Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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    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…”

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    • For a ages 2-8
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Archive for the ‘Elementary School’ Category

What To Do When You’re Off to a Rough Start

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2014


Note: This is a classic post that originally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back. I’ve updated it, hoping it will encourage you. Thanks HSE, for giving permission for me to re-post it!

Have you been thinking: “Here it is, only October, and I already feel like a failure as a homeschooling Mom?” I feel a little like that right now, too.

It seems as though September was nothing but one interruption after another. We had one child struggling with an ongoing illness, along with all the requisite doctor appointments; we had unwelcome guests in our house—two mice—which meant traps, then cleaning and sterilizing; we ALL got miserable colds, and finally, we finished off the month with our annual off-season vacation.

Not enough school has been completed! I already feel “behind”. My plans have been set aside, and my vision for the first month of the school did NOT come true.

What should you do if your year has started like ours? First of all, and especially if you are new to homeschooling: Realize that “some days are like that.” Actually, some months are like that. I always tell new homeschoolers that the hardest part of homeschooling is not the academics—it’s life. It’s dealing with interruptions, illness, errands and laundry. This is a normal part of homeschooling that we all must learn to deal with. If this is your first year of homeschooling, you are probably finding that out.

Another thing you may be learning is the pain of unrealized expectations. They can be heartbreaking. Many homeschoolers, especially new ones, envision the “perfect homeschool”: Cheerful, obedient children who love to learn; a patient, totally organized Mom whose lessons plans are legendary and always completed, and of course, a house that is always perfectly clean and beautifully decorated. It’s hard when our dreams don’t match up with reality.

So what should you do if your year is off to a rough start? Here are some ideas:

-Pray and ask the Lord to renew your enthusiasm about homeschooling. Ask the Lord to give you HIS vision for your homeschool, and the bravery/grace to be able to follow it.

-Take an eternal perspective: Remember that this time at home with your children is just a “blink” compared to eternity. We want our children taught in the way that most benefits their eternity—and that is homeschooling. So we can’t give up!!

-Feel behind? Ask yourself, “Behind WHO?” Remember that the public schools expect too much of young children, and not enough of older children. A realistic goal is steady progress (slow and steady wins the race.) Preschoolers and Kindergarteners need time to build a foundation of basic knowledge about the world, and a wide vocabulary before they are introduced to academics.

-Re-examine your expectations. Are they appropriate? Often new homeschoolers spend TOO much time daily, and expect TOO much from their children—especially YOUNG children.

-Re-examine the readiness issue: Has what you’ve been expecting of your young learner been inappropriate? Is your child resistant? If so, perhaps you need to back off a little.

-Re-examine your routine. Is it appropriate? Does it include plenty of breaks, and time for younger students to play? Do your children have regular bedtimes, and a set time to wake up? Do you? Do you get up and dressed BEFORE your children do? (I admit, I’m still working on that one.)

-Re-examine your thinking processes. Are you “thinking like a homeschooler” or a public-schooler? Are you trying to bring the public school into your home? (I will be posting about “thinking like a homeschooler” soon.)

-Consider shortening your lessons, doing more work orally, and generally “lightening” your load. Charlotte Mason says that short lessons actually build children’s attention spans. After all, it is better to have your child fully engaged and paying attention for a short lesson, than having him squirmy and inattentive for a long lesson. We want our children to look forward to school, so keep them begging for more.

-Consider changing to a year round schedule. A year round schedule allows you to take time off when you need to. You can take time off for family emergencies, illnesses or cleaning days without worry. We take off extra time around the holidays, in exchange for schooling part of the summer (it’s too hot to do anything outside in much of the country, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week; Fridays are set aside for catch-up work, park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, and so on (we often can count Fridays as school days, too.)

-Make homeschooling your priority. Schedule everything you can around it. Don’t let the phone or appointments take you away from school time, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Take the phone off the hook if you need to, or turn off the ringer. Set your cell phone to silent.

-If you haven’t already, take the time to write down the reasons you decided to homeschool in the first place–as well as some basic goals. That way, when you have a tough day (or week), you can re-read them and remind yourself that those reasons haven’t changed. You’ll probably see that your important goals are being met, as well. (These are usually spiritual or behavioral in nature.)

-Plan time for the fun stuff: I know this doesn’t make sense if you feel “behind”; our tendency is to double the school work, instead. Resist that temptation or you and your child will quickly become frustrated and burn out. Instead, plan the time you need to enjoy art and music with your children. Art and music are more than just “extra” subjects; they teach skills vital for young children. Furthermore, they lighten the mood in your home, make learning fun, and give you and your children the opportunity to feel successful.

-Start over: If you are new to homeschooling and feel as if September has been a bust, give yourself a chance to start over. Give yourself grace! Count the days you have already done as “practice”– time to break into your school routine, and get the “kinks” out. Then, start over. That’s right, start over from right where you are, only adding the necessary adjustments.

-Get support: Do you have the support that you need to homeschool? If you haven’t connected with a Christian homeschool support group first, do so right away! Connecting with a Christian support group and participating in the activities/supportive meetings they offer can make the difference between homeschool success and burn-out or giving up. It can even make the difference between sanity and insanity!!

-Finally, remember that whenever God calls us to do something, He always gives us the knowledge, strength and abilities we need to complete the task. Don’t let a rough start make you reconsider your decision to homeschool…don’t give up. Just start over! Implement some of the changes I’ve suggested, and hang in there. It does get easier. It really does, I promise.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Elementary School, Encouragement, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 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 »

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 »

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.

Posted in circle time, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool | 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 »

Homeschool in Freedom: Breaking All the Rules, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 20, 2012


-There is no rule that says that you must involve your child in every out-of-the-home activity available so that your child is properly “socialized.” While some such activities are enjoyable and recommended, remember to find the balance: After all, you have to be home to homeschool! Only participate in activities that provide positive socialization, and those that do not wear you (or your children) out. Remember that the home is the primary place for teaching manners and proper socialization; in reality, your children need little more.

-There is no rule that says that you have to do fifteen different subjects in one day. That is how many subjects some curriculum suppliers offer: Bible, math, reading, phonics, grammar, writing, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, history, health, science, art, music, and foreign language. Alternate your lessons by day of the week, by unit, or by semester so that you are teaching either science OR history, spelling OR vocabulary, grammar OR writing, science OR health, but never everything in the same day. (Read my post “How Many Subjects Do We Need to Teach, Anyway?” HERE.)

As for grammar: Grammar  can be saved until your child is reading well (till phonics is done, or even later.)

-There is no rule that says you have to do school Monday-Friday, August through May. Many homeschoolers use a year round plan, taking their vacations off-season, starting school early or “late”, and so on. If you want to do a four day week, you can. If you want to do school on Saturday, that’s OK. It’s also OK to count your vacation days as “school” days if you are doing something educational (visiting a state park, museum, etc…field trip!)

-There is no rule that says that you have to start school at eight o’clock. Not all of us are morning people; many of us do our best work in the afternoons.  Oh—by the way—it really is OK to homeschool in your pajamas.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use textbooks. Often, especially in the early grades, the same material can be covered in a much more interesting way by reading aloud real books to your children. Remember, ANYTHING we use to help our children learn is “curriculum”, including real books, videos, games, activities and even un-planned, real life experiences.

-There is no rule that says you shouldn’t use textbooks, either. As a dear friend reminded me recently–textbooks are not intrinsically evil! Textbooks are merely tools that parents use to help their children learn.

A few words of advice: If you do choose to go the textbook route, don’t turn too much of it over to your kids to do independently. Make sure you follow-up on every lesson immediately, and discuss the lessons with your children— even when they can read them independently. Additionally, make sure that textbooks aren’t your children’s ONLY reading. Continue to read good literature aloud to them, even when they learn how to read themselves; and once they learn to read, make sure they read LOTS on their own, too. (This is so important!) Plan time for those “electives”, which are more than  “optional extras”—subjects like art, music, and PE are vitally important for normal development, and tons of fun, too. Additionally, give your children the time they need to explore their own interests (academic and otherwise.)

Personally, I tend to use real books almost exclusively during the early years (pre-K-First grade, at least), but I slowly edge a little more towards textbooks as my children get older. We usually end up using a “mix” including (an abundance of) real books, and some textbooks, too.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use a textbook—or any other book, for that matter—in the “traditional” way. Textbooks make great “spines”, to which you can add living books and real-life activities. Together, they make a great whole.

Books don’t have to be used as a whole—feel free to skim them, read only applicable passages out of them, and so on.

It’s always a great idea to set out a “library box” or “book basket” to encourage your children’s interests in reading, and/or supplement their curriculum.

-There is no rule that says you have to finish the entire book/text in a year’s time:  most public schools don’t; they simply drop them at the end of the year, potentially leaving out large chunks of learning. We don’t have to do that. We can pick up where we left off the next school year, or even extend our school year and continue working through them until we are done.

If your child is struggling with a new concept, slow down. Feel free to supplement lessons or repeat them until your child masters the concept and is ready to move on. Homemade games are awesome teaching tools to help your children memorize their math facts, practice handling money, or  practice phonics/reading.

NOTE: Most textbooks, especially math texts, include a review section at the beginning of each year. If your children need it, use it. If they know the material and are ready to move ahead, let them. Curriculum is a tool, not a slave-driver.

-There is no rule that says that all your teaching materials or textbooks must all be the same grade level. One of our greatest blessings as homeschoolers is the ability to individualized our curriculum and methods to fit each child. That may mean that your child is “in” the third grade, but is using a fourth grade language arts text, a second grade math text, and a third grade science text. That’s OK! Remember that mastery is the goal. Also remember that you will have a year or two’s wiggle room come high school, when many kids do only two or three years of math and science. You can use those years (or the junior high years, which are often review anyway) to “catch up”.  (NOTE: Find out what your state law says, though. Some states require yearly testing/grade level achievement. Find out what your leeway is. If necessary, hold your child back a grade. You can always bump them back up again, later.)

-There is no rule that says that you have to purchase your entire curriculum from one supplier. Most homeschoolers are “eclectic”, mixing and matching curriculums/suppliers to find what fits their children and their teaching style.

-There is no rule that says that you have to do every activity that the teacher’s manual suggests. Remember that most curriculums, especially textbooks, are written for classroom use and thus must contain “busy work” for the children who finish their work early as well as extra work for children who are struggling. DO ONLY THE WORK THAT WILL BENEFIT YOUR CHILD; don’t feel obligated to do it all! That’s a sure recipe for burn-out.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use the teacher’s manual, if it is no help to you. I rarely  buy teacher’s manuals at all until after the third grade or so—and even then, they are often used as an occasional reference, only (my exception: math.)

-There is no rule that says that you must give your child tests—and if you do, remember that you should only give tests if you believe they will be a help to your child (or you.) Homeschooling parents who are involved in their children’s learning usually know if their children know the material or not. Other than spelling tests, we give very few tests until after the fourth grade.

I do think it is a good idea to make sure that children begin to learn how to take tests by 5th or 6th grade, so that they are “in practice” for standardized tests, if they are required. Additionally, I believe it is important for junior and senior high kids to practice taking tests and doing the questions at the end of chapters, so that they are prepared for college (used to using/finding information in textbooks and used to writing the answers as well as preparing for tests.)

-There is no rule that says that if you do give your child tests, they have to be written. First tests, especially, can be given orally, in a game format, or whatever other creative way that appeals to you.

-There is no rule that says that school should take five to six hours every day. In fact, if you are taking that long, it’s probably too long. Short lessons are best.  Remember that homeschooling is more efficient that public school—we can get twice as much done in half the time.

On average, plan for 10-15 minutes per academic subject–per day– per grade—MAXIMUM. For example: Kindergardeners and first graders spend 10-15 minutes per subject; second graders spend twenty to twenty-five minutes, and so on, until you get to around forty to forty-five minutes per subject—then stay there. Yes, the public school’s class periods are longer—but they waste so much time settling kids down, taking roll, and handing out/collecting papers that they are lucky if they get 30 minutes of actual teaching time in each class.

Exceptions: If your children are older (junior high/high school)—and even then, I’d be sure they got breaks every 4o-45 minutes or so.

NOTE: I do allow my children more time when they are doing work on their own initiative, or when it is something hands-on or for fun (art projects they don’t want to stop, when I am reading an exciting book to them and the kids are begging to hear more, and so on.)

-There is no rule that says that your children must have homework: Most homeschoolers don’t. They get their work done during school time, or save it for another day.

-There is no rule that says that you have to pre-plan your lessons: I plan at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a unit/topic. Once we start, we just “do what comes next” and write it down later. This gives me leeway to adjust what we are doing if it isn’t working, to take extra time to master a hard subject or to explore a subject we are enjoying, or allow for sick days. I keep “journal-style” lessons, writing down what we do after the fact. (I do know which books we are reading next, etc.)

-There is no rule that says that you can’t include non-traditional subjects, or that you have to cover the traditional subjects in a traditional way: It’s OK to count chores as “life-skills”, baking as “home-ec”, and outside play time as “PE”. In fact, I recommend it. Remember that anything educational that you do, no matter the time of day or day of the week, is part of your homeschool’s curriculum and therefore should be counted as “school”.  Homeschoolers are always in school!! If you’ll count all the educational things you do on a day to day basis, you’ll be amazed.

-There is no rule that says that your preschooler has to know all his alphabet and numbers before starting Kindergarten. What else is Kindergarten for?! Kindergarten is the best time to cement those preschool “facts” and begin a slightly longer, more disciplined daily routine. Remember, we don’t have to make our children ready for Kindergarten—we can make Kindergarten ready for them.

-There is no rule that says that your child has to learn to read in Kindergarten—or even first grade. Learning to read, like learning to walk or swim, is very much a developmental task and should be approached on an individual basis–depending on readiness. (See my previous post , the tab on readiness, and the archives on “readiness” for more.)

-There’s no rule that says that you have to teach state history in the fourth grade (we did it together, when the kids were in grades 3 and 5) or do a science fair project in the fifth grade (unless you think it would benefit your kids.)

-There’s no rule that says that you have to teach your kids what the scope and sequence says you should for history or science, or that you can’t teach your children the things they want to learn, instead. In fact, some of the best learning happens when we give our kids the lead. (Scope and sequences are pretty arbitrary when it comes to history and science topics. Does it really matter which year you teach your children about the states, or insects, for example? Nope. Cover it whenever you think your kids will get the most out of it.)

No matter your chosen homeschooling method, I think it’s a great idea to take some time off once in a while and let your children choose their topics (often called the “delight-directed” approach.) If your child has a topic she loves, encourage her to take some time to pursue it. Feel free to take off on a “rabbit trail” once in a while and explore topics of interest when they come up without feeling guilty. Many times these topics will lead your child to learn more (about every subject) than you ever dreamed. Sometimes these topics lead children towards their future career paths.

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Many times, homeschooling parents discover that they have to break free from the “public school” mentality and its rules in order to give their children the best and most efficient education they can. Just like their kids, they need time to “detox” and eliminate the “public school” mentality. Don’t be afraid to re-examine the rules or “step out of the box.”  Remember that YOU are in charge of your child’s education. You get to make (most of) the “rules”, so don’t worry if you are “breaking” them or adjusting them to fit your needs. The ability we have to individualised our materials and methods is one of our greatest strength as homeschoolers. Don’t be afraid to use it.

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

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Education, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011


 (Classic repost, updated.)     

       Many years ago I had an experience I’ll never forget.  While visiting a friend’s house–a mother of preschoolers–I observed the following: Her little one brought her a book, and trundled onto her lap so that she could be read to. My friend pulled her up onto her lap, and started reading to her…but this was no ordinary story. It was the fastest story I’ve ever heard! There was no expression, nor any discussion of the book or its pictures. She read it as quickly as she could, just to get it over with. 

       I hope this wasn’t the usual way stories went at her house. I understand that she did have company, and she wanted to placate her child so that we could continue our visit. But the whole thing made me sad. It’s something I’ve never forgotten.

       Reading aloud should be a special time of bonding between parent and child. It should never be viewed only as an obligation—something to be rushed through at break-neck speed. Story time should be enjoyed…relished. 

       There are so many ways to make story time special. They are all simple, and so much fun!  Here are a few ideas:

 -Take your time and enjoy the story. Read a little more slowly than you think you need to. Enunciate your words clearly; your children copy your speech.

-Read with expression, and get into character: whisper, shout, growl, squeal, and make animal sounds as appropriate. Make male voices sound low, and female voices higher. Make each character as unique as you can–my boys love it when I add a southern accent for Hank the Cowdog.

-Encourage your children to chime in when there is a familiar or repetitive phrases.

-Pause at the end of phrases, to see if your child can fill in any missing words.   

-Try reading in new places:  How about a picnic read aloud time?  You can have a picnic indoors or out.  Maybe your little girls would enjoy a “tea time” reading. Read in different rooms, in your bed, in front of the fireplace, during bathtime, and so on. We love to read while snuggling on the couch, under a fluffy blanket.

-Try including pets or “loveys” (favorite blankets or stuffed animals) in your reading time.

-Extend your read-aloud time by acting out nursery rhymes and favorite stories, and watch your children’s play for signs that your read-aloud time is sinking-in: You’ll know you’ve found a gem of a book when your children include the book in their pretend-play spontaneously.

-Talk about the story:  Speculate: What might happen next? What could the character have done differently? Notice the details in the pictures, as they relate to the story. Ask your child to describe the characters:  What kind of dog is Harry? (A black dog with white spots.)  What is the one thing he doesn’t like?  (He doesn’t like taking a bath. These details are from one of our favorite books,  Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion.)

-Notice details in each book’s art: How are the pictures made? Are they drawn, painted, colored, or collaged (what is the medium used?) Notice the artist’s use of color and light as well.

-Have your child tell the story, or part of it, back to you (narration.) 

-Give your child a “print-rich” environment.  Keep books at your child’s eye-level, to encourage them to investigate books themselves—or pick out books that they would like to hear. We used plastic rain gutters to make bookshelves right by our boy’s beds and provided them with reading lamps to encourage them to read in bed.

-Choose books that are about topics that are of special interest to your children. Consider turning books/storytime into a daily or weekly unit study or “theme” by reading about one main topic at a time, and by adding fun activities/art projects/dramatic play, etc that enhances the reading experience.

-Communicate to your children that books are important to you.  Let your children see you reading books. Share books that you loved as a child with your children.

-Buy books as presents; give books as rewards (books are only rewards if they are GOOD books. Check out my archives for “book lists” and my post on  “Choosing and Finding Classic Picture Books”.)

-(For older children): Read a book, and then watch a movie based on the book.  How are they different? Which is better? Why?   

-Something we do: Quote special sentences/passages from favorite books (and movies) when appropriate. Ask your children if they remember which books the sayings are from, which character said it, how he said it, and so on.

      Don’t just read to your children—make reading special!

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, circle time, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Fun, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Picture Books, preschool at home, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Off to a Rough Start? Advice for Parents of Young Learners (pre-K-grade 3)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2011


   Note:  This is a classic re-post that orginally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back.  Thanks HSE, for giving permission for me to re-post it!

  
     Have you been thinking: “Here it is, only October, and I already feel like a failure as a homeschooling Mom?” I feel a little like that right now, too.

      It seems as though September was nothing but one interruption after another.  We had one child struggling with an ongoing illness, along with all the requisite doctor appointments; we had unwelcome guests in our house—two mice—which meant traps, then cleaning and sterilizing; we ALL got miserable colds, and finally, we finished off the month with our annual off-season vacation.

     Not enough school has been completed!  I already feel “behind”.  My plans have been set aside, and my vision for the first month of the school did NOT come true. 

     What should you do if your year has started like ours? First of all, and especially if you are new to homeschooling: Realize that “some days are like that.” Actually, some months are like that. I always tell new homeschoolers that the hardest part of homeschooling is not the academics—it’s life. It’s dealing with interruptions, illness, errands and laundry. This is a normal part of homeschooling that we all must learn to deal with.   

     Another important thing to remember is that there is nothing as hard to deal with as unrealized expectations.  They can be heartbreaking. Many homeschoolers, especially new ones, envision the “perfect homeschool”: Cheerful, obedient children who love to learn; a patient, totally organized Mom whose lessons plans are legendary and always completed. It’s hard when our dreams don’t match up with reality.
 
     So what should you do if your year is off to a rough start?  Here are some ideas:

-Pray and ask the Lord to renew your enthusiasm about homeschooling. Ask the Lord to give you HIS vision for your homeschool.

-Take an eternal perspective: Remember that this time at home with your children is just a “blink” compared to eternity. We want our children taught in the way that most benefits their eternity—and that is homeschooling. 

-Feel behind? Ask yourself, “Behind WHO?” Remember that the public schools expect too much of young children, and not enough of older children. The goal should be steady progress (slow and steady wins the race.) Preschoolers and Kindergarteners need time to build a foundation of basic knowledge about the world, and a wide vocabulary before they are introduced to formal academics.

-Re-examine your expectations. Are they appropriate? Often new homeschoolers spend TOO much time daily, and expect TOO much from their children—especially YOUNG children. 

-Re-examine the readiness issue: Has what you’ve been expecting of your young learner been inappropriate?  Is your child resistant? If so, perhaps you need to back off a little.  

-Re-examine your routine. Is it appropriate? Does it include plenty of breaks, and time for younger students to play? Do your children have regular bedtimes, and a set time to wake up? Do you? Do you get up and dressed BEFORE your children do?

-Consider shortening your lessons, doing more work orally, and generally “lightening” your load. Charlotte Mason says that short lessons actually build children’s attention spans.  After all, it is better to have your child fully engaged and paying attention for a short lesson, than having him squirmy and inattentive for a long lesson. We want our children to look forward to school; we want to keep them begging for more.

 -Consider changing to a year round schedule. A year round schedule allows you to take time off when you need to. You can take time off for family emergencies, illnesses or cleaning days without worry. We take off extra time around the holidays in exchange for schooling part of the summer (when it’s too hot to do much in central California, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week, and only three days include an academic emphasis; one day is used for park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, etc.

-Make homeschooling your priority. Schedule everything you can around it. Don’t let the phone or appointments take you away from school time, unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

-If you haven’t already, take the time to write down the reasons you decided to homeschool in the first place–as well as some basic goals. That way, when you have a tough day (or week), you can re-read them and remind yourself that those reasons haven’t changed.  You’ll probably see that your important goals are being met, as well. (These are usually spiritual or behavioral in nature.)

-Plan time for the fun stuff: I know this doesn’t make sense if you feel “behind”; our tendency is to double the school work instead.  Resist that temptation or you and your child will quickly become frustrated and burnt out.  Instead, plan the time you need to enjoy art and music with your children.  Art and music are more than just “extra” subjects; they teach skills vital for young children.  Furthermore, they lighten the mood in your home, make learning fun, and give you and your children the opportunity to feel successful.

-Start over:  If you are new to homeschooling and feel as if September has been a bust, give yourself a chance to start over.  Count the days you have done as “practice”, or time to break into your school routine, and then start over.  That’s right, start over from right where you are, only adding the necessary adjustments. 

-Finally, remember that whenever God calls us to do something, He will give us the strengths and the abilities we need to complete it.  Don’t let a rough start make you reconsider your decision to homeschool…don’t give up.  Implement some of the changes I’ve suggested, and hang in there.  It does get easier.

Live the 4R’s!

    ~Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  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, Education, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Teach Your Children to Write (Handwriting, revisited)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 13, 2011


Note: It has recently come to my attention that one of my most popular posts, “How to Teach Your Children to Write”, has broken links in it. Therefore, I have revised my post, added new links and more information. I hope you enjoy it.

      Are you thinking about teaching your preschooler/Kindergartener how to write?  Before trying to teach writing, make sure your children have had lots of experience with art–felt tipped pens, crayons, colored pencils, cut and paste, play dough, water colors, collage, stencils–all of it.  This helps children develop small muscle strength and control, as well as eye-hand coordination.  They should have had plenty of experience with manipulative toys as well:  Puzzles, Legos, pattern blocks, etc.

     Be sure your children are developmentally ready before you start “formal” lessons.  Most children won’t learn to write until they are 4-5 years of age.  That being said, it is important to remember that age is not always the best indicator of readiness; instead, watch for these signals: Interest (asking to be taught), natural or spontaneous learning (copying letters/numbers spontaneously onto their art), asking you about letters and their meaning, etc.  Additionally, your child should be able to draw a detailed picture of himself, with at least a head, body, arms, fingers, legs, feet, hair, eyes, nose, and mouth (the more detail the better.) Note:  If your child is younger but  has all the readiness signs, you’ll have to decide if s/he is ready or not; after all, you are the “expert” on your own child!  If you think s/he might be ready, start with some “trial” lessons, but watch carefully for frustration and keep lessons short.  If you have any doubts, it’s better to wait.

     Remember—there’s no rule that says you must teach your children to write their letters in alphabetical order; most parents start by teaching their children how to write their names.  A good way to get started is with sandpaper letters.  You can help your child use his/her pointer finger to trace the letter, using correct formation (i.e. to make an ‘h’, start at the top and go down, up on the same line, and then around.)  You can make your own sandpaper letters with medium grade sandpaper, scissors you don’t care about (they’ll be dull when you are done), and Sharpie pens (it might take two or more.) Here is what you do: Cut the sandpaper into 3×5 or smaller rectangles (playing card size is good). Next, use the Sharpies to write the matching upper and lower case letters on each card (Aa; Bb, etc.)  Idea: Cut one longer strip, and write your child’s name on it. That way, your child can learn to trace the letters of his name easily. And remember, your child  should learn to write his/her name with the first letter capitalized all the other letters in lower case!

     More sensory experiences:  For other sensory experiences, you can write letters and numbers in cornmeal, salt, or better yet, Jell-o powder (have your child lick his/her finger, form the letter, and then lick her finger again as a reward.  Obviously, kids with sugar/dye sensitivities or children with dirty hands should skip this one!)

     Before trying to write letters on regular paper, make sure your child knows how to hold a pencil correctly. Ideally, s/he should have already learned proper pencil grip through art experiences. Some kids struggle with this, and benefit from pencil grips (I personally like the “crossover grips” and “Pencil Grips by the Pencil Grip Inc.” best.)  You can also see (and try) various pencil grips at your local school supply store. Learn more about the proper grip (called the “tripod hold”) HERE.  You can read more about holding a pencil, along with suggested activities meant to strengthen fingers and wrists HERE.

Children also need a comfortable chair so they can sit up straight (your child might need a booster seat or child sized table and chairs for this.) For ideal handwriting posture, children’s feet should be supported, not dangling. An office chair that is adjustable also works well for this, too, and will grow along with your child.)

     When it’s time to teach handwriting, it’s a good idea to learn some “tricks of the trade”.  Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, the curriculum we’ve used with all four of our children (with great success), includes scripted lessons that show you how to teach your child to write, letter by letter (in the Off We Go workbook).  If you feel lost and don’t know how to teach writing (and phonics), you really need this curriculum! Alternately, you can order just the Off We Go workbook (which is what we used for Kindergarten–we turned it into an alphabet book).  Call 1 800 321 8322 to  order directly from the publisher, or order in online HERE (publisher) or HERE.

Other Tips: Sit down by your child and watch your children carefully while they are beginning to write, even guiding their hands if necessary.  Say the phrases you learned (or make up your own) while they write. I used to say: “First little ‘c’, then little ‘a’.”  “First little ‘c’, then little ‘d'”, etc.  It’s important to insure that letters are formed correctly.  Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to break.  It might not seem very important right now how your child forms the letters if they are written neatly, but when you begin to teach cursive, you’ll quickly find out otherwise.  Properly formed letters lead quickly and easily into cursive, but bad habits (such as starting an “n” at the bottom instead of the top) mean extra strokes…writing that takes longer than necessary, and re-learning the correct letter formation when learning cursive (third or fourth grade.)

You don’t have to buy a separate  “curriculum” for handwriting unless you want to; if you do, please save it for Kindergarten or even First Grade.  (Note:  Before you purchase a separate handwriting program, take a look at your phonics program and see how much writing it requires.  It might be all you need.) Personal recomendations:   Explode the Code’s Get Ready for the Code(perfect for Kindergarten);  Christian Liberty Press Handwriting or Handwriting Without Tears. For teaching cursive, check out Cheerful Cursive (they also make Happy Handwriting, but I haven’t seen it.)

Once your children have learned how to consistently form their letters correctly, handwriting practice is easy. You can use a handwriting curriculum, or just use spelling and vocabuary words as well as copy work for practice. In fact, any writing they do counts as practice.  Simple Bible verses make wonderful copy work, especially the Psalms and Proverbs.

      About paper:  You might want to head down to your local school supply store and buy some nice, lined, handwriting paper.  I personally hate Kindergarten-sized paper; I think the huge spaces make it harder for little ones.  Imagine, little hands that can barely make straight lines being made to make those super long lines!   We started our children with 2nd grade paper (or thereabouts), and stayed with it for a couple of years.  Also, if you can buy smooth, heavy paper, it’s better than thin, rough paper (see links below).

Finally, remember to keep your first lessons short and fun–no longer than 5 minutes or so.  If your child is resistant, back off for a few months before you try again.  Remember, waiting for readiness makes the difference between months of forced lessons with lots of tears, and fewer lessons done cheerfully.

     Paper resources:  Miller’s Pads and Paper sells quality lined paper; Target and Amazon sells Composition books that contain bright, smooth, lined “story paper” (blank on the top half for drawing pictures; lined on the bottom for writing.)  They also carry”Redi Space” paper to help children space their letters, and “Mead See and Feel Learn to Letter” which has raised  lines.  It’s nice quality paper, especially for the price!

© 2010, 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Elementary School, Encouragement | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Homeschool Fair/Human Body Unit

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 11, 2011


(This is a belated post…I thought some of the boy’s craft  and school ideas might be fun summertime activities for others, or perhaps inspiration for the next school year.)

My boys have been obsessed with two things this year: Wiki Stix and wooden (puzzle) models. We got to show both things off this spring at our annual “Homeschool Fair.” It really is a fun event—like a science fair, but for every subject. You’ll see things like traditional science projects (including oral presentations to the group), but also history dioramas, notebooking and lapbooking for various disciplines; writing; arts and crafts; child-made videos (we even had some “stop action animation” this year); demonstrations of various types; sewing projects; baked goods (which are then sold as a fund-raiser); Lego models and other types of models, etc, etc. This year there was a display about how chickens lay eggs that included real chickens, and a display about rabbits that included real rabbits. In conjunction with the displays, our group serves a bag lunch (another fund-raiser) AND after lunch there is a talent show (“God’s gifts”): recitations, mime/drama, singing, kids playing their musical instruments, and so on.)  My Josh played piano for this. 

This year, the boys each entered their Wiki Stix sculptures:

They also entered their wooden models (you can find these at Michaels craft stores; they can be colored or painted, as you see.)

Additionally, they  showed off some of their academic work: their human body cut-outs. We traced around their bodies onto heavy white butcher paper and  then read about each major organ; finally, we added them to the body outlines in (approximately),their rightful place, one-by-one.

We used My Body Book by  Patty Carratello  for our patterns, but we beefed up the text by reading tons of other books, as well.

Here is a partial list of the books we read: I-Can-Read Books: Your Skin and Mine, Use Your Brain, A Drop of Blood, What Happens to a Hamburger,  You Can’t Make a Move Without Your Muscles, and Ears are for Hearing, (all by Showers), as well as The Skeleton Inside You, by Balestrino.

(Excuse the funny face–he did it on purpose, of course.) We read numerous “Let’s Read and Find Out About Science” books as well, including Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup and Yawn.  Some of the “I-Can-Read” and the “Lets Read and Find Out” books were read as review, and then passed along to another family (since my boys had really outgrown them.)  I would say that these books are best for 5-9 year olds or so, although my 10 year old still enjoyed them….and learned a lot from them. They certainly opened up a lot of discussions about how our bodies work.

We also read Body Battles by Gelman (about the immune system) and (a lot of) The Human Body (by Weldon Owen. This was a Costco find that included  overlays; I couldn’t find it online, sorry.)  We used The Human Body as a sort of as reference/”spine” book. It explained the systems of the body nicely, and had beautiful pictures. We also read portions of God’s Design for Life: The Human Body (from Answers in Genesis) which inspired us to branch out for a bit to learn more about  Leonardo Da Vinci  (we read portions of Leonardo Da Vinci and studied his drawings, inventions, and his more famous paintings.)

For activities, we  looked at a real x-ray, listened to our hearts with a real stethoscope, learned how to take our pulse and experimented to see how exercise increased our pulse, examined our skin before and after a long soak in the tub, and examined our skin and hair under 50X magnification, and of course, made the body models. We would review the organs (etc) that we’d already learned about daily, before learning anything new, and I think I’m going to add what we’ve learned to our vocabulary notebooks so that we can regularly review what each organ/system does.)

The study took us about 6 weeks, and during this time we learned about the skin, skeleton, bones/bone marrow, muscles, brain, eyes, ears, kidneys, liver, bladder, cells, spleen, pancreas, gall bladder, appendix, heart, lungs, stomach, small and large intestines, veins and arteries, as well as the systems of the body (we skipped over the reproductive system for now; Dad will cover that with them soon.)

If you decide to do this unit and have several children, you could use the “bus stop” method: Have all your children do their school together, and then “let the preschoolers off the bus” (excuse them from lessons) while you do more detailed reading/work with older children. Preschoolers could make an outline of their bodies, too, and while they wouldn’t remember all the names of the organs/systems and what they do, they certainly could learn about and remember the names and functions of the main organs (brain, skin, bones and muscles, heart, lungs, and perhaps the bladder.) Mature 4 year olds could sit through the easier books, too (the “I-Can-Read About”/”Let’s Read and Find Out About Science” books.)

We will repeat this unit when our boys are older (at a more advanced level) and next time, we’ll include labeling the body parts, bones, etc, as well as studying reproduction.

~Susan

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Art, Crafts, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Science, Summertime Fun and Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Homeschool: Common Myths About Homeschooling Debunked (part two)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 23, 2011


-Myth #4: I’m not patient enough to homeschool—OR-I don’t like my kids enough to homeschool. Remember, when God calls
us to do something, He always gives us the abilities we need to complete it. Patience is developed with practice, prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit. You
will find that the Lord will use homeschooling to teach you many things; patience may be one of them.

If you don’t enjoy being around your children all the time, perhaps you need to work on strengthening your relationship with them. Or perhaps the issue has to do with discipline (with my two strong-willed little boys, I totally understand the discipline struggles!) If so, take the time to deal with it now. Your children are your responsibility; you can’t pawn off the problems to institutional schools and hope they will deal with it; they won’t. Discipline starts with the heart…only you can do the job. (See my links on discipline helps on the right sidebar, and chapter 3 in my book.)

-Myth #5: Homeschoolers get an inferior education. Only people with teaching credentials are qualified to teach, right?! Wrong! A twenty-plus year study has shown that homeschooled children do better academically than their public-schooled counterparts. Homeschoolers score (on average) 30 or more percentage points higher than public school kids, and do better on their ACT and SAT tests as well. Homeschoolers are MORE likely to go to college, and are heavily recruited by colleges, as well.

-Myth #6: All homeschoolers are right-wing, conservative, religious fanatics. It’s true that many homeschoolers proudly claim that title–myself included (I don’t think you can be too “fanatical” about following God!) However, you should know that since homeschooling has become more common, and since its success has been proven, the number of homeschoolers has grown to include all types of families and religious beliefs (or lack thereof.) Just do a “Google” search for the type of group you are interested in, and you are likely to find them. Many different religious groups are jumping onto the homeschooling band-wagon, including Muslims, pagans, atheists, liberals, and more—so you can no longer label the homeschooling movement in that way. Not everyone homeschools for religious reasons. Some families homeschool to achieve academic excellence; others choose to homeschool due to family situations; to accommodate gifted or delayed children; to maintain a close family life, or just as a personal preference.

-Myth #7: Homeschoolers are “indoctrinating” their children. Yup. You’ve got me on that one. But so are the government schools. The truth is, no system of education is completely neutral. Public schools teach their own philosophy (secular humanism/liberal political slant), while others teach theirs (Judeo-Christian values/traditional, constitutional/conservative views.) However, it is not up to the government to decide which is correct. As parents, we have the right to teach our children what we think is best. We strive to teach our children truth. God’s truth. We teach our children creationism and intelligent design; but we also teach them about evolution. We do not hide our children from opposing views, but rather teach them truth, and how to discern between the two. We want our children to know about evolution, and also how to refute it.

For more information/an encouraging look at the effectiveness of homeschooling, take a look at THIS encouraging video.

~Susan

© 2011 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, Elementary School, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Thinking About Homeschooling? | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Homeschool: Common Myths About Homeschooling Debunked (part one)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 21, 2011


Almost everyone has heard them: the myths about homeschooling. If you are thinking about homeschooling, they may be bothering you…or perhaps they “bother” your friends and family, and in turn, they are bothering YOU about them! If that is the case, be assured: they are only myths. The truth about homeschooling is far different.

Here are some of the myths you may have heard:

-Myth #1: Homeschoolers are anti-social. Some people believe that homeschoolers choose to homeschool in order to isolate their children from the “real world.”  This is not true. Many families choose to homeschool to protect their children from some of the negative
influences of the world, yes; but isolate them…no. In fact, most homeschooling parents go out of their way to make sure their children are well  “socialized”.
Homeschoolers are commonly involved in multiple “outside the home” activities, including church activities, “lessons” of various kinds (music, art, sports, co-op classes, etc), scouts, team sports, homeschool support groups, etc. Furthermore, homeschoolers have many social opportunities that other kids don’t. They get to interact with people of all ages (adults, the elderly, young children, babies, etc) through home life, field trips (homeschoolers get lots of amazing field trips), community service, etc. Homeschoolers get to live and learn in the real world…the world is their classroom.

If you think about it, home is the real-life environment, and institutional school the “artificial” environment. When else in your life are you with people all the same age, all thinking about and doing the same things at the same time? Never. Adults (and employers) appreciate creative, independent thought.

-Myth #2: Homeschoolers are socially awkward.  Well, it depends. Every child is different. Some children are naturally shy. When these children are homeschooled, often their extended families (who may not have supported homeschooling in the first place) will blame their shyness on homeschooling. Other times, homeschooled children will be deemed “awkward” or “backward” when they are simply “culturally different.” Most homeschooled children are more mature than other children in some ways, and less mature in others; hopefully they are mature spiritually, but innocent to the ways of the world. They may not understand modern teen culture, know who Madonna or Lady Gaga is, or be up on the latest “R” rated movie, but that is a good thing!  None of those things are the things we want them to aspire to or be involved in.

I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to be different. I want them to be committed Christians, who keep their ways pure. I want their culture to be our family’s culture…a Christian culture. I think we should be different from the rest of the world…part of the world, yet set apart.  Perhaps “socially awkward” or “backward,” as most people judge it, is actually something to be desired, considering today’s culture (which never ceases to shock me.)

-Myth #3: Parents aren’t smart enough to homeschool. Many parents who are considering homeschooling think they aren’t smart enough to carry it off. They worry that without a college degree or teaching credential, they simply aren’t qualified. In fact, NHERI has done a twenty year study that shows that
homeschooled children do better academically than children in public school—regardless of the educational level OR the income level of their
parents.

Homeschooling parents have the opportunity to learn along with their children. You will find that you will fall in love with learning all over again. You’ll have the chance to learn those things you never mastered in school, or relearn what you’ve forgotten. As to your children—all you have to do is keep one lesson ahead of them.

When it comes to those difficult subjects that you might have struggled with or feel unable to teach, there are many viable options: Online curriculum, virtual classrooms (some curriculums, like ABeka, offer CD’s that show a Christian school classroom for your child to watch, then do the lessons), co-op classes (many homeschool support groups offer them—my kids have taken yearbook, creative writing, Spanish, choir and biology—with full labs—in that way), and even private tutoring (we found a foreign exchange student to teach my daughter Japanese.) Additionally, sometimes spouses, grandparents, friends and family can help fill in the gaps.

 

Next post: Part two!

© 2011 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, Elementary School, Getting Started, Homeschool, Thinking About Homeschooling? | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Curriculum Review: Peak With Books

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 11, 2011


      Peak With Books: An Early Childhood Resource for Balanced Literacy, in one sentence: Before Five in a Row on steroids!  According to Dr. Ruth Beechick, author of some of the best homeschooling books on the market:

     “I think this book is topnotch. Any parent who used these lesson plans for awhile would be getting a good education in using books with children and building upon them to expand vocabulary, experiences and thoughts. For people who want to do the “living books” thing that Susan Macaulay has popularized, here is the Kindergarten program all worked out for them.”

      From the back of the book: “Peak With Books shows how to use popular children’s literature to build reading, writing, and cognitive skills in an inquiry-based environment. Instead of using a “skill and drill” approach, the authors employ conversations, questions, and meaning-based activities to stimulate children’s curiosity, confidence and thirst for knowledge.”

Peak With Books, like Before Five in a Row, is:

*literature-based

*encourages multiple readings of each book

*includes discussion ideas and activities related to each book.

*Peak With Books does not include daily lesson plans. Like Before Five in a Row, you will have to decide how and when to use the activities.

*You should choose the activities that you think would be the most helpful for your child; don’t think you have to do them all.

Unlike Before Five in a Row:

-Peak With Books is written primarily for classroom use. Even so, the activities are easily adapted for home use.

-Peak With Books is adaptable to ages 4-7…it is for advanced preschoolers, Kindergarteners, and First graders, depending on their readiness/development (some activities will may not be appropriate for preschoolers.)

-Peak With Books is a curriculum. It is not a distinctly Christian curriculum, however, and therefore it does not include Bible/character study ideas (I prefer more of a Biblical emphasis; however, from what I have read of the curriculum, you would be hard-pressed to find anything remotely offensive or inappropriate.)

*It is not a complete curriculum. Its purpose is to build literacy skills, thinking skills and vocabulary. You will need other resources to cover Bible/character traits, as well as phonics, handwriting, math, science, social studies (history), etc for Kindergarten and First grade.)

      Peak With Books (PWB) uses 42 picture books; many of which are classics.  Additionally, related books are listed  (“story time extensions.”) The front of the book includes a list intended to be used to turn PWB into a sort of unit study or thematic approach.  Personally, I don’t think it goes nearly far enough for that…no non-fiction books are suggested!  Additionally, the books listed under each “unit” aren’t well enough related to me, and many of the topics are weak, at best. (Some of the weak topics include:  Bear Hugs, Caps and Hats, Circle Stories, and Walking. It does include some good themes, such as “animal habitats”, but without non-fiction books, so much learning is left out.) Compare these themes to my suggested units HERE or my unit study archives (see categories on the left sidebar.)  

     Peak With Books includes story questions (good conversation starters), music (mostly singing; CD’s are suggested), drama ideas, 84 finger plays (Peak With Books calls them “finger rhymes”), and 82 poems.  It focuses on early writing skills, “reproductions and retellings”, as well as learning games and activities that are intended to help children learn those “preschool/Kindergarten facts” such as letter recognition, beginning writing, colors, etc. Thinking games and memory games and included as well.

Conclusion

     PWB is a good resource for those who want to learn how to pull elements out of literature (parts of the story, illustrations, questions, etc) and use them to teach their children literacy, vocabulary and thinking skills. It would also be a good starting point for families who want to use a literature approach, and need some “starter ideas.”  But to me, it seemed incomplete.  It felt like the authors had a good start on a wonderful unit study, but left it unfinished. They only needed to add only a few elements to turn each book into a full-fledged unit study. Since no non-fiction books were used at all, I don’t feel it could really be called a complete “thematic approach” or “unit study; it is not fully integrated. It does fulfill its purpose: Building literacy.  However, for as much time as you would spend doing the various activities, you could easily enjoy a full-fledged unit study and achieve a better and more complete result.  In my opinion, Five in a Row is a  better option. It is much more complete, especially when you add the Bible supplement. 

~Susan

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Book Reviews, Curiculum Reviews, Curriculum, Early Academics, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Methods, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Are You Thinking About Homeschooling? Meeting Dates in Bakersfield, CA

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 15, 2011


        Do you live near Bakersfield, CA?  Are you thinking about homeschooling?  Then you are invited to join us for “Thinking About Homeschooling,”  a Christian ministry that provides information and support to families who are considering homeschooling/homepreschooling their children.

        I’m happy to announce the dates for our Thinking About Homeschooling Meetings, 2011.  Please save these dates on your calendars!  All the meetings are FREE and will be held at 7 PM-8:30 (or so) at my home (comment on this post to find out where.)  THERE IS NO CHILDCARE, but nursing babies are welcome….husbands are welcome, too, and especially encouraged to come for (at least) the first meeting.

   Please remember to invite any friends/family who are “thinking about homeschooling” or those “experienced” homeschoolers who need refreshment/encouragement to “keep on keeping on.” 
 
Tuesday May 10: Making the Decision {please come even if you’ve already decided.  This meeting will encourage you, give you facts and information to share with friends/family who are critical of your decision, AND information that will help you “detox”; that is, step out of the usual way of thinking about education and its goals/purposes and find GOD’s ways.  It will also help you define your goals for education and your beliefs about how education works.  This will help you (later) choose your curriculum and methods. You will also be introduced to our local support groups, and what they offer.} 
 
Tuesday, June 7:  Legalities and record keeping/planning: {some states make homeschoolers jump through lots of hoops to homeschool legally, but we are blessed to live in a state that keeps it easy.  Learn about your 4 different legal options, and which I recommend; learn how to get started and discover important resources to help you, etc.  Learn which records you need to keep, and see different ideas for how to keep them; get lesson planning tips.  NOTE:  If we get done early, we usually go ahead and start introducing curriculum, since there is so much to cover on that topic.}
 
Tuesday, July 12:  Choosing and using curriculum {learn about different homeschooling methods and the curriculums that go with them.  Learn what you should know before you choose curriculum, what you should do before you choose curriculum, and how to use your curriculum once you’ve got it.  I will introduce the major curriculum suppliers, and let you in on money saving tips. Curriculum catalogs and curriculum samples will be available.}  NOTE:  This is usually our longest and most popular meeting. 
 
Tuesday, August 9: Teaching Preschool and Kindergarten {learn about “homepreschool” and Kindergarten.  Specifically, learn about what your preschoolers really need;  the importance of readiness;  routines, and how long to spend in a day/how long to spend on each subject (for Kindergarten);  how to organize your day, etc.  Get tips and ideas developing a balanced approach that includes plenty of play, art, music, and reading aloud.
 
Tuesday, September 13: Group choice OR question and answers: {For our last meeting, I will let you choose the topic.  We might have a question and answer time, OR we will choose a topic ahead of time (choosing/using good literature, hands-on activities/games, art and music, or whatever is of most interest to the group.)  Sometimes we pitch in for food, or bring desserts to share.}
 
     Final notes:  I will email notes to you before each meeting.  You should print them up and have them ready to go for note-taking.  If you don’t have a printer available, please let me know.  (It might be a good idea to put your notes into a binder.)  Due to printing costs, I will have only a few copies of the notes available, so please be sure to remember to bring your printables.  I will also email recaps of the meetings, in case you can’t attend–but the recaps are no substitute!  Finally:  Finger-foods/snacks are always welcome!  
    I will send reminders around before each meeting to those who are on my email list.  RSVP’S are appreciated, but not required (it is helpful to know how many chairs to drag out.)  Please spread the word, and I look forward to meeting you soon!
     Many blessings,
            Susan 
 
 
 
 

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Elementary School, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, preschool at home, Thinking About Homeschooling? | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Year’s Resolutions/Planning for a New Homeschool Year

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 31, 2010


         Sorry I haven’t posted for so long; I’ve been busy enjoying the season with my children.  We had a wonderful Christmas, and hope that you did, too!  This is the first year that my daughter has had her own money to spend, and she really enjoyed spoiling us all—especially me.

       I really can’t believe that Christmas is over, and that it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions/our plans for a new year of homeschooling.  Do you re-examine your school plan this time of year, while you are thinking about your other resolutions?  Your family life?  Your spiritual life?  We do.  Below are some of the questions I have been considering. 

     Let me make it clear:  I am not posting this list so that I can beat you over the head with it.  Rather, I am beating myself over the head with quite a few of the questions.  I do hope some of them will make you think….they sure make me think!!  I believe that every Mom can think of several areas that need attention/improvement. 

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (NIV)

     Here are the questions I’ve been asking myself:

-Am I walking in the Spirit, or in the flesh?  This question is top of my list, because I think it is the most important (along with examining our relationships—see below.)  I think this question is at the heart of everything that happens in our home. 

     Our Pastor has started a series entitled, “Living in the Covenant in the New Year” and it has already been a blessing to me.  I appreciated it so much because Pastor explained our new life in Christ versus “the old man” in a way that even my boys could understand.  (I’ve been trying to explain it to them for years!)

      I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the message linked above.  Also, consider reading the book, “Practicing the Presence of God”, by Brother Lawrence.  You can read it online for FREE.  It is life-changing…living a perpetual prayer life. 

     Here are the rest of my questions I’m asking myself:

-Am I spending enough time in the Word? 

-Am I spending enough time in prayer?  Specifically, am I praying for my children enough?  Am I consistently praying for their future spouses, as well?

-Am I speaking (AND thinking) blessings over my children, or curses?  When my children come to tell me something, do I act as if they are merely an interruption, or do I listen with care and respect (in other words, do my actions communicate to my children that they are a blessing?)

-Also, what do my children think of themselves?  What do they say about themselves?  I want to be aware of this since our perceptions become our reality…we can “curse” ourselves (as well as our children) with negative self-fulfilling prophecies (“You’re so stubborn”…”Why are you having such a tough time with this?”, <child> “I can’t read!” VERSUS “You are very determined, and you have lots of stick-to-itiveness,” “You’re so clever…I know you can do this!” or  <child> “I can read!  I know I can do it!”)

-Do I control my tongue?  Am I teaching my children to control theirs?

-Am I teaching my children the importance of controlling their thoughts?

-How is my mothering?  Am I doing the things I know I need to do for/with my children mentally/physically/spiritually?  What about discipline-wise? 

-Has my attitude been what it should be?  Do I set a good example to my children?  How are my children’s attitudes doing?  Towards discipline?  Towards school?  How can I help them improve and grow?

-How is my tone of voice?  Am I gentle with my children?  Compassionate?

-Is there enough follow-thru to provide accountability when it comes to obedience, attitude, chores, school, etc?  (This is one I really need to work on—as well as total consistency.)

-How is the culture of our home?  Have I become lax in regards to what I let my children watch on TV—or how long I let them watch? (Yes.)   Have I become lax with our computer rules? 

-What is the character of our home?  Is there peace in our home? 

-What is working/not working for us school-wise?  This is a good time of year to revisit your curriculum and make changes as necessary.

-Is my home conducive to learning?  Are art supplies easily at hand?  Are there lots of different types of books available for my children to choose from freely?  Is my “school area” organized and ready to go?  (In other words, is our home an enriching environment?)

-Am I providing enough creative play/outside play time for my children?

-Am I planning time for the “fun stuff”–and getting it done?  (Not nearly enough!)

     And, of course, most importantly, I ask myself about the 4R’s:

 -Relationships:  How are our family’s relationships with God going?  What is our spiritual temperature?  Are we sick, or healthy?   Are we, as a family and as individuals, growing in the Lord?  What do we need to change?  Are we putting off the “old man”, and becoming new creatures? 

     Am I taking the time I need to grow relationships within our family?  Am I teaching/helping my children grow their relationships with others in the family?  Am I making time to play with my children? Do we laugh together, play games together, etc (do we take time for relationship builders?) 

     Do I provide each child with enough cuddle time?  What about hugs/affectionate touch throughout the day (ruffling the hair, rubbing the shoulders, etc) to communicate my love to them?  

    Here is a Spiritual Growth Assessment from Lifeway that might be helpful to you.   

-Routines:  How are our routines working?  Do we need to make any changes, or simply work on being more consistent?  How well am I managing my time?  Am I teaching my children to manage theirs?

 -Readiness:  What are we doing too much of/not enough of?  Are there subjects/areas where we are falling short—areas where the curriculum needs to be beefed up?  (Am I providing the learning activities/opportunities that my children are ready for?)

     Alternately, am I trying to do too much?  Am I pushing my children too hard?  Am I frustrating myself and my children with inappropriate expectations?  Remember that with young children, it is important to wait for signs of ability, interest, and spontaneous learning before trying to instruct our children in academic subjects.  If you have a preschooler, remind yourself that you don’t have to work your child to death getting him “ready for Kindergarten.”  Instead, you can make your homeschool ready for your Kindergartener. 

      If you have a Kindergartener, give him a relaxed, traditional Kindergarten experience and ease into seatwork/the 3R’s only as they are ready (and never forget how much they learn through real life, hands-on experiences, conversation, and through being read to!)

-Reading aloud:  Am I spending enough time reading aloud to my children—no matter their age?  We need to continue building up our read aloud time.  One goal I have set for myself is getting my boys ready for bed earlier, so that we have more time to read before bedtime.  We are in the middle of two series:  My husband and I are taking turns reading Hank the Cowdog to the boys, and my daughter has just started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to them (this is in addition to the reading we do for homeschool.)

     All these questions boil down to three main questions:  1) Am I walking in the Spirit (and receiving His power to help me do what I know I should do),  2) Am I a balanced Mom?,  and  3) Am I making the main thing the main thing–in my personal life and my home life?

     I will prayerfully consider each of these questions over the next couple of days, and write out some goals in response to them.  What about you?  What questions have you been asking yourself?  Are you making any New Year resolutions this year?

~Blessings,

           Susan

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

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Routines, Part Two: Developing Your Own Daily Routines (for homepreschool/homeschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 25, 2010


        If you have decided that you need to establish routines for your family—or even tweak the routines you already have in place—the first thing that you should remember is that this will take a little planning and a LOT of time and commitment (remember, the only way a routine becomes a routine is if it is consistently practiced on a day-to-day basis–so that it becomes a habit.)   

Planning Your Routines

        The first thing that you need to do is decide what the “skeleton” of your routine should be.  These are the non-negotiable things that must happen everyday…the things that you can’t skip or re-arrange.  These are the things that should get done even if you run into unusual circumstances such as illnesses, interruptions, doctor’s appointments, and so on.   My “skeleton” includes Bible/devotions (Monday through Friday), meals and snacks, nap time and bedtime.  In between the “bones” of my routine, I’m free to plan our day however I want to.  If you’d like to see some sample routines for preschool and kindergarten-aged children, be sure to check out my tab, “4R’s: Routine.”

        In addition to the basic examples of routines on my tab, there are some other items that we should remember to include in our routines…errands.  Many families choose a specific time one day per week to run errands, cook and freeze meals, clean house, etc.  We  opt to “do school” formally only 4 days a week, saving Fridays for messy art projects, field trips, park days (this is the fun stuff—what I call “Friday school”), and/OR cleaning house, running errands, and so on.  On Fridays, only the skeleton of our routine remains.  Similarly, on weekends, only the “skeleton” of the routine remains, leaving us free to be spontaneous, relax, or continue our housework.

What to Do if You Have Older and Younger Children

         So far, the things I’ve talked about are pretty basic.  But how do you plan your day if you have preschoolers AND older children?  How do you ensure that all your children get what they need?  That’s a lot harder.  I know from experience…I’ve done both Kindergarten and high school with babies/preschoolers in tow.  I know it’s tough!  None of us want our preschoolers to get “mommy leftovers”; nor do we want our older children to be left unsupervised, or trusted to do too much of their school work independently.

        So, what’s a mother to do? Here are the three best planning options that I have come across (the meat on the bones!):

1. Alternate your entire day between older and younger children, starting with the youngest. Spend time with your preschoolers, then alternate and spend time with your older children…continue this pattern throughout the day.  Be sure to give your preschoolers their own “preschool” time (circle time, art, developmentally appropriate activities/play), so that they will see that they are just as important to you as your older children are.  After all, we plan activities for our older children, don’t we?  I believe our preschoolers deserve the same.  An hour or two of special attention is all it takes. 

 2. Concentrate on your preschoolers in the morning, and then your older children in the afternoon.  Assign your older children independent work in the morning for an hour or two while you enjoy your “homepreschool” time with your young ones.  Depending on the ages of your older children, independent work could include things such as personal daily devotions/Bible reading, handwriting or copy work, spelling, independent reading, music practice, etc. Once your homepreschool time is done, get your preschoolers involved in play and then work with your older children.  Be sure to read my article, “Keeping Little Ones Busy”  for ideas to help your preschoolers stay busy and happy while your school your older children.    In the morning, your older children will enjoy taking breaks to “help you” do music with your preschoolers; if you provide open-ended art for your preschoolers, older children will enjoy joining you for those activities, too.  Don’t forget to give your older children frequent play breaks, as well.

        After lunch, read aloud to your preschoolers and then put them down for nap or quiet time in their rooms. 

        Once the preschoolers are settled, concentrate on your older children.  Start by checking the work they have done in the morning.  Then, while your preschoolers are still napping, work on your hardest school subjects/the subjects that need the most uninterrupted attention (phonics, math, editing writing, etc.)  I usually sit between my boys while they do these subjects. Try to look at, discuss, and correct the rest of your children’s work right as they finish it. 

        Once your preschoolers wake up from nap, take a break and cuddle them awhile, give everyone a snack, and then get your preschoolers involved in some play before continuing your school time with your older children (if necessary.)  This might be a good time to do the subjects that need lots of discussion—science OR history (alternate them–don’t try to do both in one day!)  Once your school time is done, follow the rest of your daily routine like normal.

3.  Teach all your children together as much as you can, using the unit study/“bus stop” method (there is still some alternating involved.)  If your children are fairly close in age (preschool-first grade, for example) it’s easy to do almost everything together—especially if you use a unit study method.  The rule is: Do what your can with all your children, and then let your youngest “off the bus” for free play whilst you continue to work with your older children.  Take frequent play breaks, and be careful to keep things developmentally appropriate for your youngest children. 

        The thought behind this: a) Preschoolers pick up a lot by listening in on older children’s lessons (passive learning), and b) it saves time, making a shorter day compared to the first two options. 

         If you choose to use this method, you’ll want to treat everything you do like a unit study: Everyone “studies” the same things, but each “studies” at their own level.  Here is what a typical day might look like: 

        Do your family worship and Bible time with all your children first thing in the morning; yes, including your preschoolers.  Preschoolers love to participate in worship and Bible memory work.  If your older children’s Bible story/devotional doesn’t hold your preschooler’s attention as well as you’d like, read your preschoolers a short, age-appropriate version of your Bible story first, and then let them “off the bus” to color printable Bible story pages that correlate with the Bible story while you continue Bible with your older children (OR let your preschoolers play quietly with Bible felt sets/your “box of the day.”)  After a short break, do your “circle time” with all your children:  Calendar, perhaps the flag salute, music/singing, and then your story time. This is your unit study—the time you spend reading about the topic/theme of your choice.  Spend a little time talking about what you read and reviewing any new vocabulary.  If you have any activity to accompany your unit (remember, activities are not required), do it next.

        After another play break, let your preschoolers “off the bus” for the day.  Get them involved in some play (or perhaps your box of the day—be sure to read “Keeping Little Ones Busy”) while your older children do their math lessons (keep your preschoolers close by, and/or let them play with math manipulatives.)  After math is completed (be sure to check it on the spot!), have everyone take an outside play break for 20-30 minutes.  When you come inside, have your morning snack before getting your preschoolers involved in another activity—play dough, a sensory tub, or a simple art project that isn’t too messy (stickers and felt tipped pens, stencils and colored pencils, water colors, etc).  While they are happily engaged, start your phonics/language arts lessons.  After your phonics/language arts lessons are complete, take another play break together…perhaps a longer one, if time permits.  Try to get some outside play time if weather permits. 

        If you start your day at a reasonable hour and keep your lessons developmentally appropriate (in other words, on the short side), you should be able to wrap up your school time before noon.  During the afternoons while your preschoolers nap, your older children can finish their lessons (if they haven’t already.) 

        Once everyone is awake again, use the rest of your day for more creative/outside play, art, learning games for your older preschoolers, and so on.

    Let me know how it goes–I love comments!

            ~Susan

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

Posted in Elementary School, Family Life, Homepreschool, Methods, preschool at home, Routines, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Book Lists Just for Boy/Girl Interest (part two: girls)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 8, 2010


Picture Books

Cordoroy, and A Pocket for Cordoroy, by Dan Freeman (a little girl and her teddy bear.)

Frances series, by Hoban (Bedtime for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, and more)

Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton

Madeline series, by Ludwig Bemelmans

A New Coat for Anna, by Harriet Ziefert

A Pair of Red Clogs, by Masako Matsuno

Loud Emily, by Alexis O’Neill

Mailing May, Michael O. Tunnell and Ted Rand 

Miss Rumpious, by Barbara Cooney

Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Mirette on the High Wire, by Emily McCully

Fritz and the Beautiful Horses, by Jan Brett

The Finest Horse in Town, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

A Chair for my Mother, by Vera Williams

Uncommon Traveler:  Mary Kingsley in Africa by Don Brown

Stellaluna, Jannel Cannon

Longer Picture Books–

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, by Peter and Connie Roop

One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey

Henner’s Lydia and others by Marguerite D’Angeli

First Readers–

Amelia Bedelia (part of a series of Amelia books), by Peggy Parrish

Little Bear books, by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak

The Josifina Story Quilt, by Eleanor Coerr

First Chapter Books/First Longer Read Alouds–

Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin and S. D. Schindler (my boys especially loved this one, too!)

The White Stallion, by Elizabeth Shub

Sarah Witcher’s Story, by Elizabeth Yates

Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh

Album of Horses, Born to Trot, Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, Misty’s Foal, and many others by Marguerite Henry

Pippi Longstocking (one of many about Pippi), by Astrid Lindgren

Phoebe the Spy, by Judith Griffin

The Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary (first few in the series)

Great Family Read Alouds/Books for Older Girls to Read Independently–

 Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Album of Horses, Born to Trot, Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, Misty’s Foal, and many others by Marguerite Henry

In Grandma’s Attic  by Arleta Richardson 

Toliver’s Secret, by Esther Wood Brady (part of Sonlight year 3; a young girls must become a “spy” during the revolutionary war—dress as a boy, and carry a message to General Washington.)

Ginger Pye and Pinkie Pye, by Eleanor Estes

Janette Oke’s Animal Friends, (series) by Janette Oke

Violet Comes to Stay and others by Jan Karron

Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson OR the Story of Helen Keller by Lorena Hickcock

Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer by Jane More How

Naya Nuki:  The Shoshoni  Girl Who Ran by Kenneth Thomasma

The Moffets  by Eleanor Estes

All of a Kind Family  (part of a series) by Sydney Taylor 

 Tweens and teens—shouldn’t miss:

Anne of Avonlea books by Montgomery (and movies, after you’ve read the books!) 

Little Women  and others by Louisa May Alcott

Anything by Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility

Jane Eyre   by Charlotte Bronte

Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes

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

Posted in Book Lists, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Picture Books, Picture Books for Little Girls | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Cooking with Preschoolers and Elementary Schoolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 21, 2010


       Have you tried any cooking experiences with your preschoolers/young children?  Preschoolers love helping in the kitchen, and they learn so much by doing so.  Cooking allows children to feel important, successful, and builds their self-confidence—along with your relationship!  Here is a (partial) list of some of the things preschoolers can learn in the kitchen:

-where things come from/how things are made

-health rules (washing hands, washing dishes, cleaning counters, etc)

-trying new foods (and remember, kids are more apt to try what they’ve made!)

-how to follow instructions

-how to work alongside others (teamwork!)

-math skills (measurement, fractions, addition and subtraction, shapes, etc)

-eye-hand coordination (stirring, rolling, sprinkling, etc)

-safety rules (knives, oven, stove, etc.)

-chemistry (cooking is chemistry!  Mixes, solutions, etc)

And of course:

-the important life skill of cooking itself!

     Make sure to use your cooking experiences as relationship builders.  Have real conversations with your children.  Be willing to take the time to answer their questions.  Cooking time is also an especially good time to talk with your children about the importance of good nutrition, the importance of being willing to try new foods, and where things come from/how things are made.

-Vocabulary to learn:  Recipe, stir, blend, cook, boil, steam (a way to cook) and steam (that comes from hot foods), toast, bake, temperature, knife, fork, spoon, spatula, whisk, tongs, freeze, knead, mash, etc, etc 

-Skills to learn:  How to use utensils (wisk, spatula, spoon, tongs, etc); how to clean the kitchen (preschoolers can learn to wipe the counters, scrub the sink, unload the silverware from the dishwasher, set the table, etc); how to stir foods; how to cut soft items (with a table knife); how to measure wet and dry ingredients, how to use a blender/mixer, and much more. 

-Recipes/ideas to try with your preschoolers:

Cinnamon rolls

Ingredients:  1 package Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits (the blue ones that come in tubes in the refrigerator section.)

¾ stick butter

(About) one cup sugar

(About) ¼ cup cinnamon

Pillsbury canned vanilla frosting

 Directions:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Melt butter and let cool.  Spray a 9×9 rectangular pan or a round pan with non-stick spray.  Open the rolls and line up your ingredients (from right to left) in this order:  Biscuits, butter, cinnamon mix, pan.  Once the butter has cooled (just warm, not hot), help your child dip both sides of each biscuit in the butter, then into the cinnamon/sugar mix.  Spoon the mix over the biscuits so that they are totally covered on all sides.  Place the biscuits in the pan (biscuits should touch the edges of the pan, and touch each other.)  Bake until slightly firm but not crispy (7-10 minutes, according to how “done” you like your rolls—we like ours on the gooey side.)  Immediately after removing them from the oven, smoother them in frosting (a job for Mom—they will be hot), then eat. (Double the recipe for larger familes.) 

 

Make butter:  Buy whipping cream in the dairy section of your grocery store.   Pour the cream into a tight Tupperware or inside a glass jar (leave several inches at the top empty.)  Add a dash of salt.  Shake the jar until the butter thickens.  Eat the butter on bread or crackers.  Be sure to try the buttermilk, too! 

Homemade pizza: (Make on your pizza on Pillsbury Biscuits again, or on top of English muffins.  Each has its own advantages…the biscuits are fun to flatten out, and the muffins are delicious toasted and slightly crispy.)  Just pile on spaghetti sauce, cheese, and the toppings of your choice.  

Fun with Bridgeford Bread:  Buy Bridgeford’s frozen bread; let defrost and rise. Let your children shape the bread into snakes, circles, and so on; bake as usual.  For specific ideas/recipes, see Brideford’s website, HERE.   

     Other things children like to make: Applesauce, sugar cookies (aww, come on…all kinds of cookies–but decorating rolled sugar cookies is especially fun), pudding, pigs in a blanket (kids do the “wrapping”), PB&J’s…see all the fabulous recipes below!

Recipes Designed Just for Cooking with Children:

A good list of what children can do in the kitchen, by age, plus recipes   

Cooking through the year—great ideas by holiday or season

Family Fun’s recipes for kids

Quirky Momma’s Recipes for Preschoolers 

Totally Tot’s Little Books for Little Cooks (read a book and then make a recipe to go with it!  Note:  Just as in art, remember that the process is more important than the looks of the end product, so by all means, let your children be creative!)  

      Have fun in the kitchen, and live the 4R’s!

                          ~Susan

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

Posted in Cooking Experiences, Elementary School, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Skills List for Preschoolers | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Disturbing Article From the NY Times–“Picture Books No Longer a Staple For Children”?!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 8, 2010


     Apparently, picture books are on the decline.  According to this article from the NY Times, picture books are no longer the “staples” of early childhood that they used to be. 

     Say it isn’t so! 

     The article cites several reasons.  One is the cost of picture books (I agree with this–new hardbacks are ridiculously expensive), the economy, and…guess what?  Another form of “curriculum push-down.”  Yep.  Here we go again.  Apparently, many parents feel so pressured to help their children  become early readers that they are pushing them OUT of picture books prematurely–many times as early as age 4. 

     Pushing them OUT of picture books, and choosing to read only chapter books to them, instead.  

     This is NOT the way to grow fluent, confident readers.

     Don’t get me wrong–I’m not bashing chapter books.  You know that I LOVE chapter books.  But preschoolers need picture books.  kindergarteners need picture books.  First graders need picture books, too.   Emergent readers REALLY need picture books.  The shorter sentences, the beautiful pictures and the familiar stories help young readers practice their reading in an enjoyable way.  Picture books build their confidence.  One of the best things you can provide for an emerging reader is lots of practice with their favorite picture books.  For goodness sake, my boys are 9 and 7, and while we read lots of chapter books, they still love picture books!  The best picture books are enjoyable for people of all ages.

    We tend to think of picture books as being immature or simplistic.  While this is true for some picture books (the twaddly ones), many picture books are actually amazingly complex.  The pictures are works of art.  The text often uses amazingly complex vocabularies.  The key is finding the right picture books.  (Be sure to see my posts on Choosing and Finding Classic Picture Books, and my abbreviated List of Classic Picture Books.  If you want the whole long 25+ page list, you’ll need to purchase my book!) 

     By all means, when your children are ready, read them longer picture books. Next, work your way up to real chapter books (usually around age 5-6.)   But don’t be too quick to give up on picture books!      

     Remember that pushing our children to “grow up” to soon–either emotionally or academically–usually backfires on us.  Our goals should be to help our children learn and mature without pushing them, but without holding them back, either. 

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

Posted in Book Lists, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Teaching Reading | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Preschool/Kindergarten Unit: Community Helpers Theme

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 14, 2010


 A unit or theme about “Community Helpers” is a wonderful way to broaden your children’s horizons and help them learn about the world beyond home–their community.  It is easy to find books for this unit, and there are a number of creative activities to go with it—everything from dramatic play to field trips.

We usually spend 1-3 days per “helper” in this unit.  Remember to keep it simple; you don’t have to do every activity.  Reading aloud and talking about what you’ve read is the most important element.

Special notes about this unit:  Be sure to balance the safety lessons with your child’s age and maturity.  We don’t want to frighten our children.

 Concepts to learn:

 -Community helpers are special people who help and protect us:  Policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, carpenters, postal carrier, grocer, baker, librarians, etc etc.

 -Community helpers often risk their lives to save the lives of others.

-Learn what the following helpers do: Policemen, firemen, doctor, nurse, carpenter, plumber, electrician, pilot, postal carrier, grocer, baker, librarian, etc (as appropriate for your child’s age and maturity.)

-Help your child learn the name of your city/state/country  

-Teach your child your address and telephone number (this will probably take longer than the unit—be patient.  This is simple memorization, and it’s important for safety’s sake.  See my book for more details on how to do it.)  

-How/when to call 911 and when not to  

-Safety rules (especially relating to pools, poisons, medicines, matches/stoves/fire, etc)

-Develop a home evacuation plan and practice it

-Practice what to do in case of fire/fire alarm (check doors to see if they are hot before opening; stay low to the ground; stop, drop, and roll) 

Vocabulary to learn:

Emergency; stop, drop, and roll; K-9; siren; poison; smoke detector, and the names of helpers and what they do:  Policemen, sheriff, firemen, doctor, dentist, nurse, carpenter, plumber, mason, postal carrier, grocer, baker, librarian, barber, pilot, employee, etc.

Generally suggested books to read/music, finger-plays, and activities:

If you can only purchase one book for this unit, I would recommend Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day; it pretty much covers all the bases.

Another fun general resource is the Sesame Street song and book, “Who are the people in your neighborhood”.  The video’s fun, too—and once you know the tune, you can “sing” the book (I always emphasize that “Mommy is your teacher!”)

 Police:

Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Policeman Small  (Lois Lensky)

Emergency! (Gail Gibbons)

 Music and finger plays:

-Sing this “safety song,” from the TV show Barney, I believe: (Note:  If you know the original source, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due!)

Sing to the tune, “When the Saints Go Marching In:”

Oh, when I walk, across the street, oh, when I walk ac-ross the street, I always stop, look, and listen, when I walk ac-ross the street.  Oh, when I walk, a-cross the street, oh when I walk a-cross the street, I always wait for the green light, when I walk a-cross the street.

-Here’s another “source unknown” finger play (if you know the original source, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due:)

Red says STOP (hold up hand in “stop” gesture)

And green says GO (make motions as if you were a traffic cop motioning people to go)

Yellow says WAIT you’d better go slow! (with index finger extended, wave hand across body from right to left and then back)

When I reach a crossing place (cross arms at wrists)

To the left and the right I turn my face (turn face)

I walk, not run, across the streets (“walk” with fingers)

And use my head to guide my feet (point to head and feet.)

 Activities:

-Block city:  Make a city for cars out of blocks.  Use chalk or masking tape to mark intersections.  Pretend you are a policeman, making sure people obey traffic laws.

-Make a bigger version of the above on your driveway outside and drive tricycles around it….Mom or Dad can be the “police” and dole out tickets for reckless drivers.  Mom or Dad could also direct traffic or pretend to be a stop light (“Red light, everybody STOP!” etc.   If you are ambitious, it’s  fun to add cardboard box “houses”/”businesses”, etc; the children can paint the boxes and lay out their “town”.  Some families rig up pretend stop signs/stop lights out of cardboard as well.

-Learn about stop signs and stop lights, crosswalks and crossing streets

-Play the game, Red Light, Green Light

-Watch for opportunities for your children to “meet” a policeman, especially a K-9 officer/unit.  Some of these units put on demonstrations at community events, often allowing children to see the officers and dogs at work, sit in police cars, etc.

 Art: 

-Draw our three large circles for your children onto separate pieces of white paper (don’t cut them out yet.)  Let your children paint the circles:  One should be green, one should be yellow, and one should be blue; let dry.  The next day, have your child cut out his circles (to the best of his ability) and then glue them onto a black rectangle to make a stoplight (from top to bottom, the colors should be green, yellow, then red.)

-Paint with blue and then add a sprinkling of gold glitter (the colors of police uniforms.)

Firefighters:

Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Fire! Fire! (Gail Gibbons)

Curious George at the Fire Station (Margret Rey and Alan J. Shalleck)

The Fire Engine Book (a Little Golden Book, by Gergely)

Richard Scarry’s Busiest Fire Fighters Ever (A Little Golden Book, by Scarry)

I’m Going to Be a Firefighter, by Edith Kunhardt

Pickles the Firehouse Cat (Esther Holden Averill)

 Songs and Finger plays

-Sing the song, “Hurry, Hurry, Drive That Fire Truck” from the Barney show

 Activities

-Pretend you are a firefighter:  Gather props such as an old garden hose, coat, snow boots, or any props you have on hand such as a plastic firefighter’s hat, badge, tricycle, etc (drive tricycles to fires with sirens blaring, then pretend to put out fires.)

-Learn about fire safety (see concepts to learn, above)

-Learn rules about lighters and matches/playing with fire

-Arrange a field trip to the fire station

Art:

-Paint with “warm colors” (yellow, orange, red)

-Make a crayon-melt picture (fire makes heat; heat makes things melt.  Note:  We laid paper directly in the pan and colored right onto the paper instead of making prints; we also laid towels around the edges of the pan to prevent burns.  When you lift the pictures out of the pan, watch out for drips!  See directions HERE.) 

 Mail Carriers

Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Seven Little Postman (a Little Golden Book, by Margret Wise Brown)

The Post Office Book: Mail and How it Moves (Gail Gibbons)

The Jolly Postman (Aglberg; the postman delivers mail to fairy-tale characters; does contain a “witch” but otherwise a delightful book.  We also love the Jolly Christmas Postman.)

 Activities:

-Buy a wooden/cardboard mail box from an art supply store (Michael’s stores carries them.)  Paint, decorate, and then use your mail box to “mail” letters.  Be sure to teach your child what the flag on the mailbox means.

-Have your child draw pictures and dictate letters for you to mail to your relatives.  Show your child where the stamp goes, and the address.  Ask your family to write back, so your child can have the thrill of receiving her own mail. 

-Gather props to play “mail carrier”:  Large canvass/grocery bag, envelopes, paper, stickers, etc.  “Write” letters, “mail” and “deliver” them. (Don’t let preschoolers play with plastic bags.)

 About Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, etc

Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Going to the Doctor, Going to the Dentist, Going to the Hospital (Mr. Rogers)

Jenny’s in the Hospital (a “Look Look” book by Seymore Reit)

Suggested songs and finger plays:

-Sing “Miss Suzy” (sung to the same tune as, “There Was a Little Turtle, his name was Tiny Tim…” OR chant the words adding a hand-clap pattern such as clap your own hands, clap your partner’s hands, or pat your lap then clap.)

-Do the finger play, “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”  

-Buy a “doctor kit” type toy, and combine it with props from home to play doctor/nurse, etc:  Toilet paper (bandages), “band-aids”, etc (see HERE for more ideas.)  

-If you can, see if you can purchase a real, working stethoscope and let your child listen to her heart.  Alternately, see if your doctor will let you take a “field trip” to his office and use his stethoscope and to talk about what doctors do.

-Talk about health rules that doctors/nurses teach us and why they are important (get plenty of sleep, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, wash your hands, keep clean, brush your teeth, etc.)

About Carpenters, Masons, Electricians, Plumbers, etc:

What Do People Do All Day (Richard Scarry)

The Tool Book, How a House is Built, Up Goes the Sky Scraper, (Gail Gibbons)

Songs and finger plays about carpenters, masons, etc:

Johnny Works with One Hammer (one hammer-“hammer” with one hand; for two hammers, “hammer” with two; three and four hammers, add feet, one at a time; for 5 hammers, add bobbing your head.)

Activities: 

-Hammer nails (supervise carefully!)

-Use pipe cleaners as “wires” and make a sculpture (use styrofoam as a base.)

-Use frosting as cement and sugar cubes as bricks to build a house, just like a mason (don’t let them eat too much!) OR make a gingerbread house

-Talk about parts of a house (walls, ceiling, floor, window, door, etc)

-Drive by construction sites and observe the activity.  Don’t enter the site without permission due to safety issues. 

     There are almost unlimited possibilities with this unit…play “restaurant”, baker (make some homemade bread!), pilot, store (complete with play money and empty cereal boxes to buy) and so much more!  Look for other ideas on these websites below (note:  I cannot vouch for all the content/appropriateness of all the suggestions on these sites, so use your own discretion):

http://www.childcarelounge.com/activity/dramatic-play.phphttp://

www.preschoolrainbow.org/helper-rhymes.htm 

http://www.everythingpreschool.com/themes/helpers/songs.htmhttp://www.preschoolexpress.com/theme_station.shtml

     Have fun, and live the 4R’s! 

           ~Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Book Lists, Crafts, Elementary School, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Music, Picture Books, preschool curriculum, Reading Aloud, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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