, and real-world socialization with people of all ages and races.  Children develop true, lasting friendships with children from like-minded families. Park days, field trips, and church activities—rounded out with work and service opportunities—provide ample, POSITIVE social interactions. The artificial world of a classroom, where children are all the same age and all do the same things at the same time, cannot compare to the real world of home, work, and family.

If you are still worried about the things your children might “miss” if you homeschool them, consider the list below.

 

Things Children “Miss” When they are Homeschooled

 

  1. The religion of secular humanism and other new age philosophies.
  2. Being taught moral relativism and even a tolerance of sin (otherwise known as “political correctness”.)
  3. Social contagion (“catching” the “contagious” attitudes, behaviors and immoral knowledge of peers, and even teachers.)
  4. Peer pressure (pressure to “conform” to group norms in order to “fit in”).
  5. Peer dependency (relying on peers for love, support and advice instead of relying on parents).
  6. Sexual harassment, bullies, gangs and drugs.
  7. The fear (and reality) of school shootings and other violence—fights, bomb threats, gang fights, school lockdowns, police chases, and so on.
  8. Catching (frequent) illnesses, diseases and head lice.
  9. Feelings of insecurity (feeling unwanted or rejected by their parents as a result of being pushed from the home nest before developmental maturity—see Home Grown Kids.)
  10. Being taught the test, and then promptly forgetting it.
  11.  Inadequate, inferior education.
  12. Lots of wasted time (while the teacher quiets the class, passes out papers, takes attendance and so on.)
  13. Being or becoming unwilling or unable to speak to or relate to anyone who is not their age or in the same grade.
  14.  Being bored by work that is too easy, OR being labeled “learning disabled” because of work that is too hard (it will come easily when they are developmentally ready!)
  15. Sex education, death education, and “outcome-based” education (“lessons” whose goals include changing your child’s attitudes and/or beliefs.)
  16.  Not knowing who your teacher will be the next year, or who your classmates will be.
  17. Being away from your family all day.
  18.  Having separate lives from your own siblings; growing apart from them.
  19. . Having to send your child to a school nurse if s/he is having an asthma attack or needs an Advil.
  20. Having to get a doctor’s excuse for every time your children aren’t feeling well or are sick (OR every routine doctors/dentist appointment, etc.Missing school while sick (we just “do school” later—our kids don’t miss anything.)
  21.  Getting arrested for bringing nail clippers to school.
  22.  Having to use filthy bathrooms (or avoiding them all day, to the point of physical pain….in my high school, the bathrooms were favorite hang-outs for the smokers and dopers. If you had to go, you had to breathe it.)
  23. Having to endure holidays you don’t celebrate (such as Halloween, in our case) and being forced to ignore holidays that you DO celebrate (or ignoring their true meanings.)
  24.  Cafeteria food (or soggy packed lunches.)
  25.  Enduring a year with a teacher who can’t teach.
  26. Hours of homework each night, leaving no family time.
  27.  Compartmentalized education—nothing inter-relates (not even God…)
  28.  Growing up too fast, but never really growing up.
  29. The systematic undermining of parental authority, teachings and beliefs.

I bet you can think of even more things to add to the list! Are you feeling more confident about your decision to homeschool now?  How about a real “shot in the arm”? Remind yourself of the following reasons to homeschool, and the advantages of the homeschooling lifestyle:

Reasons We Homeschool

  1. To obey the Lord.  Since we believe the Lord has called our family to homeschool, and that the scriptures command parents to teach their own children, we homeschool to obey the Lord2.   We want our children to grow up to be Christians, and not stray from our faith/morals.
  2. We want our children to receive a Christian education and develop a Christian world-view.  We want them to learn truth, and use the Word of God as the ultimate standard for truth.
  3. We want to protect our children from immoral and ungodly influences, especially before they are old enough to learn discernment.
  4. We want our children to learn to stand up (and speak up) for their beliefs.
  5. We want our children to develop Godly morals, habits, and character traits.
  6. We want our children to have a developmentally appropriate, individualized education that is customized to their learning style, interests, talents and abilities (we want them to have the freedom to learn at their own pace/we can choose curriculums and methods that fit their needs.)
  7.  We want our children to enjoy an old fashioned, traditional childhood. We seek to preserve innocence and imagination for as long as possible, and provide plenty of time for play.
  8. We want our children to know how to read, write, and do arithmetic.
  9. We want our children to love to read, and to be read to (for longer and longer periods of time) daily.
  10. We want our children to love to learn, know how to learn, and how to do research (and we want our children to be curious.)
  11. We want to help our children prepare for real life, have real-life experiences, and develop real life-skills.
  12. We want our children to develop discernment regarding dress, music, literature, friends, politics, religion and morals.
  13. We want our children to be independent and critical thinkers.
  14. We want our children to understand the flow of history—how one event influences others—and we want them to understand how church history is interwoven throughout it, influencing it “behind the scenes.”
  15. We want to expose our children to the best in art, music, and literature…and we want them to appreciate/enjoy art, music, and literature!
  16. We want our children to grow up without becoming a part of the rebellious teen sub-culture. We want to be our children’s culture.
  17.  We love our children and want them to be with us.  We enjoy their company.
  18.  We like being able to tailor our school schedule to fit into our family’s schedules, sick days and vacation times.
  19. We want to socialize (or civilize) our children ourselves, instead of letting them be “socialized” by their secular, untrained, and often unsupervised schoolmates.
  20. We want to know who our children’s teachers are every year.
  21. So that we can encourage our children’s interests, bents, and hobbies (these often turn into careers.
  22. We want our children to be successful in the Lord’s eyes, not the world’s (we homeschool with eternity in mind.)
  23.  We want our children to develop true, deep, and long-lasting friendships with people of all ages and races, based on common beliefs and interests (not simply “you’re my friend because you sit next to me in class.)  We enjoy socializing with other FAMILIES, not just having our children socialize with other CHILDREN.
  24. To promote sibling love and bonding: we want our children to be each other’s best friends.
  25.  Because we want our children to homeschool our grandchildren.
  26.  Because God gave these children to us. We are responsible for them. They are under our authority, not the governments.

Here are a few other, far less serious reasons we enjoy the home education lifestyle:

    27. So that we can “do school” in our jammies or sweats.

28.  So that we can “do school” wherever we want to (outside—on a blanket in the back yard, in the fort, or on the patio with a dog on our laps….or inside, in front of the fireplace, on the couch, at the kitchen table…or wherever (we control the atmosphere.)

29. So that we can “do school” via fabulous fieldtrips (A.K.A. family trips/vacations OR support group fieldtrips), when the opportunities arise.

30. So that we can provide our children with lots of hands-on learning.

Read these lists over when you are feeling discouraged, overwhelmed or inadequate.  Remember, if God calls you to homeschool, HE will give you the abilities and self-discipline you need to carry it out.  Be assured, you HAVE made the right decision.  Your children aren’t missing anything God ever intended them to have.

© 2010, 2013 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission. 

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The Best of “Christmas Past”

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 19, 2012


   Wow, time has really gotten away from me this year. How can it possibly be so close to Christmas already? I have to admit, I’ve had a hard time “getting started” on Christmas this year–and here it is, almost upon us. But I’m determined to get lots of “fun stuff” done in the time remaining!!

   This week the boys and I are going to do our traditional Christmas prep and fun–baking, crafting, and so on. As per tradition, we need to make Dad his popcorn balls and homemade beef jerky, as well. If I get around to it, I will try to post about some of our crafts this year. But for now, here is a round-up of my posts from “Christmas past”: 

The “Christmas Gift” saying tradition

Teaching Children about the Symbols of Christmas

How to make “Button Trees” (an easy, last-minute craft, if you have time to head over to the craft/fabric store)  

The Importance of Keeping Traditions (an overview of a chapter from Homepreschool and Beyond.)

The Stuff Dreams are Made Of (encouragement to make the fun stuff happen this year–yes, there is still plenty of time left for the fun stuff!!)

    Christmas blessings!

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.                     

 

   

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What Your Preschooler Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 13, 2012


Two year olds:  This year marks a transition from toddlerhood to childhood. Imaginative play will blossom for your child this year; his thinking and speaking skills will grow in amazing ways as well.  Be sure to choose toys that encourage this:  Play phones, dolls, play kitchens, blocks, cars, and so on.  Duplo- sized Legos are also great for imaginative play, as well as building hand strength and dexterity.  Favorite toys at this age: Fisher-Price Little People sets, (these will be favorite for a couple of years), stack and nest cups or blocks, knob puzzles, and beads to string.

Two-year-olds need plenty of time to play outside as well—sand play, tricycles, and swing sets are popular, along with play props like balls, hoops, etc. Occasionally, bring inside toys outside to renew your child’s interest in them. (NOTE: Supervise your two-year old when s/he is outside at all times! Some two year olds still like to eat or throw sand–and two year olds are notorious for climbing where they shouldn’t.

Your child’s daily routine should be expanded again to include music (listening, rhythm band and singing), finger plays, and art experiences: painting with watercolors or tempera paint, and simple craft projects using paste or glue. A collage is a great way to start.

Many two year olds don’t seem to stop moving from morning till night.  They need our help to calm themselves.  Music and reading aloud do this beautifully.  Be sure to plan some read aloud times—at least once mid-morning, after lunch/before nap, and again before bed. Throughout the day, alternate boisterous activities with quiet ones like reading or play dough. This helps keep your child from getting overtired, and keeps emotions on an even keel.

Three and four year olds: Your child is officially a “preschooler”!  But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to be drilled on his colors, numbers, or alphabet. Instead, help him learn those “preschool facts” through play and reading aloud. Continue to talk, talk, talk to your preschooler, naming everything you see, and explaining everything you do. This grows his vocabulary and his understanding.

Children this age are ready for short “preschool” schedules of their own. ” Preschool” at homel doesn’t need to take longer than an hour or two, and can be interspersed between your older children’s school work.  Include Bible stories/devotions, calendar, music, finger-plays, and story time daily; try to provide an art experience at least three days a week. You can also explore cooking and baking activities and simple science experiments once in a while.

Begin memory work with your child if you haven’t already. Simply repeating scriptures to your child over and over or listening to scripture memory songs will produce quick memorization in most children this age. We often practiced our memory verses in the bathtub, where I had a captive audience.

Introduce your child to (safety) scissors and pencils, pens, and felt-tipped pens if you haven’t already, and begin to leave age appropriate art materials out for him to use whenever he wants to. The added blessing of these activities is that they can keep your child entertained for long periods of time while you school your older children.

Games are great ways for preschoolers to learn. Use store-bought games like Concentration, Hi-Ho Cheerio, Bingo, Dominoes, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland to teach your child those “preschool facts” painlessly (counting, turn-taking, matching, and more.)  It’s easy to make your own card games, bingo games, matching games, and felt board games, as well. Remember to be patient and wait for interest and readiness when it comes to early learning. Studies have shown no long-term benefit to early formal academics, and lots of possible harm. (Remember, Homepreschool and Beyond has an entire chapter full of tips and ideas for learning games.)

Play for preschoolers: Three year olds and four year olds have more patience than two year olds do, and enjoy playing with more complicated building toys. They love blocks such as CitiBlocks, Dr. Drew’s Blocks, or the classic “Unit Blocks” (read about the benefits of block play/what children learn HERE.)  A good set of blocks might be expensive, but they will be used for many years. Even older children and adults enjoy Citblocks or Dr. Drew’s Blocks. My boys (9 and 11) still play with ours now and then–just look at the complicated designs possible on the websites above and you’ll see why.  IDEA: Combine blocks and cars or blocks and plastic animals and you’ve got twice the fun—kids will build towns, garages, zoos, and more

      Preschoolers also enjoy more complicated puzzles, games, and imaginary play. If you haven’t introduced prop boxes yet, now is a great time to do so!  Prop boxes are easy to put together from household items, and really do encourage imaginary play.

 Finally: Remember to “keep the main thing the main thing.” The main thing preschoolers need to be taught is to know about and love the Lord,  to love their family, and to obey their parents. They also need other “moral” lessons, which should all be framed within a Biblical perspective–lessons about telling the truth, being kind, being forgiving using self-control, etc etc.  These lessons are  far more important than any lessons intended to teach those  “preschool facts” that everyone seems to worry about (colors, shapes, numbers, alphabet.)

Other posts you might enjoy: What Preschoolers Should Be Learning: The Best Curriculum for Preschoolers 

The Four R’s for Early Learners (Preschoolers) 

The Goals of Spiritual Development

 

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.     

 

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What Your Baby Really Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 16, 2012


As promised, I am continuing my series on providing the best for our youngest children. Today we will tackle the needs of young children from 9-12 months, 12- 18 months, and 18-24 months. The next post will cover three,  four and  five year-olds.

Remember, it is assumed that you are continuing what started at infancy–and at each stage before, as appropriate: Working to build a close relationship with your baby, teaching your baby about the Lord, praying for and with your baby, playing with your baby, reading to him, singing and talking to him, and so on.  This post is  simply meant to help you see what is going on with your baby, and how you can optimize their development at each stage.

9-12 months:  Crawling, cruising, walking, climbing–perhaps even talking!  Baby is learning or doing something new every day…often something that will amaze you. Be sure to keep a close eye on your baby. This is difficult, since we all have to go to the bathroom sometime! I warn you because this is the age when you are likely to walk into a room only to find your baby perched on top of the piano, as my mother did with me.

Try to keep your baby interested in the things you want her to explore. Set toys out on your coffee table so that baby can cruise around the table and play with toys from a new perspective. Babies love push and pull toys at this age—these toys help them with their balance and teach them cause and effect, as well.

Try pulling the cushions off your couch and making a “baby  obstacle course”—or putting blankets over a table to make a tent.

At this age, my babies loved push-along walkers like these. They also loved things that go: Balls, cars, etc.  There is never a dull moment at this age, to be sure, but your baby will never be more fun, either!!

12-18 months: Your baby is now officially a toddler! Baby understands more and more, and is learning how to communicate through pointing, gesturing, and making sounds. The number of words your baby will understand or be able to use is directly related to how much time you spend talking and reading to him, so keep it up!  Most babies this age will have quite a few words:  “mama”, “dada”, “bye-bye”, “uh-oh”, “all gone”, and so on.  Some baby’s first word is “NO!”  Soon he will be stringing words together to make sentences

Some parents discover that this age is the real start of the “terrible twos”, and also, of a need for (gentle, but firm) discipline.  Now is the time to begin to teach your baby to come when called, and to respond to the words “stop” and “no,”  if you haven’t already. Thank-goodness toddlers are still easy to pick up and carry away from the carnage, when necessary.

Part of the reason baby gets so frustrated is because he can understand far more than he can express. If you want to help your baby communicate more efficiently, consider learning some sign language and teaching it to your baby.  Sign language is proven to decrease frustration and tantrums, and increase baby’s abilities to communicate (many parents start doing this when their babies are tiny.)

Your baby is learning lots of new skills and wants to try them out–sometimes in inappropriate ways. Additionally, you should know that some babies have the tendency to concentrate so intently on their emerging skills that other skills are put on the back burner for a while.

Babies this age usually love alphabet blocks, stacking and nesting cups, and best of all, plastic jars and small toys for filling and dumping (dropping toys into the plastic jar, and then dumping them out.)  I used to clean out old plastic milk cartons and then cut a small slit near the top, and a larger one (large enough for hands to reach in) near the bottom. All my babies loved fitting the lids from baby food jars into the top slot, and then watching them fall through to the bottom. (Tip: Discovery Toys has some of the best toys for babies that I have ever seen.)

18-24 months: Baby’s daily routine is changing, sometimes day by day. Some babies this age are ready to give up their morning nap. Your baby’s daily routine can now be expanded to include first art experiences. Start by finger painting with pudding in the high chair and then introduce fat crayons, play dough, stickers, etc. Watch carefully that your baby doesn’t eat the art supplies!

Music is very important for toddlers. Play classical music quietly in the background during playtime, and be sure to introduce children’s music by artists such as Raffi (the Singable Songs for the Very Young collection is a great choice),  Linda Arnold (Bathtime Magic is my favorite—and yes, we’d play it during bath time!), Parachute Express,  or the Wee Sing Series (especially Wee Sing and Play), if you haven’t already. Sing to your toddler in the bathtub (“I’m gonna wash that dirt right outta your hair” from the movie South Pacific) and during your daily routine (“This is the way we wash our hands”, and so on.) Check out a whole day’s worth of singing ideas at This Reading Mama.

          Baby should love to be read to now, and have books available to look at whenever he wants them.  Babies this age love books that teach sounds (what does the duck say?), and books that include repetition. For suggestions, read my post titled, “Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers.”

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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What Your Baby Really Needs, Age-by-Age

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 28, 2012


Every summer, homeschooling parents spend hours pouring over catalogs and planning their children’s next school year and curriculum. We lay out schedules, set goals, and most importantly, pray over our children’s lives and needs.

I can’t help but wonder: Do we spend half as much time planning for the needs of our babies, toddlers and preschoolers?  Don’t they deserve some planning time, too?

No matter your child’s age, a good place to start is by remembering the 4R’s: Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud. Keeping these in mind keeps our goals in proper perspective, helping us to  make the main thing the main thing (Relationships with God and family always come first!)

Even though it is a good idea to spend some time planning for them, babies, toddlers and preschoolers don’t need an academically-based “curriculum” (even though they are being offered nowadays!)  Work books and flash cards are not appropriate; their best curriculum is life. But the types of learning experiences they need are unique, and not always accomplished without some thought and planning. So here are some thoughts to help you plan for your baby/toddlers needs, age-by-age.

 What Your Baby/Toddler Really Needs, Age-by-Age

 0-3 months:  The goal of baby’s development at this age is simple: bonding with family and growing secure in the love and consistent care he receives. Additionally, to boost brain development, babies need to be read to, sung to, and talked to. Most of all, babies need to be immersed scriptures, praise songs and prayer.

Babies (and toddlers) are unique in that while they require their own daily “lessons” about life, the truth is, they often become the lesson for the rest of the family. They teach our older children patience and selflessness–how to put another’s needs above their own. They teach them to be loving and gentle with those who are young and fragile.

Homeschooling with a baby in tow is exhausting, but it can be done!  Plan to take advantage of baby’s nap-times for your older children’s school work.  We always saved mid-morning nap-time for phonics, math, and other subjects that require intensive “mommy-time”.

Consider streamlining your school time for a season. After all, you need your rest, too! Alternate science with history or geography, or simply read aloud to your children to cover those topics. Try doing only four “formal” subjects a day:  Bible, math, language arts, and a unit study (reading aloud about history or science.)  In addition, be sure to incorporate art and music into your daily routine, via free-choice activities or planned activities—at least two or three days a week.

 3-6 months—continue as before AND: Babies at this age are learning to control their bodies. Now that their eyes can focus at longer distances, they are becoming more interested in their environments. God designed babies to be especially interested in faces.

3-6 month-olds need opportunities to strengthen their muscles and take in the world from new perspectives. Make sure to give you baby plenty of “floor time”—time on the floor, on his belly. This gives him opportunities to strengthen his neck muscles, arm muscles, and back muscles. Before you know it, your baby will be rolling over, scooting, and then crawling everywhere.

Change your baby’s perspective by moving him from the floor to a swing, or to a bouncer seat (once he can support himself/hold his head up.)  Provide rattles and other safe baby toys so that he can learn to control his grip. Once grabbing on is learned, learning to let go is next (and often harder!)

Expose your baby to different textures. Try laying baby on carpet, a soft blanket, or a smooth, cool parachute; lay baby on her back, on her belly, and on her side for a change of pace.

Finally, be sure to take the time to enjoy your baby’s developing social skills. Respond to your baby’s coos, then wait for her to answer you—thus making your first conversations. Play tickle games, make faces at baby, and watch as baby learns to make them back at you.

 6-9 months:  Baby’s really on the move now!  Rolling, scooting, or even crawling his way into trouble.  If you want to school in relative peace, you’ll need to make liberal use of playpens or gates…and nap-time.  We gated off half our house with an extra long gate, and closed doors to keep our babies where they needed to be. Make sure your house is “baby-proof”.  We had to gate off our older children’s rooms so that the Legos and other toys with small parts were out of reach for baby.

Increase the amount of time spent reading to baby, even if you only look at the pictures and talk to baby about them. And if you haven’t already, introduce your baby to classical music, folk music, and of course, praise music. Many babies will try to “dance” while cruising (holding onto a table for balance while trying out his wobbly legs) and some may even try to “sing”.  My oldest would cry whenever there was a break between songs, then “dance” again once the music started back up!

Let your older children take turns entertaining baby, and make sure they learn all the little baby songs and ditties you enjoy with baby, so that they can share them with their own children someday. (“X Marks the Spot”The Wheels on the Bus (move baby’s arms or feet for the wipers, etc.), Open Shut Them, Jesus Loves me, and so on.

At this age, my kiddos loved their bouncy seat (the kind that hangs in a doorway.)   The “jumparoo” looks like a good modern alternative. They also enjoyed sitting, propped up in their “Boppy”.

          Finally, a  warning about television: Even if your baby is interested in the television, try to keep it off completely when s/he is in the room…even those videos designed for babies can’t compare to interaction with real people and real things. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age to two shouldn’t watch any television at all. Experts have linked television viewing to the development of ADHD, claiming it “rewires” children’s brains.

Next post: Ages 9-12 months, 12-18 months, etc. 

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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At-Home, Summertime Fun for Young Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 9, 2012


   Sorry I haven’t posted in such a long time! Life has been a little bit crazy around here. But I’m back, and hope to post more often, although I can no longer promise a post a week. I’m realizing that I’ve been spending too much time on the computer.

   Anyway–it’s summertime again, so I thought I’d brainstorm some activities that are inexpensive but will keep your kids busy and playing happily this summer. Some are for at home, and some are not, but I hope this list will inspire you to plan some fun for your kids this summer. Make the TV a special treat, not an everyday obession…save the movies for once or twice a week. Instead, have some fun with your kids!!

Summertime Fun Ideas

*Set up a tent in the back yard*OR hang a blanket over the clothesline or a swing set*

*Color with sidewalk chalk

*Paint with water outside on the cement

*Set up a snap-set side pool; add ice to play with, water toys (measuring cups, Barbie dolls, boats, duplos, etc OR set up the pool under the end of a slide, and make a “water slide”)

* Play with toys outside on a blanket

*Read favorite picture books on your blanket

* Paint/watercolor outside (set up an easel on the fence)

*Paint with chalk paint (available at all the major retailers near the sidewalk chalk/other summer toys

*Make homemade play dough

*Blow bubbles

*Play at the park

*Go on a nature walk

*Paint rocks (collect them at the beach/river)

*Go to your local furniture/appliance store and get a large box or refrigerator box; cut out a door and window/paint or color with felt-tipped pens; put pillows inside. After you’ve played “house” awhile, set up your house outside on the sidewalk. Draw ‘roads” with sidewalk chalk. Drive trikes on the road…you can be the police-lady. OR, make a whole town out of boxes; make stop-lights, too.

*Play with sand and water OR make mud pies

*Make an aluminum foil river

*When the weather is nice, spread out a blanket on the patio. Set up blocks and cars or blocks and plastic animals to play with. (There is something novel about playing with “inside” toys outside.) You can combine the blocks with sidewalk chalk to make a city or a zoo with roads, trees, signs, etc.)

*Set up blankets over a table inside, and play underneath

*Invite friends over to decorate their trikes with crepe paper, and then have a parade

*Read books about the ocean, then go to the ocean!

*Go fishing

*”Fish” inside with homemade “fishing” poles: tie yarn to a small stick or dowel; tie on a doughnut magnet; cut out “fish” from construction paper and put a paper clip on the fish’s mouth, then go fishing!

*Bath fun: Add ice to the bath, and watch it melt; “paint” on the sides of the tub with shaving cream; add measuring cups, plastic spoons, etc to bath with shaving cream and make “milkshakes”, etc

*Eat meals outside

*Have a tea party (let your girls dress-up on your old dresses or in square-dance petticoats first)

*Play soccer and volleyball with a beach ball. Even babies love beach balls and can play soccer: Hold your baby under the arms, and help them “kick” the beach ball by swinging them towards it.

*Set up hula hoops into a “path” and have your kids jump from hoop to hoop

*Set up a large sensory bin outside (birdseed, beans, sand, rice, etc….make sure your kids don’t put it in their mouths!)

*Let your kids “wash” plastic dishes in the kitchen sink

*Set up a large plastic bin with water and water-toys outside. Sponges are fun, too.

*Take your kids to vacation Bible school, or set up your own for the neighbor kids in your backyard.

*Christmas in July: Make time for all those neat projects and crafts you never got to last year, or get a head-start on Christmas by making Christmas presents NOW.

*Have your husband help your kids learn how to saw wood and pound nails into scraps of lumber (supervise carefully.)

*Go to Lowe’s Saturday “make it and take it” classes

*Enroll in summertime classes at your local craft store

*Take swim lessons

*Host a swim party or sprinkler play party

*Do “float or sink” experiments. Try to predict which items will float.

*Make Home-made ice cream: Follow your own recipe, or make “ice cream in a can”

*Learn how to jump rope, play hopscotch, and for older kids, learn how to play jacks or marbles

*Have a game day: Learn a new board game or card game.

*Make homemade popsicles or “fruit-sicles” (blend cool aid with real fruit, then freeze.)

Please share your ideas in the comments, and have fun this summer!!

       Blessings,

                     Susan

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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Circle Time for Preschool at Home/Homeschool

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 12, 2012


When I was a preschool teacher, I always felt that circle time was the highlight of the day.  As a homepreschooling mom, that feeling intensified.  It absolutely was the best part of our day–and still is.  I’ve heard that some moms object to the words “circle time”…they prefer the words “lap-time” or “mommy time” instead.  Whatever you call it, it’s tons of fun.

We actually do TWO circle times a day.  One is first thing in the morning (Bible time), and the other  is a little later in the morning (our unit study or story time.)

What do we “do” during circle time?  What makes circle time different from story time?  To me, the difference is the fact that circle time includes more than just stories.  Circle time traditionally includes various activities such as calendar, finger plays, music, and story time.

There is really no right or wrong way to do circle time; experiement and see what you and your children enjoy. But to give you some ideas, here’s what we did during our first circle time of the day with all our  preschoolers (Note:  We do pretty much the same with children of all ages):

1.  Worship/music:  Hymn of the month, praise and worship songs, Bible-memory songs, or Sunday-school type songs (the calmer ones.)

2. Bible memory work/catechism

3. Bible story and/or devotional.

4.  Prayer

Afterwards, we do our chores together and then play outside (weather permitting.) Next is morning snack, and then our second circle time. During our second circle time (unit study) we:

1.  Do calendar:  We sing “days of the week” and “months of the year” songs, add the day’s date to a pocket-chart calendar, figure out the current day of the week and month of the year, and recite the date while pointing to the calendar (“today is Monday, September 21, 2010.”)  (We would sing the months of the year song from Greg and Steve’s “We All Live Together” volume 2.)

2.  Have fun with finger plays, patriotic songs, folk songs, fun (active) Sunday school songs, silly songs, movement to music, rhythm band, and so on.  This is so fun, and gets all their wiggles out before story time starts.

3.  Story time

Sometimes we switch things around during our second circle time or add other activities, such as poetry (listening), picture study, or show and tell (my kids LOVE show and tell; it helps them practice their language/speech/oral composition skills);  we might even “practice being good” (act out appropriate behavior—see my book!)

Keeping Circle Time Fun

“Short and sweet” is really the trick to keeping circle time fun—as is alternating the more active parts of circle time with the quiet ones.  As an overall rule, it is better to leave your children wanting more versus frustrating them with too long of a circle time.  Other ideas:  Spice up your circle time with felt board activities/stories, Monkey Mitts, puppets, and other musical/finger play/musical props/learning props.

After story time, we move on to the rest of our daily routine.

Circle Time for Older Children 

We enjoyed circle time so much with our young children that we’ve simply continued it even when our children got older, with a few tweaks:

-Remember to change your content according to the children’s abilities, attention span, and interests.

-Parents of children who are in grades Kindergarten until grade three or so  should recite the flag salute at some time during the morning.  We chose to keep Bible first, since it is most important; we’d do the salutes and calendar right before our first “academic” subject of the day (math). Once they learned it, we discontinued it.

-We still use the same basic structure during our second circle time, but we call it “unit study time” with our older kids.  Our “unit study time” routine generally runs like this:  Drills/recitation (we’re used ABeka’s bird, insect and plant cards to memorize the most common critters/flowers in our area; we’ve also learnied to recognize the major instruments in the orchestra by sight.  Other times we’ve memorized the presidents in order or memorized the capitols.)   Next is music/singing (once the kids are older it’s great fun to learn longer folk songs and rounds.)  Afterward, we read aloud and discuss what we’ve read.

-We usually save our second circle time until Bible, math, and language arts are completed for the day.

-After our second circle time, we might work on a notebook page, a timeline card, an art project or a science/cooking experience that’s related to our unit, or we simply might be done for the day.

I hope this gives you some ideas for circle time at your house!

Blessings,

~Susan

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 1, 2012


Reading to our babies is one of the best things we can do to encourage their language development…and in the future, to help them love to read.  The best time to start reading to babies is before their birth.  Reading the same book to them everyday helps them become familiar with your voice and experience the rhythms of language.  Once your baby is born, continue reading to him everyday, even if it seems he isn’t paying attention.

If you have missed this opportunity, don’t be discouraged.  It’s never too late to start reading to your child!  If you have a squirmy, resistant toddler, read on for suggestions.

Read to your child everyday, even if he doesn’t seem interested.  Try to make reading fun—for toddlers, you can experiment with books to touch (like Pat the Bunny) and sturdy board books that don’t have many words.  Most toddlers are interested in animals, so look for books about animal sounds.  A perfect choice is Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider, which has textured pages to touch, and a simple text including animal sounds.

If your child continues to refuse to sit on your lap and listen to a book, try the following:

-Read to your child while he plays near you.  Hold the book towards your child, so that if he looks at you, he can see the pictures.  Don’t force your child to sit on your lap to listen to a book-we want books to be associated with positive experiences.

-Keep sturdy board books or cloth books in your toddler’s toy box, and stand books up near your baby when your lay him down for “tummy time”.  They might get chewed on a little, but that’s ok.  The idea is to help you child associate books with enjoyment.  (Supervise chewers carefully!)

-Try reading to your child when he is tired and wants to cuddle-like right when he wakes up or right before bed.

-Try reading to your  baby when she is  in their “quiet-alert” stage.  For older babies, this might mean right after a meal.  For nursing babies who fall asleep after nursing, try reading to them after bath time, or right after a diaper change.  Experiment—try reading several times during the day to find what works for you and your baby.  Once you find a time that works, try to make it a habit.

-Choose the right book!  Books for babies and toddlers should have bright, realistic illustrations (or photographs), simple, short sentences, and include rhyme and/or repetition.  Books you can “sing” to baby are especially good choices.

-Some toddlers seem to need a sense of “control” in order to sit still for a book.  In this instance, I usually let them have it (in moderation.)  I let them turn pages, for example, ask them to point to things in the pictures, and so on. But I never let little ones grab, tear, or throw books. Toddlers must be taught to treat books carefully.

-Very squirmy toddlers might need a specially  modified read aloud time for awhile: Don’t linger too long on the pages; shorten or skip text if you have to, or even  just “talk” to them about the pictures in short sentences.

Other Tips:

-Don’t read in “baby talk”.  Use real words and complete sentences. It is OK to use a sing-song, higher pitched voice, if it seems natural to you to do so.

-Encourage toddlers to chime in with repeated phrases or sounds when they can.

-Don’t worry about variety: It’s OK to read  a few favorite books over and over for now. Babies and toddlers love repetition, and learn through it.

Here are some of our favorite books to read to babies and toddlers (in no particular order):

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, Bill Martin

Goodnight Moon; The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown

The Three Little Kittens, Paul Galdone

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (board book), by Eileen Christelow

Ten In the Bed, by Penny Dale (out of print–from Discovery Toys–a ‘singable” book.)

Very Busy Spider, The, Eric Carle

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella Lindvall (Great first Bible stories with short sentences.)

Farm Animals, Baby’s Animal Friends, (chunky board books) by Phoebe Dunn (there are others in this series, by different author. These where my baby’s favorites.)

The Foot Book, Dr. Seuss (short sentences, lots of repetition.)

Wheels on the Bus, (a pudgy board book), by Jerry Smath (another singable book)

The Pudgy book of Mother Goose, by Richard Walz

Little Golden books, such as:

-The Animals of Famer Brown, Richard Scarry

-Old MacDonald Had a Farm, (there are several  versons of this-they are all good, and fun to sing.)

-My First Book of Sounds, by Melanie Bellah and  Kathy Wilburn

-The Jolly Barnyard, by Annie North Bedford and Tibor Gergely

© 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

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The “4 R’s” for Early Learners (Preschoolers)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2012


We’ve all heard of the “Three R’s”:  Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most people believe that these are the basic building blocks of education for all children—even preschoolers.

But have you heard of the “Four R’s”?  The four R’s are not only for preschoolers; they are for children of all ages. They are the real building blocks of education–especially for preschoolers. The four R’s include:  Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud.

Relationship is the first and most important part of any child’s education. Our first responsibility as parents is building a relationship of love and trust with our little ones. Once our children learn to love and trust us–ideally during infancy–we can begin to teach them how to have loving relationships with others. The most important relationship we can help our children develop is their relationship with God. (For more, see my tab on Relationship.)

Routine is the second building block.  Preschoolers need a regular daily routine that they can rely on. They need to have regular times for meals, snacks, naps, and learning activities. Even older children rely on that sense of “what comes next”; it keeps them on an even keel emotionally. I’m not talking about a down-to-the-minute, oppressive routine; just a simple plan for the day that gives children security and regularity. (For example routines for children ages 2-3 and ages 4-5, see my tab on routine.)

Readiness: Children of all ages need to develop readiness before they tackle any new task.  “Readiness” simply means that the child is physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually ready for the experience.  Readiness has everything to do with maturity…and since children mature in their own, God-given time-table, parents must learn to be patient and wait until their child is ready…no matter what their neighbor’s child is capable of.

Parents who wait for signs of readiness, interest, and even natural learning to take place will save themselves and their children hours of frustration.

Readiness is especially important during the first eight years of life.  During this time, there is a vast range of “normal” development.  That’s why homepreschooling/homeschooling works so well:  Parents can individualize their children’s learning.  Where their children are “ahead”, they can let them move them along without holding them back.  In areas where their children struggle, they can slow down, relax, and give their children time to develop readiness.

Reading aloud:  Reading aloud to your children is the single most important thing that you can do to help them learn.  Reading aloud, and the discussion that goes with it, does more than teach the content of the book you’re reading:  It also teaches pre-reading skills such as learning that letters make words, learning that print moves from left to right, learning to value and enjoy reading/language, learning the basics of grammar, learning correct pronounciation, and so on.  It also is a great relationship builder!

I believe that these “4R’s” should be the foundation upon which homepreschooling/homeschooling rests. If these priorities are kept in perspective, everything else naturally falls into place. You may ask, “but what about the traditional 3R’s: Aren’t they important?!” Sure they are…once your child is developmentally ready for them. Most preschoolers aren’t. We have to remember that the curriculum in the public schools has been pushed down to the point that what used to be taught in Kindergarten is now taught in preschool, and what used to be taught in the first or even the second grade is now taught in Kindergarten. No wonder so many children are struggling in school! Preschoolers haven’t changed, but the curriculum has…drastically. Yet many parents expect their children to master it.

I take a different approach: I believe we should give the kids an old-fashioned, relaxed, play-based preschool/Kindergarten, and then slowly, over the years, notch those expectations up. You might say: Expect LESS of them when they are little, but MORE of them when they are older. Most public schools have it the opposite way: Expect MORE of them when they are little, but LESS of them when they are older.

This isn’t to say that preschoolers can’t learn. Preschoolers can (and do!) learn so much. In fact, if you take a look at the “skills lists” in Homepreschool and Beyond, you will probably discover a lot of things that you would never think that preschoolers could or should learn (especially about the Lord, or about nature, science, and the world around them.) In these areas especially, I think many parents underestimate their preschoolers. However,we need to remember that the way preschoolers learn is unique (they learn primarily through play,hands-on experiences, and through being read to and talked to) and the things they should learn are not simply their colors, numbers, and alphabet. There is a whole, vast world to explore, and preschoolers are very curious.

By using the foundation of the 4R’s, we can keep our priorities in order (make the main thing the main thing–relationships), and we can lay down a firm foundation for our children’s later years.

In my next post, I will briefly talk about specifics: What specific things do preschoolers need to be learning or doing, if not early formal academics?

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Curriculum, Early Math, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness, The 4 R's | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preschool at Home: You Can Do It! (Easy Ways to Help Your Child Learn at Home)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2012


I often receive phone calls and emails from parents who are excited about homepreschooling.  Many ask me how they should get started, or what curriculum they should use. The truth is, homepreschooling is not something parents suddenly “start”…every parent who has preschool-aged children is already homepreschooling!  After all, you taught your children to talk, didn’t you? And who held your baby’s hands while he was learning to walk?  You did, of course.  You are already a teacher, and already the facilitator of your children’s natural growth and development.

Parents nowadays have been programmed to think that they cannot possibly teach their own children.  The so called “experts” have encouraged them to think that they are not “qualified” or smart enough to homeschool—even at the preschool level!  But parents needn’t worry that they are not “qualified” to teach their own preschoolers at home.  The truth is, you are the expert when it comes to your own children.  No one knows and loves your children as you do.  As a homepreschooling parent, you can assess your child’s interests and readiness, and then carefully move them ahead–without pushing them.  No “preschool” can provide the amount of attention you can…and no “preschool” can individualize your child’s curriculum to fit your child’s own learning styles and interests as you can.

After all, it is God’s design that children be loved and raised by families, not institutions. Within a family, children grow strong, secure emotional attachments, which are vital to healthy personality development. Within a family, children are able to grow close relationships with people of all ages, including their own siblings. Within a family, children receive individualized attention, and children’s speech and vocabulary is enhanced by 50-100 times more individualized responses than they would receive in an institutional preschool (source:  Moore’s Home Grown Kids.) Within a family, children’s character is molded, and their hearts are gently drawn to God.

Homepreschool doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.  The best thing you can provide for your preschooler is your time and attention.  Your children will never need anything or anyone as much as they need you!  Most of what your children need to learn can be taught simply though good parenting.

Here are some simple, developmentally appropriate things that all parents can do to help their children learn.  Good parents do these things instinctively, but it is always good to be reminded about them:

1.  Provide your child with a stimulating home environment, rich in books, music, and open-ended play activities that grow with your child as he does: Play dough, blocks, cars, dolls, puzzles and so on. As your child gets older, have art materials available for your child to use anytime: Paper, crayons, felt-tipped pens, scissors and glue.

2.  Give your children lots of free time for creative play. Play is greatly under-valued in our society. Through play children release stress, get exercise, get a handle on their emotions, and learn skills vital to their academic growth.  Give your children time to play outside every day, weather permitting. If you can, provide a swing set, tricycle, balls and other outside toys; pets to love and care for, gardens to tend, and so on.  Inside play should play should be “creative” or “dramatic” play, as much as possible.

3.  Have your children work alongside you. Children need to learn to work with cheerful attitudes. Working is almost like play to the young child; they are practicing/pretending about their future adult roles. Teach them how to work while they are young and willing. Working together should be a bonding experience for you and your child, and an important learning experience for your preschooler.

4.  Try to make all “learning” fun at first.  As much as possible, let all “academic” learning take the form of games and play. If your child resists, back off for a while. It is much easier on both of you to wait for readiness and teach something in ten minutes than it is to spend ten hours (or days!) trying to teach the same skill before your child is developmentally ready.

5.  Read, sing and talk, then read, sing and talk some more!!  Help your child grow his vocabulary and base of knowledge about the world through conversation, lots of reading aloud and singing together. This is the true heart of homepreschooling.

6.  Provide your child with the opportunity to succeed by giving plenty of practice with new skills and concepts learned–through repetition.  We may become tired of hearing favorite books or songs over and over, or practicing jumping off the steps over and over–but preschoolers don’t!  Repetition strengthens and reinforces learning.

7.  Limit passive entertainment. Even “educational” television or computer games can’t match interaction with real people or real objects when it comes to learning. Most children spend more time watching television or playing computer games than they spend sleeping—much less playing!  Too much passive entertainment can be harmful to young children’s development. Commonly observed effects of too much television or computer time include over-stimulation, shortened attention span, and a reduction in active playtime. Don’t let the television replace real life experiences, play, reading aloud and conversations in the life of your family.

8. Introduce your child to the best in art, literature and music. Art and music are more than just “extras” your child can do without; they are vital to healthy, normal, early childhood development. Enjoying literature of all kinds with your children lays the foundation for literacy. (Several chapters of Homepreschooll and Beyond are devoted to these topics.)

9. Explore the real world together. Visit the grocery store: Purchase new foods to try, and talk about where they are grown/how they are made. Visit your local state and National Parks; explore the streams, mountains and beaches, taking time to wade in the streams, toss rocks in the water, and look for wildlife. Visit your local fire station, police station, train station, and airport. Plant a garden in your own backyard. Work, play and experiment together, and talk about everything you do.

10. Remember that your children are learning all the time, whether you are aware of it or not.  Homepreschooling parents simply take advantage of this fact, and choose to embrace a lifestyle of learning–consciously deciding to take advantage of those “teachable” moments. Life itself is the very best curriculum for preschoolers.

        You CAN provide everything your children need for early learning. Your children will never need anyone or anything more than they need you. Let them have the love, time, and attention of their own parents. That’s all they really need.

*This is a compilation of excerpts from: Homepreschool and Beyond: A Comprehensive Guide to Early Home Education, by Susan Lemons, used with permission.  Much of the material in this book was originally printed in Home School Enrichment Magazine, and is re-used with permission. You can read the complete article, What Your Preschooler Really Needs, HERE.

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Mothering, Parenting, preschool at home | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PE for Homeschoolers/Homepreschoolers (Activities, Games, and More)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 27, 2012


If there is one area that homeschoolers tend to neglect, it has to be PE. I think many homeschoolers have the attitude that, “if we have to be weak in one area, being weak in PE isn’t so bad.” After all, the public schools are weak in PE, too: Many schools are shortening recesses and shortening or eliminating PE altogether.

There are lots of ways to cover PE…you can even enroll your children in outside-of-the-home activities if you desire (many sport centers even offer classes for homeschoolers now. There are also sport opportunities available through city leagues, private classes, etc—and sometimes PE is offered by homeschool support groups.) However, for the sake of this post, I’m going to stick to providing PE at home.

PE at home isn’t hard to do; it just takes a time commitment. I recommend that you make sure your children spend some time playing outside every day, weather permitting. An hour a day is a good goal (you can even break it up into 15 minute segments if you need to.)

If you don’t have any outside space available to you at home, you’ll have to get creative. A few ideas: Taking off for the park a two or three days a week; purchasing a rebounder, and using it inside; jumping rope; purchasing an exercise DVD, and doing it together; exercising with your Wii. You could also run in place, do sit-ups, jumping jacks, and so on inside.

Even if you do have a backyard, just getting your kids outside to play isn’t really enough. Two or three days a week, plan to go outside with them and lead them in a more “official” PE time. Use this time to build their coordination, strength, endurance, and sport skills (listening skills, too!)

Here are some ideas that are appropriate for children of all ages (unless otherwise noted):

Work on specific sports skills: Throwing and catching balls of all sizes; throwing and catching bean bags, Frisbees, etc; bouncing balls (dribbling); controlling a ball with feet (soccer skills, including kicking); batting skills; basketball skills (making baskets; throwing with good aim, passing, etc)  AND whatever sport skills are important to you or your child. You might even want to choose a “sport of the month” or “skill of the month” to work on.

*Jump rope play: Learn to jump rope (5+) alone and when others turning the rope for them; have two people hold the rope, or tie it to something on one end (I tie mine to one end of our swing set) and then: wiggle it and have your kids try to jump over it without touching it (we call this playing “snake”); jump over the rope when it is held up (“high waters”); lay the jump rope on the ground and walk on it like a balance beam, and so on (get creative!)

*Play outside games: Some games need multiple players, but many can be adapted for even one child (and a parent.)  Examples: Hide and Seek, What Time is it Mr. Fox, Horse, and so on. (see below for other specific suggestions.)

*Practice coordination/build stamina with props: Use hula hoops to make paths to jump/hop/step over; learn to twirl and throw the hoops, etc; balance a ball on a Frisbee and see how far you can walk without dropping it; dance or move while holding streamers, and so on. Go to any dollar store and you are sure to find some props for PE on the cheap.

*Do stretches then calisthenics: Jumping jacks, sit-ups, etc (My Fit has a list of suggested exercises.)

Specific Activities:

*Play kickball, soccer or baseball with a beach ball or other large ball

*Set up “target practice” with bean bags and laundry baskets (you could also use Nerf balls or wiffle balls.)

*Use old 2 liter soda bottles as bowling pins, and a softball as the bowling ball and “bowl”

*Set up an obstacle course and have your children run through it. Use a stop-watch to see if each child can improve their time.

*Learn how to play “four square” (6+), hopscotch, (5+) jacks (6+), and Chinese jump-rope (6+), marbles and croquet (6+)

*Play “red light, green light”: You can play this with even one child. The basic directions are HERE (along with some other fun games); or, play it by having children run, hop, crawl, walk backwards, etc on the “green lights.”

*Play “Simon says” the usual way, or: “Simon says climb up the slide, then run over to the fence and touch it, then walk backwards to me. Ready, set, go!” Or, “Simon says do 25 jumping jacks.”

*Try having your children move in different ways: Hop, skip, jump, run; walk backwards, crab-walk; walk toe-to-toe, tip-toe, walk on heels, tiptoe, side-step, and so on; try moving  like animals: turtle, rabbit, gorilla, lion, dog, cat, bird, and so on.

*Make your child into a living wheelbarrow: Have your child get down on his hands and knees in front of you. Pick up your child’s legs at the ankles and have your child “walk” on his hands. This is a great workout for his arms and back.

*Older children will enjoy playing ping-pong, laser tag or dart tag (with Nerf guns.)

*Have several children or a co-op group? Try rely races: Have children pass a ball over their heads then between their legs; run to a spot, turn around, then tag the next person in line; or, have children run to a specific spot, pick up an object, run it back to the next person, who then runs to the same spot and puts in down, and so on. Games are also tons of fun. A larger group with several adults for supervision can even play more complicated strategy games like capture the flag. Other fun: parachute play (you can substitute a large sheet for a parachute.)

*Some days, you just can’t do everything you’d like to do PE wise. Perhaps your kids need PE, but you aren’t feeling good…perhaps you are over-committed (or just overwhelmed) for that day. That’s the time to use a back up plan. Make up a simple plan to use when you need to get your kids moving but you know you can’t be overly involved.  Have them: 1) Walk around the yard 3 times. 2)  Do 25 jumping jacks. 3) Jump rope 50 times. 4) Walk around the yard one more time. 5) Play outside for at least a half an hour.  Make your own plan, including activities your children know and enjoy. Use it on the days you don’t do formal PE with them, or the days when you need a break.

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There aren’t very many websites or blogs that have ideas about homeschool PE on them, so if you have any links or ideas to share, please share them in the comment section.  If you are looking for some fun props and toys to use for playtime and PE, check out Hearth Song for some unique outdoor toys. Finally: Have fun. Try to make PE fun for your kids. They will get more out of it and be more cooperative, too.

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Portions of this post are taken from Homepreschoool and Beyond, used with permission. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, PE, Play | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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