Homepreschool and Beyond

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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…”

    • 26 Chapters
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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

What Preschoolers Learn Through Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Play? The Importance of Play

Learning Through Play by David Elkind

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

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

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


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

Button Trees

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 23, 2011

This is a great “mommy craft” or craft for older kids. I saw the idea on Better Homes and Garden’s site.  Warning: Making these trees is addictive, but this isn’t a cheap craft. I think we spent close to $12 a tree.

You will need:

Styrofoam “trees”

Lots of buttons (a couple of hundred)

Pearlized, long pins (in the BHG picture they used only white; we used colored; again, a couple of hundred.)


A small star, or cotton fabric scraps to make a small bow

Here’s what we did: Starting at the bottom and with the largest buttons, we attached the buttons with the pins going around the tree. At the bottom you have to be careful to pin them straight in so that you don’t have sharp pins sticking out; when you get to the top, you have to point the pins down for the same reason.

After the first row is complete, start the next row, overlapping the buttons. When all the rows are done, use tiny buttons to cover up any blank spots. Finally, we pinned fabric bows on the top.

I was surprised how much the boys enjoyed this. Josh liked it so much that he made two!

Didn’t they turn out great?! They make nice presents, too. Josh was very proud to give one of his trees to his piano teacher.

NOTE: BHG mentions the option of dipping each pin in glue before poking them in. That might be a good idea if your tree is going to be handled a lot. If you use glue, I’d recommend Styrofoam glue.

Obviously this is a craft for older children who are responsible and careful with small, sharp objects. Additionally, I’d recommend keeping the finished trees out of the reach of young children, glue or no glue.


© 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, Holidays | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Importance of Keeping Traditions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 17, 2011

This post contains a partial outline/overview of the introductory section of the chapter on “Holidays and Traditions” in Homepreschool and Beyond. 

Remember, we have only ONE WEEK to make sure that all of our traditions/fun baking and craft ideas get done this year. Can you believe it?!

Christians need to reclaim the territory of our spiritual heritage. The onus lies on us, as Christian parents, to entrust our children with the true significance of these special occasions. Our celebrations must be distinctive, for the sake of our children and of a Christ-less world.

        -Ann Hibbard, Family Celebrations: Meeting Christ in Your Holidays and Special Occasions

We are a very “tradition-based” family come Christmas time. We tend to do the same activities in pretty much the same way every year. I think we all know that traditions are important (especially for little children), but have you ever taken the time to think about why?

-Traditions are about “the main thing”: building relationships. “Traditions help us strengthen our relationship to God, our families, and our children. They help us remember what is truly important.”

-Traditions provide security: In today’s world, children need to know that life at home continues pretty much the same as always. As much as possible, our homes should be havens from the troubled world around us. This is important to children of all ages.

-Traditions are part of our family identity and culture; they reveal who we are, where we belong, what is important to us, and what is unique about us.

-Traditions provide continuity between the generations, and they are a source of family memories and stories.

-A year is a long time for preschoolers, who depend on holidays to make sense of the passage of time. The book, Over and Over by Charlotte Zontolow  is a great book to help preschoolers understand the order of the seasons and the holidays (we skip over the two pages about Halloween.)

Product Details

-Traditions allow us to make Bible stories and the history of our country come alive

– Traditions are FUN!!

Here is a list of some of the traditions we are going to keep this year:

-Christmas ornaments/decorating the tree:
Every year each child gets a new Christmas ornament. I write the child’s name and the date on the bottom of it with a Sharpie pen. We try to choose ornaments that reflect something memorable that happened that year. For instance, the year they learn to ride a bike, their ornament might have a Santa riding a bike; the year they got a new pet, an ornament with a cat or dog on it, etc. In addition, each child has his/her own ornament box. When the time comes to decorate the tree, each child takes great joy in looking over his/her own special ornaments, and remembering the past years (and past Christmases). Other tree-trimming traditions: Listening to Amy Grant’s Christmas Album; taking pictures of each family member putting their first ornament on the tree; eating pizza; and later in the evening, putting in a Christmas movie (usually It’s a Wonderful Life.)

-Baking and decorating sugar cookies (a messy proposition, usually involving tons of icing and sprinkles.)

-Making daddy popcorn balls and beef jerky (another messy proposition.)

-Reading TONS of Christmas books

-We have a special Christmas book we read each night in December, called The Advent Calendar Pop-Up Book, by Meryl Doney.  Each flap reveals a little more of the Christmas story. (There is one sentence I edit for accuracy).   Although it is out of print, it’s still easy to find on Amazon or E-Bay.

Advent Calendar/Pop-Up

-Attending our church’s Christmas Eve service.

-Making a cake on Christmas Eve, and singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on Christmas day.

-This year, we’re making tons of Christmas art: The boys have already been busy painting resin ornaments and Santas. In addition, I hope to get them involved in more painting, metal art, puff art, shrinky dinks, felt ornaments, paper ornaments, and more! Here are links to some of my favorite, inspirational ideas:

Kid’s Crafts from Martha Stewart 

Family Fun Magazine

Activity Village

The Artful Parent

-Traditional crafts for older kids: Orange Pomanders 

Metal garden lanterns or candle lanterns

-Inspirations for mommy-crafts:

Better Homes and Gardens: Embroidery stitches (how-to)

Better Homes and Gardens, decorating with pinecones (and pinecone crafts)

Have fun!


This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission.  © 2010, 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, Encouragement, Family Fun, Family Life, Holidays | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Links and Ideas for Thanksgiving

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 14, 2011

Here are some of my favorite ideas for Thanksgiving:

The five kernels of corn tradition

-Memorize Psalm 100:4 (or all of Psalm 100), Psalm 118:1, or 1 Thessalonians 5:18

-Make “thankfulness” the  theme of the month. Make a “thankfulness” jar or wall display (tree with leaves, clothespin wreath,  paper wreath, etc.)

-Decorate: Let the kids help you decorate the table, make place cards, etc. Options: Go on a nature walk and gather pretty leaves, acorns, seed pods, etc and combine with pumpkins, persimmons, gourds or fresh fruit and candles’; OR decorate your Thanksgiving table with your kid’s crafts: Handprint turkeys, Paperbag turkeys, Pilgrim Hats, toilet paper tube indians/pilgrims (picture here; directions here),  MORE craft ideas .

Paint place mats, name cards etc with fall colors OR print with leaves, roll a small corn cob in fabric paint then roll on napkins,OR collage popcorn kernels, dried, split green peas, etc on namecards as a border, or the names themselves.

-Purchase a plain, white, cotton tablecloth and fabric pens. Each year, have guests write what they are thankful for on the tablecloth, then date and sign their names. This tablecloth will become more special over the years (be sure pens don’t bleed through to the table; if necessary, put butcher paper or cardboard underneath.)

-Give time (service) or give financially to the homeless shelter, Love Inc., etc. Many groups/churches gather food baskets for the poor this time of year, as well.

Singing: (Hymns): Doxology, Showers of Blessings, Count Your Blessings; (Choruses): God is so Good, -Praise Him, Praise Him ( praise him, praise Him in the morning, praise Him at the noontime…),  Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, alleluia (praise ye the Lord), Turkey Dinner Song 

Finger Plays:  5 Little Pilgrims, 5 Little Turkeys,  lots more HERE.

 Favorite Thanksgiving Books:

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas

Three Young Pilgrims, by Cheryl Harness

The Thanksgiving Story, by Alice Dalgliesh

He Remembered to Say Thank-You, by Mann (an Arch Bible story book)

Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes it’s Feathers, by Lorna Balian

Favorite board books include Let’s Celebrate God’s Blessings on Thanksgiving, by Caldwell The Story of Thanksgiving, by Skarmeas, and I’m Thankful Each Day, by Hallinan (the version from Candy Cane Press).

© 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, Book Lists, Family Fun, Holidays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

More About the Charlotte Mason Approach (for preschool through high school!)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 7, 2011

If you are trying to wrap your head around the Charlotte Mason approach—if you’d like to begin using her approach in your homepreschool/homeschool, then you might appreciate the following links and ideas:

To help you get started, I would like to encourage you to feel free to start with two or three ideas that you can apply now. Although CM “purists” might protest, I suggest “gleaning” or “picking and choosing” only the portions of the CM method (or any method) that will work for
your family
. After all, curriculum and methods are simply TOOLS for us to use as we see fit. Few homeschoolers fall entirely into one camp; most are
eclectic in nature, using a little from here and a little from there to make a unique whole. I myself am a “unit study/ Charlotte Mason/Ruth Beechick/literature- approach” type of homeschool mom. I use elements of each of these approaches in our homeschool (you can find out which methods you gravitate towards by taking THIS SURVEY—scroll down to the second page.)

I take the best parts of these approaches—the parts that work for our family—and make my own custom “approach.” Personally, I can’t imagine CM’s basic ideas failing anyone. They add depth and beauty to your curriculum, to your home…to your life! Remember, if you are overwhelmed by CM’s ideas/own writing, start with just two or three key elements and try implementing them in your homeschool. I think that when you do, you’ll be hooked and ready to try more.

Here are some more details about several different CM elements that are important yet easy to add to your homepreschool/homeschool:

 *Work to train/develop proper habits in your family. So much of our life is habit! According to Laying Down the Rails, developing habits is like laying down ruts for a wagon, or tracks for a train…they make the path easier. CM herself says, “The mother devotes herself to
the formation of one habit at a time, doing no more than keep watch over those already formed. If she be appalled by the thought of overmuch labour, let her limit the number of good habits she will lay herself out to form. The child who starts life with, say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on.” 
Examples of important habits: Obedience, truthfulness, self-control, patience, temperance, orderliness, and so on.

Links having to do with habit training:

FREE e-book on habits

Habit training tips

*Give your children the opportunity to spend lots of time outside. The heart of nature study begins with spending time outside. To quote CM: …the chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can,
about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavor of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects…”

   Charlotte suggests spending as much time outside as possible, even eating outside, when weather permits. You can extend your children’s learning by allowing them to start nature collections (help them label what they can) by exploring new natural environments together, and by reading books about what you see and find. (See my posts on nature study: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4.)

Expose your children to the best in literature, art, and music: 

*Read lots of “living” books. Expand your read aloud time! My goal is to read aloud to our children at least four times a day: 1) During Bible time,

2) During circle time, 3) After lunch/before nap, and 4) Before bed.

Even if you decide that the CM method isn’t for you, keep the read aloud time! The time you spend together with your children (and discussing what you’ve read) is the heart of the homeschooling lifestyle.

*Listen to classical music, and enjoy “folk” music together (“folk” music: Traditional American children’s music such as “You Are My Sunshine”, “Row Your Boat”, “On Top of Old Smokey”, etc.) CM encourages “composer study”, but the aim of composer study, in my opinion, is not only to get to know the composers, but to get to recognize, know, and love the composer’s music. Even young children can learn to name classical pieces like the “Flight of the Bumblebee” or recognize portions of “Peter and the Wolf.” Older children can begin to learn to identify the composer, too. And while CM referred to classical music, I like to expose my children to many different types of music—choral music, show-tunes, bluegrass, and “new” classical-type music (such as John Williams), American folksongs (lots of singing here), etc.  I want my children to develop an “ear” for music and LOVE music! So the best place to start is simply listening to good music and playing with music (rhythm instruments, singing, chanting, etc)—for enjoyment. Later, as children get older, they can begin more serious composer study and formal music lessons.

*Provide your children with a multitude of different, open-ended art/craft activities and expose your children to the work of the masters. Even preschoolers enjoy looking at fine art!  Look at and talk about famous art pieces with your young children…talk about the medium used, the use of light in the picture, etc. Open-ended art/craft experiences are important for many reasons; they provide an opportunity for children to express themselves and their emotions; they build attentiveness and patience in children; they build eye-hand coordination, muscle strength and small muscle control; they teach science (color mixing, light and shadow), language (talking about art/describing pictures), math (shapes/spatial skills), and art itself (art
appreciation; art skills and art terms such as “perspective”, “shadow”, “color wash”, etc.)


   By bringing these few elements into your homepreschool/homeschool, you will be giving your children a tremendous advantage. Perhaps consistently using a few of CM’s ideas will inspire you to investigate her philosophy further, or add other CM elements to your day. If so, great! If not, you and your children will still benefit from these ideas. Along with Bible training, I consider them to be at the heart of successful homeschooling.


Helpful CM Links:

Charlotte Mason Help

Penny Gardner’s site

Be sure to download the FREE e-books about the CM approach at Simply Charlotte Mason. Also: Check out Simply Charlotte Mason’s take on making the transition to a CM approach…I like the simple way it is laid out here—but I must emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to use the CM approach; feel free to pick and choose the elements that work for you. Personally, my “basics” are the ones I listed above (they are different than Simply Charlotte Mason’s.) Also, I use more of a “literature approach” than a pure CM approach.

Catherine Levinson’s site, “Charlotte Mason Education”

© 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, Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason Approach, Crafts, Encouragement, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Methods, Music, Nature Study, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Gleaning From Charlotte Mason

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 31, 2011

This article originally appeared in Home School Enrichment Magazine, issue 37, Jan/Feb ’09. HSE has graciously given me permission to reprint it on my blog. Thanks, HSE! NOTE: I will share more Charlotte Mason approach ideas and links in upcoming posts.

Even if you’re new to homeschooling, you’ve probably heard the name Charlotte Mason. Maybe you’ve heard other terms linked to her name, such as “living literature,” “twaddle,” or “literature approach.” Who was Charlotte Mason? And can parents of young children glean anything helpful from her ideas?

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived during the Victorian era. Her writings were first introduced to Americans by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in her book, For the Children’s Sake. Soon after its release, homeschooling moms (myself included) were wading through reprints of Mason’s six-volume Original Homeschool Series. This series, though difficult to read through, contains many inspiring and applicable ideas. So many, in fact, that other homeschool moms started writing about Mason’s writings, translating them into a more modern, easily digestible style. Now there are numerous books, Web sites, seminars and curriculums dedicated to the Charlotte Mason (CM) approach.

The CM approach is perfect for young learners. Her mottos, emphasis on reading aloud, and use of short lessons all lend themselves naturally to preschoolers, kindergarteners and 1st graders. Charlotte Mason’s motto was, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” (1) The atmosphere of the home is important to every homeschooler and includes two vital areas: The emotional tone or feel of our homes, which is dependent upon the attitudes and relationships within a family, and the physical atmosphere in our homes, which is made up of the things within it—books, plants, animals, art, toys, and more.

Obviously, the emotional tone of the home is set by us—the parents. Remember the saying, “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? We all know it’s true. As parents, we need to remember that we set the mood of the day. Our goal is to exemplify the qualities listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc). Additionally, we must be conscious relationship builders within our family—good listeners and conversationalists who make together-time a priority.

The physical atmosphere of the home is also important. It should be warm, comfortable, and welcoming. We’ve filled our house with books, traditional toys, plants, and animals (I like to say I decorate with books). I want our home to be a haven against the troubles of the world. The discipline Charlotte Mason talks about has to do with the daily routines of life that keep us in order, as well as disciplines of habits. Mason states that most of what makes up our lives is habit.

“The habits of the child produce the character of man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on forever unless they should be displaced by other habits. Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ ‘Oh, he’ll grow out of it,’ ‘He’ll know better by and by,’ ‘He’s so young, what can we expect?’ and so on. Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits
in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” (2)

Mason emphasized that “a habit is ten Natures.” She believed that parents should help their children develop more than twenty habits, training them one at a time, starting in infancy. Examples of sought-after habits include self-control, courtesy, diligence, truthfulness, kindness, respectfulness, thankfulness, attentiveness, and so on.

 “Each of us has in his possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as habits. The heedless, listless person is a servant of habit; the useful, alert person is the master of a valuable habit.”  (3)

Obviously, habits are easier to learn than they are to break, and the earlier good habits are mastered, the better. A wonderful book that pulls together Mason’s ideas about habits and how to train them is Laying Down the Rails, by Sonja Shafer.

The life Mason talks about comes from the influence of parents, the atmosphere of the home, and the ideas which influence our lives. Many interpret this to mean “learning is life.” While this is true, Mason seemed to think of education’s “life” as more than that. Mason often referred to both ideas and books as “living.” Ideas grow and change with us, influencing us in ways too numerous to expound upon. They become a part of our very selves. Mason believed that ideas, which often come from books, are to our hearts and minds as food is to our bodies. They are an important part of the “life” of education. Thus books, or at least the ideas in them, are called “living.”

Charlotte Mason says that every child needs “something to do, something to think about, and something to love” everyday.  The home is the ideal place to provide these things for our children. Other commonly used Charlotte Mason terms:

•  Narration: “Telling back” a story or experience, thus promoting retention and speech skills. This is sometimes called “oral composition.”

•  Nature study: Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to take their children outside and into nature everyday—even if only into their own backyards. Neighborhood walks and tromps through the woods or parks are perfect for preschoolers. Mason encouraged children to bring along sketchbooks so they could draw what they see. Parents can extend such learning by bringing along binoculars, hand-held microscopes, cameras, and field guides. “The child who does not know the portly form and spotted breast of the thrush, the graceful flight of the swallow, the yellow bill of the blackbird, the gush of song which the skylark pours from above, is nearly as much to be pitied as those London children who had never seen a bee.’” (4)

•  Picture study: Display copies of famous paintings for your children to look at. Discuss the medium used, and try them for yourself. Notice the use of line,  color, and light in the pictures. Talk about the objects in the picture: What do you see? How does it make you feel? Charlotte Mason suggests looking at pictures from one artist at a time.

•  Living books: Living books are “whole books” (not abridged), written by one author (versus a “textbook committee”) who knows and loves his subject. Classic books are living books. These are the books we can’t put down—the kind that make children beg for “Just one more chapter, pleeeze?!” Classic picture books are the books we enjoy, too, and don’t mind reading to our children over and over.

•  Poetry: Every literature program should include poetry. Start with simple nursery rhymes, and work your way up to A Child’s Garden of Verses, Now We are Six, Eric Caryles Animals Animals, Famous Poems Old and New, and so on .

•  Recitation (Memory Work): The Bible is perfect for memory work, as is poetry. Don’t memorize through drill—practice memory work by reading verses and passages to your children over and over. Play with words, and recite small passages throughout the day.

•  Masterly inactivity: Free time for constructive pursuits such as hobbies, art, exploration, and creative play. Mason advocated that children should have their afternoons free for activities of their own making.

•  Twaddle: “Dumbed-down” books or lessons; meaningless books written to sell a product, books based on a movie, abridged books, and some textbooks.

•  Short lessons: Charlotte Mason taught that short lessons actually encourage the habit of attention.

•  Copybook: What is more natural for young children who are interested in learning to read or write than copying their name, and later, short sentences from books? Copywork is a great way to learn to write. You can extend that learning for older children by using the methods laid out in The Three R’s by Dr. Ruth Beechick.

•  Geography: Geography for the young child should be related to the world they know (home) and the world of books. When you read a picture book that takes place in another country, show your child where the country is on a globe. How far away is it from home? When Daddy takes a trip, show your children his route.

As you can see, the CM approach is a natural approach that works beautifully—especially with young children. It makes use of principles that good parents use instinctively and trains both the heart and the mind. The CM approach can be interpreted and applied in many different ways: Some parents use CM with a strict literature approach, but others use CM methodology with unit studies or even the classical approach (which I think is developmentally inappropriate for young children). For more information about applying the CM approach in your homeschool, investigate the resources listed below.

Recomended Books:

A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola

Educating the Wholehearted Child, by Clay and Sally Clarkson

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Laying Down the Rails, by Sonja Shafer

The Original Home Schooling Series, by Charlotte Mason

The Three R’s, by Ruth Beechick

Websites: (NOTE: I cannot vouch for all the content of these sites, nor their links.)


www.amblesideonline.org (good articles, classical approach; but be warned, there is lots of mythology included. You can read CM’s books on this site.)


1. Charlotte Mason’s  Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 6 

2. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 1, p. 96

3. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 4

4. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 1

© 2009 Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Posted in Art, Charlotte Mason Approach, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Music, Nature Study, Preschool Science, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 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.


© 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 »

Valentine’s Day Unit Ideas (for Preschool and Kindergarten)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 24, 2011

  Valentines Day will be here before we know it!  It’s time to get ready now.  Here are some ideas to make your Valentine’s Day tons of fun–I’ve added more art ideas and pictures for this year’s post!  Here we go:

Homemade Valentines: (Important tip:  If you are going to have your children craft your own cards this year, be sure to allow plenty of time–especially if you are going to mail them.  Don’t try to make them all the night before you need them!)  Making your own Valentines is fun and easy.  Best of all, it gives children a way to express their love for others.   Materials you will need:  Heavy cardstock (cut to 3×5) or folded paper of varous sizes (for the card base), stickers, pre-cut hearts, small lace doily hearts, etc.  Look HERE for specific/more elaborate ideas.

Other Fun:

How Sweethearts are made (virtual fieldtrip)

 Games and other fun for older kids

 Books to read: A Friend is Someone Who Likes You, by Joan Walsh Auglund

A Kiss for Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak

 Otto Shares a Hug and a Kiss (Kathleen Morey)

(We also love Otto Shares a Tear, by the same author.)

Let’s Celebrate Valentine’s Day:  A Book of Drawing Fun, by Carolyn Loh

Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch (this is so sweet…a real tear jerker for us moms!)

Valentine’s Day Is, by Gail Gibbons (history of the holiday)

That's What a Friend Is

  Valentine’s Day Is… by Gail Gibbons 

Product Details

   Product Details

The Valentine Bears, by Eve Bunting

 A post office theme is a traditional part of Valentine’s Day.  It’s fun to make a prop box for this—including envelopes, stickers (for pretend stamps), a grocery bag with handles (mail bag), and a box with slits in the front to put mail IN, and an opening in the back to take mail OUT.  Some families make their own “family mailboxes” so that they can send “love notes” to each other year round!  A good book to read for this is The Post Office Book:  Mail and How it Moves, by Gail Gibbons.

 More Art Ideas:

-Paint with red and white, and make pink.  Talk about color mixing and name each color.

-Make heart people and animals:  Cut hearts of various shapes and sizes.  Also have google eyes, pom-poms, and felt tipped pens available.  Use these to make your heart people/animals (it’s a good idea to have your children lay out their ideas before gluing.)  These creations are only limited by your imagination; here are some pictures of some we have made in the past (below).

the legs are paper that is cross-folded.

Mr. Lion only needs 5 hearts

Alternate idea: Make Valentine people out of playing cards.  Find the Queen of Hearts and other  cards in the heart suit.  Use a Sharpie Pen to draw a nose and mouth; add google eyes.  We added pipe cleaner arms and legs, too.  So cute!

-Marble painted hearts:  Cut a heart shape our of white or pink paper.  Place the heart in a shallow box (we use masking tape to secure it to the bottom of the box.)  Mix up some tempera paint (not too thin-not too thick–preferred colors are red, pink, and purple.)  Using a spoon, dip one marble at a time into the paint mixture, then gently drop it onto the heart.   Move the box from side to side to make lines on the heart.  Repeat with the other colors, as desired.  After the heart has dried, glue it onto a larger piece of paper to make a card.

       Have fun!  ~Susan

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

For more ideas, check out these links:



Posted in Art, Book Lists, Crafts, Holidays, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thanksgiving Unit Ideas for Preschool through 3rd Grade

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 25, 2010

     I know it seems a little early to be thinking about Thanksgiving, but if you are gathering your ideas, books and materials for your Thanksgiving unit, it’s really just around the corner. 

   Remember to focus on “the main thing”, which is Thankfulness and praise to God–not just food and football.  For MORE Thanksgiving book lists/ideas that will help you put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, be sure to read the chapter, “Holidays and Traditions” in my book, Homepreschool and Beyond


-Thanksgiving is a special day to thank God for all our blessings

-Thanksgiving is a time to think about all the things God has given us.

-Thanksgiving is a time to remember the first Thanksgiving long ago.

-When we celebrate Thanksgiving, we eat a special meal; usually turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, etc.

 Memory Verses:

1 Thess. 5:18, Psm 100:4, Psm. 107:1, 1 Chronicles 16:34

*Older kids can memorize:  Psalm 100, Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Colossians 4:2

 Vocabulary/Things to Learn About:

-Pilgrims, Indians, Native Americans

-Squanto, Samoset

-Harvest (what’s harvested in fall?  What’s made from the things harvested in fall…apple pie, applesauce, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie)


-The first Thanksgiving

 Books to Read:

Let’s Celebrate God’s Blessings on Thanksgiving, by Lisa Caldwell

Thanksgiving Is, by Gail Gibbons

Three Young Pilgrims, by Cheryl Harness

Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes it’s Feathers, by Lorna and Lecia Balian  

I’m Thankful Each Day, by P.K. Hallinan (the board book version; the longer version talks about telling “ghost stories”)

Let’s Celebrate God’s Blessings On Thanksgiving, by Lisa Caldwell

Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving, by Ann McGovern 4-5+

Over the River and Through the Woods, (a book to sing), illustrated by John Steven Gurney

Three Young Pilgrims, by Cheryl Harness

Cranberry Thanksgiving, by Wende and Harry Devlin (out of print, but still fairly easy to find on Amazon/EBay.)

Books for Older Children (5-7+): 

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas (this is a very special book! Older 4’s might be up to listening, but it is better for ages 5 to age 8.)

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, by Ann McGovern

Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving, by Ann McGovern (5+)

Samuel Eaton’s Day, Sarah Morton’s Day, by Kate Waters 6+

On the Mayflower:  The Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice and a Passenger Girl, by Kate Waters (reads like it’s told by someone who experienced the voyage first-hand; beautiful true-to-life pictures.) 

The Plymouth Thanksgiving, by Leonard Weisgard (ages 5—7)

The Pilgrims at Plymouth ( a Landmark picture book), by Lucille Recht Penner, for ages 6-9.

Books That I Haven’t Read, but that Look Appealing to Me:

Thanksgiving:  A Time to Remember, by Barbara Rainey

Turkey Trouble, by Silvano/Harper

Music and Finger Plays:

     Remember, these songs were passed down from mother to child or from teacher to teacher.  Unless indicated, the original author is unknown.  If you have any information about the original author, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due. 

     Be sure to check out You Tube for more children’s songs and activities that you might like.

 Songs to sing:

 Turkey Dinner (Tune:  Frere Jacque) 

Turkey dinner, turkey dinner, Gather round, gather round,

Who will get the drumstick?  Yummy, Yummy drumstick?

All sit down.  All sit down.

Cornbread muffins, chestnut stuffin’, Pudding pie, one foot high,

All of us were thinner, ‘Till we came to dinner,

Me-oh-my!  Me-oh-my!

(Author unknown)

1 little, 2 little, 3 little Indians (I know this is “politically incorrect”, but we sing it anyway.)

Variation on 1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Indians:

     Sing the first verse in the traditional way.  Then sing the following verses:

1.  They jumped in the boat and the boat tipped O-VER! (repeat 2 more times, then sing the traditional verse ending, “10 little Indian boys!”)  (Motions:  from sitting position, roll onto your back, and then up again every time your sing “o-ver!”.)

2.  They swam and they swam and they swam to the shore (repeat 2 more times, and then sing the traditional verse ending, “10 little Indian boys!”)  (Motions:  Pretend to swim.)

3.  So they ran and they ran and they ran to their mothers (repeat 2 more times, and then sing the traditional verse ending, “10 little Indian boys!”) (Motions:  Make fingers “run”.) 

4.  She hugged and she hugged and she put them to bed (repeat 2 more times, and then sing the traditional verse ending, “10 little Indian boys!”) (Motions:  Hug self.)  (Author Unknown)

Hymns/Spiritual Songs to Sing:

     Note:  I tried to choose (mostly) the simpler songs that young children can easily sing and understand.  Some of the traditional Thanksgiving hymns, such as “Now Thank We All Our God”, or “We Gather Together” are difficult either musically or in concept/vocabulary.


Praise to the Lord, The Almighty

God is so Good

Count Your Blessings (does have some vocabulary to explain, but worth it)

Showers of Blessings

Indescribable by Chris Tomlin (one of my all time favorites!  This one does have lots of vocabulary to explain…but you might find it to be a great thing to add to your devotional time.)

Our God is an Awesome God (Michael W. Smith) 

   I’m sure if you take some time and listen to your favorite praise and worship music, you will find even more…I love Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, Avalon, Point of Grace, Mercy Me, etc etc…send me your ideas via the comments!!

 Finger Plays:

5 Little Pilgrims

5 little Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day.

The first one said, “I’ll have cake if I may.”

The second one said, “I’ll have turkey roasted.”

The third one said, “I’ll have chestnuts, roasted.”

The fourth one said, I’ll have pumpkin pie.”

The fifth one said, “I’ll have jam by and by.”

But before they had any turkey and dressing,

The Pilgrims all said a Thanksgiving blessing.  (Hold up the correct number of fingers for each Pilgrim; fold hands as if to play a blessing.)

(Author unknown)

We Thank Thee

We thank Thee, oh God, for sunshine bright

(Arms up, fingers touching to make a sun)

For birds that sing at morning light.

(Touch thumbs together, fly bird)

For happy children everywhere,

(clap on bold print)

And for our mother’s loving care.

(Bow head, fold hands in a prayer posture.)

(Author Unknown)

The Brave Little Indian

The brave little Indian (hold fingers behind head for feathers)

Went hunting for a bear (Hold hands to shade eyes and “look”)

He looked in the woods and everywhere (make sweeping gesture with hand)

The brave little Indian found the bear (act surprised and scared)

He ran like a rabbit (fingers run)

Oh, what a scare!  (Hand on head, shiver.)

(Author Unknown)

5 Little Turkeys 


-Turkey handprints:   Follow THESE directions or make the handprint with paint, and then glue on construction paper feathers.

     IDEA:  Make your turkeys on the front of paper that is folded to make a card.  On the inside, write out this poem:

This isn’t just a turkey, as anyone can see.

I made it with my hand, which is part of me.

It comes with lots of love, especially to say,

I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving Day!

(Author unknown)

Indian Headbands

-Collage with things harvested in fall—popcorn, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds are especially appropriate

-Paint with corn on the cob (roll cob in paint, then roll onto paper.)

-Try making leaf prints (lightly paint the back of a leaf, then use to make a print) OR make paint prints with things harvested in fall (apples, cut several ways; green peppers; potatoes/sweet potatoes; onions, etc.  Be sure to cut them the night before and let them dry out to get a clear print.)

Link to other fun ideas: (Remember, it is best to limit the number of crafts that have a set result or end “product”; preschoolers need more creative experiences.  Be sure to choose only a couple of these types of activities.  I like the ones that allow for at least some “creativity”, such as painting, etc.)  Check out the ideas on the Crafts Kaboose .

Foods to Try/Cooking Experiences:

  Pumpkin seeds, corn on the cob, persimmons, pomegranates, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, etc.  It’s also fun to try a variety of nuts (they are harvested in fall!), and try cracking walnuts/peanuts and then eating them.  For a really fun experience, try using your blender to make homemade peanut butterHERE is a different recipe. that looks good, too.  (Note:  This is more of a “kids watch” type activity.)

-Make homemade applesauce

-Make cornbread

-Make homemade stuffing:  I have my kids help lay the bread out to dry.  Later, they break the bread and cornbread into small pieces for homemade stuffing.

    Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!


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

Posted in Art, Book Lists, Cooking Experiences, Crafts, Finger Plays, Holidays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Music, preschool at home, Thanksgiving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Fall Unit/Theme for Homepreschoolers: Books, Songs, Finger Plays and More

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2010

     I realize that this unit is probably a little late for many of you; others, like me, would save this unit unil late October/early November.  Where we live, the leaves don’t really start turning until then.  In fact, although it’s cooling off now, it was over 100 degrees last week.  Please NOTE:  As with any homepreschool unit, please that these ideas are only suggestions.  Make the unit work for you by deleting or adding as you please.  Use the books and activities you already have at home, and make use of the library!  

      Keep it light and fun, and remember that reading aloud is the most important part of any preschool unit.

Concepts to Learn:

-There are 4 seasons in a year.  The seasons are winter, spring, summer, and fall.

-Another name for “fall” is “autumn”.

-In the fall, the weather starts to turn colder.

-Fall is harvest time:  Grapes, corn, nuts, apples, pumpkins, cotton, walnuts, almonds, watermelons, etc (individualize this for where you live) are harvested during fall.

-During the fall, the leaves on trees change colors and then fall to the ground.

-During the fall, animals are busy getting ready for winter.  Some animals eat lots and lots, storing fat in their bodies to prepare for hibernation.  Other animals collect and store food for winter.  Some animals migrate (or travel) to warmer places during the fall. 

-In olden days, families where busy preparing for winter–just like the animals!  During fall farmers harvested their crops and stored up food that they could eat during the fall.  They had to do this to have enough food to eat during the long, cold, winter (read the book, Blueberries for Sal.) 

Vocabulary:  Seasons, fall, autumn, migrate, hibernate, seeds, and harvest. 

Suggested Books to Read:

Animals in Winter, by Henreitta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder (how animals prepare for winter)

Apple Pie Tree, the, by Zoe Hall

Autumn Leaves, by Ken Robbins

Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Chipmunk Song, by Joanne Ryder

Fall Leaves Fall, by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, by Lois Ehlert

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, by  Marjorie Priceman  (just for fun–goes with the apple theme.) 

Why Do Leaves Change Color?  By Betsy Maestro

How Do You Know It’s Fall, by Allan Fowler, A Rookie Read About Science Book (includes a quick, inoffensive mention of Halloween)

What Happens in Autumn, A National Geographic Young Explorer Book, by Suzanne Venino

When Autumn Comes, by Robert Maass

How Do Apples Grow?  By Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro   

Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh and Kathy Jakobsen Hallquist

Corn is Maize by Aliki (or, you can save this one to read during your Thanksgiving unit.)

Finally:  Tell the story, “The Little Red House with No Doors and No Windows”, and illustrate with an apple.  Find the story HERE.  It’s fun to plan to do apple printing afterwards–make apple prints showing the star inside (see directions below under “activities.”)  

I haven’t read these books, but they look appealing to me:

Busy Animals: Learning About Animals in Autumn, by Bullard/Takvorian

Apples, Apples, Everywhere!  Learning About Apple Harvests, by Koontz/Takvorian

Raccons and Ripe Corn, by Jim Arnosky

Every Autumn Comes the Bear, by Jim Arnosky

Finger Plays

Alphabet Soup’s Apple songs and finger plays

More apple poems

Alphabet Soup’s Fall songs and finger plays

My Favorite Finger Plays and Poems:*

 10 Red Apples

10 red apples grow on a tree (hold up fingers)

5 for you and 5 for me (hold one hand forward, then the other.) 

Let us shake the tree just so (shake body)

And 10 red apples will fall below (hands flutter and fall)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (count each finger.)


Popcorn Clapping Chant (clap where the letters are in bold print)

Popcorn, popcorn, shakin’ in the pan.

Popcorn, popcorn, Bam! Bam! Bam!


5 Red Apples 

5 red apples in a basket by the door,

Little _____took one, and then there were 4.

4 red apples were still enough for me. 

 _____took one, and then there were 3.

3 red apples, and what did I do? 

I baked one in an apple pie, and then there were 2.

2 little apples before this story’s done,

______will make some applesauce, and that leaves 1.

1 little apple, I’ll put it in a sack,

I’ll give it to my grandma, to have for a snack.   (fill in with names of people in your family.  This is fun to do with real apples, or felt apples and numbers.)

Four Little Leaves

(cut out 4 differently shaped leaves from pellon or 4 felt leaves in the colors below.  Place leaves on your felt board before you start the poem.  Have your children pick the correct leaf off the felt board as you read the poem.) 

There were 4 little leaves, on an autumn day.

The green leaf said, “it’s time to play.”

The yellow leaf said, “I will tumble to the ground.”

The brown leaf said, “I will not make a sound.”

The orange leaf said, “I can hear the north wind blow,”

Then the 4 little singing leaves drifted down below.

*I learned these as a preschool teacher years ago. The author is unknown.  If you know the original source, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.

Nature Walk and Related Activities: 

-Go on a nature walk and look for signs of fall:  Beautifully colored leaves, seeds and seed pods, squirrels gathering nuts, squirrel holes/caches/nests, migrating birds, and so on.

-While on your nature walk, collect leaves for these ideas:

  • Press leaves between wax paper
  • -Preserve leaves in glycerin and later, use them to decorate for Thanksgiving (warning:  lots of supervision required—poisons involved.  Kids can pound stems and drop leaves into glycerin.) 
  • Make leaf rubbings
  • Older preschoolers will enjoy learning the names of some common trees in your area.  They can also learn to identify their leaves. 
  • Children will be fascinated to look at leaves using a magnifying glass or a simple hand-held magnifier/microscope
  • Older children will enjoy a scavenger hunt, matching leaves to trees and then identifying them by name (use a field guide for this.)  Draw or photograph your finds.

Other Activities: 

-Visit an apple farm and pick your own apples.  Use them to make apple pie and/or applesauce (see below for recipe.)

-Preschool Education.com includes a long list of fall art projects 

-Crepe paper fall tree:  Have your child draw or paint a bare tree trunk (or you make one for them.)  Pre-cut tissue paper squares (1×1”) in fall colors.   Have your child collage leaves onto the tree.  Experiment with crumpling the paper, laying it flat, rolling it, or wrapping it around a pencil eraser to make a flowery effect.  Alternate idea for the tree trunk:  trace around your child’s arm and fingers, then paint or color.

-Paint with fruits and vegetables harvested in fall:  Cut one apple in half down the middle in one direction, and another apple in two large halves across the middle; shuck corn and cut in half.  Set cut pieces out overnight (this dries them out a little to make a clearer print.)  Dip the fruit/vegetables in thick tempera paint or acrylic paint and then stamp or roll them to make designs (this is fun to do along with the story, “A Little Red House With No Doors and No Windows” (see above.)

-Make a collage with things harvested in fall:  Popcorn, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.  Some children enjoy drawing a simple flower or sun shape to fill in.

-Crack walnuts and eat.

-If you can, take a field trip to an agricultural area and watch the harvest.

-Take a trip to the grocery story and talk about things harvested in fall.

-Learn how grapes are made into raisins.  Make your own raisins by drying grapes on a dehydrating machine.

Snacks/Cooking Experience: 

-Anything harvested or processed in fall (grapes, raisins, apples, corn, etc.)

Make homemade applesauce (you cut the apples into medium sized pieces, and then have your children chop them into smaller pieces with a table knife.  Kids can also help measure and add sugar/spices and mash cooled applesauce.) 

Have fun!


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

Posted in Art, Book Lists, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Music, Picture Books, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 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!”)


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.)


-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.


-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.)


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


-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


-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.)


-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.)


-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):




     Have fun, and live the 4R’s! 


© 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 »

Teaching Children to Read/How We Use Sing, Spell, Read and Write

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 4, 2010

       When we talk about phonics, the first thing we need to emphasize is keeping things in perspective.  One of my favorite sayings goes like this:  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom—not phonics.”  (Mary Schoalfield.) 

      Keeping things in perspective:  Phonics (especially before the first grade) are NOT the be-all end-all to homeschooling.  Don’t over-emphasize phonics!  Don’t make phonics the focus of your homeschool!  Don’t overlook other important learning in favor of phonics!  And DON’T feel like a failure if your child isn’t reading before Kindergarten (or by the end of first grade…or at the end of second grade…or even later!  Some children don’t master reading until age 8-10.)   Instead of stressing so much over teaching reading, we should remember to balance the need to teach our children to read (along with our other academic goals) with the needs of the whole child.  We also need to be sure we keep first things first, remembering our most important goals–building Relationships.  We should be most focused on:

 ~Teaching our children about the Lord, and helping them                develop a personal relationship with Him. 

~Growing strong relationships between family members, especially parent/child and child/siblings.

~Helping our children develop Godly character traits and good/helpful habits.

       Learning to read is very, very important.  But remember that readiness  is truly key to reading/academic success AND to maintaining a love of learning.  We need to respect the God-given timetable within our children, and let them retain their love of learning by being very careful not to push.

      That being said, here’s how we teach our children to read–using Sing, Spell, Read, and Write.

         Why I like Sing, Spell, Read and Write I have used Sing, Spell, Read and Write to teach all four of our children to read–with great success (well-my youngest are still “in progress.”)   Here are the reasons I like it:

  • It is multi-sensory, using games and music to teach phonics (bells and whistles!)
  • It tackles words from left to right, the way we attack the words when we  read.  Many curriculums concentrate on teaching the sounds that come at the end of words (_at, _in, _ate.)   This doesn’t make sense to me, since we read the beginning sounds first, and then add the endings.  Sing, Spell, Read and Write teaches the beginning blends first (the easiest first, such as ba, be, bi, bo, bu, and later, harder blends such as tra, tre, tri, tro, tru etc–tr, sl, sm, sn, scr….you get the idea.)  You can still teach the word families (most kids pick up on them, anyway–) but I personally, I believe that it makes more sense to start at the left side of the word.
  • The order of the lessons is logical and systematic.
  • It includes readers that reinforce the words children are learning.
  • It does NOT include very many sight words; it DOES teach the words that are “rule-breakers.”  (I prefer to concentrate on a phonetic approach, instead of memorizing hundreds of sight words the way the public school kids do.)

       This is how we used Sing, Spell, Read and WriteWhen our children start Kindergarten (age 5 or 6–no sooner), we buy the First-Grade Kit (I thought the preschool kit was a total waste of time…nothing but a bunch of “worksheets”, which are inappropriate for young children.  I didn’t think the Kindergarten set was necessary, either.) The First grade kit comes with two books: Off We Go, and Raceway. We used the Off We Go book (almost exclusively) for Kindergarten.  We used it to “cement” the letters and sounds, and to make an alphabet book. (Off We Go contains no blending.) 

      We completed about one letter a week (sometimes more, sometimes less),  leaving the last 10 weeks or so of Kindergarten to begin the songs and games from the beginning of the Raceway book.  If I believed the children were ready, we would start blending letters to make words (we spent a long time on this step–beginning blending–singing the “Ferris Wheel” and playing the blending games–“Blend-o” and “Pick a Sound from the Merry-go-round”.)

      Back to the Off We Go book:  For each letter there is a coloring page, a cut and paste page, a dot to dot page (alphabet order dot to dot), and a page of handwriting (we usually did only one row or two rows of writing practice.) My kids liked the cut and paste pages best (which picture goes with the letter?–Which doesn’t belong?) After they were done with the pages, we glued two of them into a 12 X 12 scrapbook. Around the edges, we glued pictures that I gleaned from old magazines and old picture books from Goodwill. This turned it into their “alphabet book.” (Note:  If you only want to purchase the Off We Go book, you can find it on Amazon very inexpensively.

     We also added some of their favorite art to their books (the last pages)— especially self-portraits drawn at the beginning and end of the year (to show how the children had matured.)

       You could even turn a scrapbook into a sort of “school journal”, recording your favorite activities and art experiences.  Here is one of our rare, cut-and-paste-for-a-set-result type of craft:

      Back to phonics:  We use the Raceway book for first and second grade–sometimes through third. By the time the children complete it, they have the tools they need to sound out anything.

     About the “teacher’s edition”–We don’t follow the long, detailed lesson plans. We don’t spend the amount of TIME the teacher’s edition recommends, either (we keep the lessons down to 10-15 minutes max for first grade…less for kindergarten…it’s best to leave them wanting more, versus overwhelming them.) 

      We don’t follow the lesson plans as written.  We just sing the songs, play the games, and then read the words once the sounds/rules are mastered.   When we are first starting the Raceway book, all we’ll be doing is playing games and singing songs. Gradually, as more “steps” (sets of words) are mastered, we’ll add reading new words, writing them, spelling them, reading the phonic story books aloud, etc.   

     We let ourselves feel free to skip any pages that we consider to be “busy work” (things I know they’ve mastered).  Some of my children have used Explode the Code (which mostly goes in the same order as SSRW) to supplement/practice spelling, handwriting, etc as needed. If the kids ever “get stuck”, we just play the games and sing the songs until they “get” it (children often seem to learn in spurts.)   Once they start to read, we give lots of practice reading aloud via the simplest books.  This gives them a chance to feel successful, and to learn to read fluently and with expression.
     About spelling–Most of my children reached a point at some time or another when their ability to master spelling the words didn’t match their ability to learn to read the words.  When that happened, we’d let them go ahead with their reading, while continuing to practice their at spelling at the level they needed to—even if they were several steps “behind” in spelling (SSRW suggests children should be able to read, write, and spell each of the words before moving on to the next step.)  By allowing the children to move along, they can progress and experience success with their reading while simultaneously continuing to practice their spelling.  Later on, perhaps even the next year, we would go back and review all the spelling words, making sure they were mastered. 

      A final word about phonics and readiness–Many families try phonics program after phonics program, to no avail.  They become more and more frustrated with the programs and their children.  They often come to believe a common myth about curriculum:  The myth that “if we could only find just the right curriculum, then my children would learn to read” (or learn their math facts, or get interested in history, etc.)  Some might start to think that perhaps their teaching is at fault; others might start to believe that there could be something wrong with their children.  But then, low and behold, once the third or fourth expensive curriculum package has been purchased and tried, suddenly something “clicks” and the child starts to read!  Some children even seem to teach themselves. The truth of the matter is simple.  In all likelihood, it wasn’t the “curriculum’s fault” at all.  It was a simple matter of readiness. Trying program after program, however frustrating and expensive it was, allowed enough time to pass for the child to mature and develop readiness. 

     In my experience, reading is very much a “developmental” task, just like learning to walk or learning to swim.  Before children develop readiness for these new skills, it is useless to try to teach them.  They balk; they fight you; they become frustrated or even afraid.  Most certainly, all the joy is driven out of the task (we sure don’t want to take the joy out of learning or reading!)  But once they are ready to learn, you can barely hold them back.  Reading is very much like that.  Don’t make the mistake of starting too soon.  It will only frustrate you and your child.  It will take the joy out of learning.  If your children are struggling or resistant, just set aside phonics for awhile, and then try again later.  Let readiness have a chance to develop before you spend money on another phonics program. 

     If this happens in your family, remember that children who learn to read later learn more quickly and easily than younger children do.  So why spend YEARS teaching letter recognition and phonics (starting in preschool, as many parents do) when you could teach it in only a few weeks or months when your children are older?

     It’s something to think about, anyway.

A note about curriculum reviews:  Remember that I don’t receive any money for my reviews.  Also remember that my personal curriculum choices might not work for you or your family.  If you are looking for a back-to-basics phonics program with no bells or whistles, there are numerous programs that might work for you…you might start by investigating Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Curiculum Reviews, Curriculum, Early Academics, Elementary School, Homeschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Phonics, Teaching Reading | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Curriculum Planning, 2010-2011 (part two)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 28, 2010

     Now we get to the really fun topics of study!  Here are our plans for units, art, and music:

Unit Study (History/Geography/Science): 

     This year we are going to alternate between history and science by topic, treating each as its own unit study. 

~History:  TruthQuest.  TruthQuest is a literature approach that includes suggested reading (living literature) to cover each time period, as well as text that ties each event/time period together.  I chose it because many other curriculums that use a literature approach don’t tie events together at all..they don’t even try.  We’ll use Homeschool in the Wood’s  Time Traveler’s series for lapbooking activities to go along with it, as well as Sonlight’s Timeline figures (we’ll be making a card file timeline—more on that later.)  


~Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, supplemented with Knowledge Box Central’s lapbooks.  We’ll throw in all the non-fiction/”living” books we can find on each topic as well as any field trips or activities we can, turning each topic into a “chicken unit study” (a.k.a. a unit study for “chickens” who don’t want to step out and plan units without any textbooks/pre-made curriculum at all.  Instead, the textbooks become our “spine” or outline of study.)


~Music lessons:  Private music lessons (piano and violin, repectively.) 

~Listening:  We will play one CD of classical music for a month at a time, until the boys are familiar (or re-acquainted) with it; at the end of each month, I hope they will be able to identify the composer and some of the pieces just by listening.  My choices: 

     ~Paganini  (best of)

     ~Mozart’s String Quartets K387 and 421   (my boys already enjoy these)

    ~Mozart’s Requiem 

    ~Handel’s Messiah  (Think: Hallelujah Chorus.)  If you aren’t familiar with it, you’re in for a treat.  It’s a little “long hair” to those who are new to classical music, but give it a chance!  It tells the entire life of Christ through music. It’s moving and beautiful.  Give a listen to the samples of the choruses “And the Glory of the Lord”, “For Unto Us a Child is Born”, or—get ready to cry and listen to “Surely he Hath Borne Our Grief’s”, or “He Trusted in God that He Would Deliver Him”, which re-inacts the crowds who were mocking Jesus while He was on the cross.)

     ~Handel’s Water Music

     ~Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

~The best of John Williams (movie themes—I think he is one of the greatest composers of our time.  He wrote the themes for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, E.T., Hook, etc, etc.  These are like beautiful mini-symphonies.)

~Glenn Miller (classic “big band” or “swing” music–love that brass!)

~The Imperials and the Cathedrals  (both in one month)–these are classic southern gospel albums that include quartet music, hymns, spirituals, and some pop.  Many of you young moms may consider this type of music to be “corny”, but be assured, the musical difficulty and quality is amazing (especially the vocals, which both groups are most famous for.)  If you want your children to learn to discern complex harmonies and be able to pick out the individual parts in music, these are indispensible.  Give a listen to some of the samples and see for yourself:  On the Imperials’ CD, sample “The First Day in Heaven”, “Sweet, Sweet, Spirit”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”; on the Cathedrals, give a listen to “This Old House” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”.  Just when you think their bass goes down as low as is humanly possible, he goes down an octave more!  (Don’t forget that you may be able to listen to more complete portions of the music I recomend on You Tube.)

~Singing:  Hymn of the month–We will choose one hymn that we will sing (during our worship time-along with other worship/”Sunday School” type songs) every school day for a month, OR until the boys have the chorus and at least one verse memorized.  I choose these according to what is going on in our lives spiritually.  Our first hymn will be “I Surrender All.”

      We will also sing during our unit time (we’ll listen to music of the time periods we study, learn the folk songs of the time, etc.) 

Art:  My goal this year is for the boys to do all of the art projects listed in my book—there are 56!  (These are open-ended projects appropriate for almost any age–preschool through early grade school.)  We will also be using Artistic Pursuits at least once a week. 

     Whew!  It does seem like a lot, but I’m hoping that the elements will work together well.  If I decide we need to tone it down a bit, we will.  I want to keep things simple, consistent, and FUN this year.

Live the 4R’s! 


© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Curriculum, Elementary School, Goals, Music | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Link to Great Article about art for Toddlers/Preschoolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 10, 2010

     I just have to share a blog post that I’ve found about toddler/preschool art.  It has tons of ideas, beautiful pictures, and best of all, it emphasizes process over product.   I love this post!  Her next post is going to be about art for older preschoolers.  Check it out a Pink and Green Mama. 

     You might also enjoy my post titled, Preschoolers and Their Art, HERE. 

     Enjoy!    ~Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Crafts, Homepreschool | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Unit Study Planning for “Chickens” (A.K.A. a “Chicken” Unit Study)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 1, 2010

        Do you have elementary school-aged children?  Do you want your curriculum to become more “literature-based”? Would you like to try the unit study method– but you’re scared to take the leap?  Then read on, because this post is just for you.

         Ever heard of a “chicken” unit study?  It isn’t a unit study about chickens…it is a unit study for chickens (those of you who can’t give up your textbooks.)  Here’s what I mean:

        If you’ve been having a hard time giving up your (boring) textbooks (chicken!), then why not turn each major chapter or topic in your children’s textbook into a mini unit study?  That way, the text book becomes a sort of “spine” or outline that leads you along.  I admit it:  One of our best year’s homeschooling ever was done this way, and I’ve been considering doing it again. 

        It really is a (nearly) perfect solution, giving your children the “best of both worlds.”  Yes, it takes longer to get through the texts this way, but your children will remember lots more—and enjoy it more, too.

        Here’s what to do:  Choose your textbooks as usual (try to choose a textbook that is as pleasant to read as possible, preferably one written in a “narrative” or “story-like” style.)  Use the index to plan your topics.  Alternate your “units” by topic or major time period and subject (i.e. do a history unit, and then a science unit).  Another option is spending half the year on history, half on science. 

        Read the textbook aloud to your kids and then, instead of written Q & A’s or tests, embellish each chapter with unit study elements:

 ~Books are the most important element to add.  You’ll want to look for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry; literature written during or about the time period you are studying (historical fiction), and/or biographies of important people who lived during the time period you are studying.  For science units, read biographies of famous naturalists, scientists and inventors, as well as fiction and non-fiction stories about animals/nature. 

        Since you are only doing science OR history in a single day, you’ll have more time to spend reading aloud.  We usually read the non-fiction books during your unit time, and then read the fiction books after lunch and/or before bed (yes, this counts as part of your school day!)

 ~Lapbooking, notebooking,scrapbooking: Look for resources to go along with each major time period or science topic, such as materials from Hold That ThoughtHands of a Child; History Pockets; Homeschool in the Woods,  etc. 

 ~Time lines: Check out the variety of ways to make and use timelines on Squidoo.     We are going to use the card file type of time line, and occasionally Mini Books.  There are lots of good ideas on Paula’s Archives, too. 

       Some people don’t believe that timelines are helpful to children until they are in the fourth grade or so, but  I disagree.  I think a simple timeline for early elementary aged children (grades 2+) can help them get a sense of “what came first” and “what came next”.  They can slowly build their timelines, and review them over the years to help them remember what they studied.  I wouldn’t worry about trying to get your children to memorize very many dates or time periods, though, until they are around Junior High age.

 ~Charlotte Mason-y elements:  Pull out copywork, vocabulary and spelling words from your literature; have your children narrate (or tell back) short sections of the literature.

 Other, optional things to add:  These things might take more work to come up with, but they sure add a lot to your units.   Don’t go overboard with these; if they seem contrived or unnatural to you, or if they take too much effort to come up with, then feel free to skip them.  Each family has to decide which of these elements are important to them.  In our family, art and music are high on the list; videos are always easy to add, via Netflix.  Field trips and experiments are easy to find for science, but harder for history.

 ~Arts and crafts: Study art from the time period you are studying (picture study); “copy” art methods (i.e. paint with dots like the impressionists, or paint upside down like Michelangelo had to do while painting the Sistine Chapel.)

~Music: Listen to music related to the theme, or written during the time period of the theme.  Study the famous composers during each major time period.

 ~Projects/activities:  This includes cooking experiences, science experiences/experiments/exploration, nature walks, mapping, dioramas/models, etc. 

~Dramatic play:  Some families really get into using dress up clothes, props, and prop boxes to to “pretend” about their unit or “reenact” history. 

 ~Videos:  Used sparingly, these can be a great supplement–especially when it comes to science (documentaries.) Warning: Watch out of evolutionary content and history that has been “re-written”.

~Field trips or virtual field trips: Icing on the cake!

        There are no required elements to this.  I like to keep things simple, so most of our embellishments would be books.  Lapbooking or notebooking would be another element I’d like to use as much as possible.  Other than that, I’d use whatever elements I could come up with!

        This is a great way to break into unit studies, while holding onto the security of textbooks.

        There’s only one thing I ask:  Do yourself and your children a favor; don’t ever use a textbook by itself! 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Curriculum, Homeschool, Music, Reading Aloud, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Spring/Gardening Unit/Theme for Homepreschool/Homeschool

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 23, 2010

A springtime/gardening unit offers us many opportunities for learning and fun.  What fun it is to look for the first signs of spring!  This post is a mish-mash of resources for Springtime units.

Signs of Spring

Spring is a great time to teach your children to observe nature, and learn some names of common plants and animals.  Here are some of the plants and animals we commonly think of during spring:

Crocus flowers are grown from bulbs.  The Crocus is known to be one of the earliest spring bloomers–they sometimes bloom right through the snow! If you have Crocuses planted in your area, go on a nature walk and take a look at them; if you don’t, at least show your children the pictures.

Another plant we identify with spring is the Daffodil.   It’s fun to make your own Daffodil craft by drawing a long green stem on a light-colored sheet of paper.  Next, cut out (or help your child cut) 2-3 inch long, fat triangular-like petal shapes (they can be yellow or white.)  Arrange the petal shapes to make a flower, and then glue a yellow or white mini cupcake liner on top to make a daffodil.

Pussywillows, like Crocuses, are plants we traditionally look for in spring.  Ideas:

Read the book, Pussywillow by Margaret Wise Brown (a Little Golden Book.)   If Pussywillows don’t grow in your area, visit your local florist shop and see if you can purchase a few cut branches.  They make a beautiful display…and children love to touch their velvety-soft buds…be sure to let them!  Next, try your hand at some Pussywillow art.  Click HERE for a site that has several different craft/painting ideas, and some flower crafts, too.

Spring growth:  Other signs of spring we look forward to are new green grass, budding/blossoming trees, and wildflowers.  See if your area has a wildflower or tree blossom trails like ours (Bakersfield, CA Wildflowers; Fresno, CA Blossom Trail).   If so, try not to miss them! Idea:  Bring some “spring” inside by clipping a branch from a tree that is blooming (or about to bloom), and putting it in a vase.  At the very least, go for a nature walk in a nearby park and look for signs of spring growth (etc.)  Fresh cut flowers from your own yard are always enjoyable.  If you are really ambitious, you could try your hand at forcing some bulbs.

Spring Poem:  I looked out-side and what did I see?  Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!  (Author unknown.) For more spring poems, click HERE.

Art ideas: 

– Have your child draw a “tree trunk” onto light-colored construction paper (or draw it for them.)  Pop popcorn and glue it on the branches for “blossoms.”

-Paint with branches, OR paint flowers and then use them to make prints.

-Collage with seeds (be sure to use only edible seeds such as lentils, beans, etc, in case your children try to eat them.)


– Purchase a variety of different seeds. Look at them, and compare (try to have a varity of types and sizes, such as avacado seeds, bean seeds, corn, sunflower, mustard seeds (or other very tiny seeds.)

-In a mason jar, sprout the avacado seed; in another, sprout the beans (put dampened paper towels in a mason jar; place beans right next to the glass. Place them in a summy window, and then watch them sprout.)  Watch and compare. Experiment: What happens to the seeds without light or water?

-Plant some of your seeds in peat pots or starter trays (available at home and garden stores), or sow them directly in the ground.

-Learn about trees. Is your area known for certain types of trees? If so, make sure your child can recognize them.  Take a nature walk and look for signs of spring.

Books to read:  The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree, by Gail Gibbons; The Apple Pie Tree, by Zoe Hall; A Tree is a Plant (a Let’s Read-and Find-Out Book), by Bulla; How a Plant Grows, by Bobbie Kalman (beautiful pictures); A Tree is Nice, by  Janice May Udry (this one’s considered a preschool classic);  Planting a Rainbow, by Lois Ehlert;  Jack’s Garden, by Henry Cole;  The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Kraus (another classic; great for younger preschoolers); The Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting (you can look for grown-up books about sunflower houses, too, and some for kids AND grown-ups.)

Vocabulary: Bud, blossom, fruit, shoot, root, seed, and so on.

Animals and Spring

Robins are considered to be signs of spring.  Watch for the return of Robins and other birds.  A good book to read about robins is A Nest Full of Eggs, by Priscilla Belz Jenkins.

Make a paper bird:  Enlarge any one of these bird patterns and copy onto heavy paper.  Let your child paint the bird with water colors, and let dry.  Glue wings on to complete the bird.  Click HERE for an alternate pattern.

For a craft activity, consider making/setting up a bird feeder, bird house or bird bath to attract birds to your yard.  Here are a variety of bird/bird feeder craft ideas: http://kidsactivities.suite101.com/article.cfm/easy_bird_feeders_for_kids


For the ambitious:  See if anyone you know has an incubator you can borrow and hatch some chicken eggs.

Other books about birds:

An Egg is Quiet, by Dianna Aston Book, by Jane Werner Watson (Out of Print)

Birds:  A Child’s First Book About Our Most familiar Birds, a Big Golden Book, by Jane Werner Watson

What Makes a Bird?, by May Garelick (may be out of print)

It’s Nesting Time, (an older Let’s Read and Find Out book) by Roma Gans (out of print)

 Baby Animals:  Many animals have their babies during spring.  This is a perfect time to learn about baby animals and their special names.  If you can, visit a petting zoo, zoo, or nearby farm to observe baby animals.  Books to read:

Baby Animals (a Little Golden Book), by Garth Williams

Baby Animals, by Harry McNaught

Kitten, The Little Rabbit, and others by Judy Dunn.

You can find other books about Spring, plants, baby animals and more in the series, Books for Young Explorers, from National Geographic (one of my favorite science series for ages 4-9; beautiful photos.)

 General Books About Spring/Seasons:

What Happens in the Spring, a National Geographic book Young Explorers, by Kathleen Costello Beer.

How Do You Know It’s Spring, a Rookie Read-About Science Book, by Allan Fowler (ages 2-6.)

Over and Over, by Charlotte Zontolow (contains references to Halloween, but they are easily skipped.)

Other related/possible units:  Bunnies, Plants and Trees, Gardening, Weather, Insects and more!

Have fun!

Note:  I can only recomend the pages I link to, not the entire content of each site.   Further note:  Many of the books I recomend are out of print.  But thanks to Amazon, it’s no problem!  (I am not an Amazon Affliate; I don’t get any money if you purchase any of the books.  They are simply books I’ve enjoyed with my children.)

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

Posted in Art, Book Lists, Crafts, Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Nature Study, Reading Aloud, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preschoolers and Their Art

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 5, 2010

What Young Children Learn Through Art

          Art is more than “just for fun”, and more than an “extra” subject.  It should be an important part of every preschooler’s life, and an important part of older children’s homeschool curriculum.  Through art, children learn skills related to every area of academia: 

*Physical Development

*Eye-hand coordination

*Small muscle strength

*Develop of small motor skills (children practice the correct way to hold and use a pencil, and learn how to make lines and shapes.  This is essential for future writing skills.) 

*Social Skills

*Children learn to express themselves and their thoughts, and how to interpret moods and emotions (this is important for speech and writing skills.)

*Talking about art develops social and speech skills

Cognitive Development

*Through art, children begin to understand that pictures can represent other things; this develops abstract thought.

*When talking about art, children learn about shapes, the positions of things in space, and part/whole relationships.  This involves math, language and art skills.

*When children observe that two colors mixed together make another color, they are learning about science (solutions/cause and effect); when they observe patterns and copy them, they are learning math.

*Planning projects develops thinking skills

Language Development

*Talking about art and asking questions about it involves cognitive development, social development, speech, language, and pre-writing skills. It also teaches descriptive vocabulary words such as straight, wavy or zigzag; color words like aqua or beige; and technical vocabulary like printing, blending, color-wash, etc.

“Teaching” Art

          Parents needn’t worry about “teaching” art. Aside from conversation and simple lessons–such as how to hold and use scissors or a pencil, replacing caps on felt-tipped pens, or how to use a paintbrush gently–little “teaching” is required.  Instead, most art experiences for preschoolers should be “child led”.  Parents provide the materials and basic instructions, and children provide the creativity—no parental creativity or skill is required.  Ideally, preschool art experiences should be open-ended, with no right or wrong way to proceed. Coloring books and parent-led cut and paste sessions should be used only occasionally, and then “just for fun”.

How to Talk to a Scribbler

          When it comes to preschoolers and art, there are a few things we should keep in mind. The first thing to remember is a “catch phrase” used in early learning circles: “It’s the process, not the product”.  This refers to the fact that for preschoolers, the goal is not a great looking creation or end “product”—preschooler’s “creations” often fall short of being beautiful–or realistic.  Sometimes they are downright comical, with purple  suns, black grass, or eyes attached where the belly button should be. But a beautiful or “correct” creation is not the goal of art at this age. The benefit and joy of art for preschoolers lies in the process of making art-the experience.

          Art experiences become a source of pride for preschoolers, no matter what adults may think of the results.  Possessive preschoolers cling to their art, almost as if it is an extension of themselves.  This is just one reason why parents should never move the eyes into their correct position, or urge children to paint the sun yellow.  Let preschoolers have their own unique perspective for now.  They will learn to put the eyes in the right place and use realistic colors soon enough on their own.  Resist criticizing, or making your child feel that his efforts are not good enough for you.  Instead, say something like, “Wow, you sure used a lot of colors on that!”

Scribbling is fun and it’s also a useful learning activity.  As your child scribbles, she gains first hand experience with all the different strokes that formal writing will require. Tilting and swerving her random scrawls around the page, she produces curved and straight lines, continuous marks and some that are broken, lines that run parallel and others that intersect.  In short, she incorporates all the variables that she will use again later on when she forms real letters.  Scribbling is not only a simple creative act that a youngster practices for its own sake, it is also a rehearsal for the more conventional forms of writing she will soon want to explore.-Time Life Books, First Steps Towards Reading


          A common mistake parents make when talking to children about their art is trying to identify the pictures. Never ask a young child, “What is it?” Sometimes parents will name pictures themselves, being sure the drawing is a car–when your child sees a house–or nothing at all.  Instead, ask your child to “Tell me about your picture”.  When you do this, children are free to name their picture if they want to– but they are just as likely to talk about their color choices, the types of lines in the picture…if you’re lucky, they might even tell you a story about it. (These are great to write down!)

          Other appropriate comments for parents:  “You worked really hard on that, didn’t you?”  “I like the squiggly lines right here.”   “Tell me about this part.”  “I like the colors you used.”

          Talk with children about the art they see and make. By doing this, you will be extending your child’s learning.  Teach your children to notice details in picture books, and note the media used if you can.  For instance, in Leo Lionni’s book Swimmy,  watercolors are used.  Point out the medium, the colors used, or how the wavy lines replicate water.  This might inspire your child to experiment with watercolors himself. (But remember, the goal is not to copy any picture exactly, but to just to explore the medium!)

          Art prints are also great ways to expose children to art. Put one up at your child’s eye level, and discuss the details in the picture.  Notice the media used, shadows and light, colors and so on.  Teach your child to look for these same details in the real world–especially in nature.


Setting Up Your Home for Art

           It’s a good idea to set up one area in your home to accommodate arts and crafts.  This area should have easy-to-clean floors and a water supply, so the kitchen is perfect. Ideally, basic art supplies should be readily available, so that children can “create” whenever they feel inspired.

          Our family’s “art area” is the kitchen table (we covered it with heavy, clear plastic from a fabric store.)   Nearby, in the drawers of our china hutch, silverware and placemats have been replaced with paper of various kinds, crayons, felt-tipped pens, colored pencils and the like.  Scissors, glue, glue sticks and tape, which are used by permission only, are just out of reach in upper drawers.   If you don’t have storage space in your kitchen, you could use plastic bins or rolling carts with drawers.  The idea is to keep the basic supplies easily accessible.  I often rotate materials or offer new ones, or set out on the table to encourage use.

Art Supplies

Here is a list of our favorite supplies:

Paper: Printer or copier paper makes good drawing paper; we keep some out all the time.  We also use construction paper, crepe paper and scrapbook paper.  If you are willing to put in the time, you may be able to collect free paper from print shops, or old wallpaper books from interior design centers.  A note about construction paper:  Spend a little extra money to buy good paper from a school supply store or internet site.  There really is a difference!  Better papers have more vibrant and long-lasting colors, and are smooth and heavy.  You also might like to try real water-color paper if your children love to paint.

Drawing Media:  Crayons, pastel crayons, chalk, twist up “crayons” (like Crayola’s “Twistables”), pencils, colored pencils, pens, felt-tipped pens, charcoal pencils/sticks

Painting Media:  Watercolors, watercolor crayons/pencils, finger-paints and paper, liquid chalk paint, tempera paint (powdered is best, and lasts “forever”—you can mix only the amount you need, and you can mix it thick or thin, as to your needs.)

Paint Accessories:  Various sizes and types of brushes; objects to stamp/paint with such as small blocks, old potato mashers, sponges, etc; a box that is 12×12 or so, and around 2 inches in height to use as a marble painting box (put paper in the box; drop a marble first into paint, next onto the paper, and wiggle the box to make designs.)

Cutting Media:  Safety scissors, hole punches. (Craft stores also sell scissors that cut different designs, such as zigzags, wavy lines, etc.  These are fun but be aware that they are harder to use, and could cause frustration for some preschoolers.)

Connecting Media: White glue, glue sticks, rubber cement, tape, stapler, brads.

Sculpting Media:  Homemade or store-bought modeling dough/play dough, cookie cutters, rollers, plastic knives

Collage Materials:  Scraps of paper, shapes cut from paper/felt, yarn, ribbon, beans, rice, peas, lentils, popcorn, macaroni, stickers, heavy paper  Extras:  Glitter, felt, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, yarn, ribbon; found materials like old egg cartons, toilet paper rolls or coffee cans; plastic lids and old margarine containers (great for storing paint or using as paint palettes.)

A Caution:  Safety first!  If you think your child may try to eat art supplies, or cut things other than paper (my boys liked cutting their own hair, and the sheets from their beds), or if you think they’d make too big a mess, keep the art supplies out of reach.  (We leave only basic supplies out all the time.)   Always supervise your children!


           Since art provides so many benefits for young children, it is tempting to think that we must need some sort of expensive “curriculum” to help us along.  But preschoolers don’t need an expensive art curriculum to receive all these benefits.  As with everything else during the preschool years, a loving, involved parent and a few basic supplies are everything you need.

          Note:  I include a whole chapter on art in my book, with more than 50 open-ended projects to enjoy with children of all ages.

          A Caution:  Safety first!  If you think your child may try to eat art supplies, or cut things other than paper (my boys liked cutting their own hair, and the sheets from their beds), or if you think they’d make too big a mess, keep the art supplies out of reach.  (We leave only basic supplies out all the time.)   Always supervise your children!


This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Crafts, Curriculum, Homepreschool | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Unit For A Day: For Preschool/Kindergarten

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 3, 2010

          If you aren’t sure about planning your own unit studies, or if you’d simply like to have some extra fun with your children, a “unit for a day” is a great idea.  Here are some ideas to get you started.  One is “just for fun”, and the other incorporates more serious learning:

 Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Day

 ~Music:  Sing the Song, “On Top of Spaghetti”:

Tune:  On Top Of Old Smokey

On top of spa-ghetti,  All covered with cheese, I lost my poor meat-ball,

When somebody sneezed (ker-choo!)  It rolled off the ta-ble,  And onto the floor,

And then my poor meat-ball,  Rolled out of the door.  It rolled in the gar-den,

And under a bush,  And then my poor meat-ball,  Was noth-ing but mush.

So if you like spe-getti,  All covered with cheese,  Hold on to your meat-ball,

And don’t ev-er sneeze. (ker-choo!)

~Book:  Read the book, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

~Art:  Cook spaghetti and let cool completely.  Let children “sculpt” with noodles on dark-colored construction paper or better yet, tagboard.  Let dry.  When dry, the noodles harden again, and make a 3-D picture.  (Note:  If you let the children pile the spaghetti up too high, it will take too long to dry and will rot.  Encourage children to make line shapes or tiny (not thick) sculptures.

 ~Lunch:  Spaghetti and meatballs, of course! 

~Movie:  I haven’t seen the movie, so use your own judgement

Duck Unit Study (one or two days)

 ~Finger plays: Five Little Ducks.  (I like Raffi’s version better.  Raffi also sings the song, 6 Little Ducks That I Once Knew; another good musical choice.)

 ~Books:  Fiction:  A Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack   and/or Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey; non-fiction: Ducks Don’t Get Wet  by Augusta Goldin and/or  The Little Duck by Judy Dunn.

~Science Activity:  Explain to your children that ducks don’t get wet because their feathers are covered with oil that repels water.  To prove that oil repels water, put some water in a glass.  Add some baby oil or vegetable oil and observe the result:  Does the oil and water mix?  No. The oil repels the water.

 ~Fishing Game:  We can’t catch fish the way a duck can (we don’t have beaks!),  but people do like to go fishing!  You can pretend to fish, and teach some preschool “facts” while you do it. 

 What you’ll need:  A short dowel; yarn; doughnut shaped magnet; paper clips; construction paper.

 What to do:  Tie the magnet onto the yarn, and then tie the yarn around the top of the dowel.  (You may need to tape it or use a dab or hot glue to hold it in place.)  Cut fish shapes out of construction paper and put a paper clip over each fish’s mouth. 

How to play:  Place the fish on the floor in front of a chair.  Have your child sit in the chair, and then “drop” his/her “line” into the pretend water and try to snag a fish.  When s/he does, have him tell you the color of the fish (or you tell him.)  If your child is older and has begun to learn his letters or numbers, write a different letter or number on each fish; put a star on a few of them.  If s/he catches a star, it’s a freebie (automatic keep.)  Whenever a letter or number fish is caught, your child should name the letter/number in order to “keep” the fish.  (Warning: Stay with your children during this activity.  One of my boys broke a window by swinging a tiny magnet….not to mention what a magnet could do to an eye…also, magnets and paperclips are dangerous if swallowed.)

 ~Snack:  Fish (tuna fish or fish sticks—Ping loves fish), or Goldfish crackers; peanuts (Mr. and Mrs. Mallard love peanuts.)

 ~Art:  Paint using feathers as brushes

Portions of this post are excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Book Lists, Curriculum, Elementary School, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Music, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Preschool Unit Studies, Preschool Themes: What Do They Look Like?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 2, 2010

          OK, you’ve decided on your topics (themes) and are ready to get going!  But what should a preschool unit study look like?  What types of activities should be included in your unit–and how many of them do you need? 

          The first thing to remember is to  keep it simple.   There is no “rule” stating what a unit study “should” be or “should” contain.  Reading picture books is the bulk of our preschool “unit studies”.  But whenever we can, we add simple activities that go along with our theme.  This isn’t an obsession; I don’t go crazy with it; we simply add activities when we think of them. Here are some elements you might think about when you are planning a preschool/Kindergarten unit study:

~Books, both fiction and non-fiction (if appropriate); this is your most important element! If this is all you have to offer your children, that’s OK!

 ~Music: Music related to the theme (for older kids, music written during the time period of the theme.)  For the farm unit, we’d sing “Farmer in the Dell”, “Old MacDonald”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” etc.

 ~Finger plays/poetry/nursery rhymes: Poems, finger plays or action rhymes about the unit. For a farm unit, we’d do finger plays like “5 Little Ducks”; nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue and Little Bo Peep, and poems such as the Giving Farm, by Vicki Witcher http://www.kinderkorner.com/farm.html .

~Art and crafts: I like to keep art as open-ended as possible.  Use projects that have a set result (that “should” look a certain way) sparingly, and concentrate on open-ended art ideas instead (I included a list of more than 50 such projects in my book.)   Examples of art for a farm unit: Draw or trace the shape of a cow, and then finger paint or paint on it; draw or trace the shape of a lamb, then cover with cotton balls; paint with milk paint, paint or write with feathers, etc.

 ~Projects/activities: This includes cooking experiences, science experiences/experiments/exploration, Montessori type activities (hands on, small muscle), large muscle activities, and so on.  For a farm unit, we might: Look at and sort different types of seeds; put whipping cream into a jar and shake until it turns into butter; sprout beans in a clear glass or zippy bag, start a garden, and so on.

~Dramatic play:  Use dress up clothes, props, and prop boxes to inspire your children to “pretend” about your unit.  For example, for the farm unit, you might have overalls, boots, and a big hat to wear (traditional “farmer” clothes); a rake and other gardening tools to play with outside (supervise carefully), etc.  You can find some great ideas HERE  and HERE

 ~Videos:  Used sparingly, these can be a great supplement-especially when it comes to science (documentaries.) Warning: Watch out of evolutionary content.

~Field trips or virtual field trips: Icing on the cake! Not every unit will have field trips; they can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. For our farm unit, we watched several “virtual” tours of farms, visited a dairy farm, went to our grocery store where we talked about which produce grows where (Does it grow on a tree?  Under the ground?  On a bush?), and where products come from (Meat:  Bacon = pig; beef = cow;  milk products & how they are made, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, etc);  for a wrap-up, we went to our county fair.)

          Be careful not to go crazy with these! A few really good elements make a more enjoyable unit study than a bunch of meaningless ones. A rule of thumb for a two-week study (for preschool/Kindergarten) would be: 10-12 books; 1-2 songs to learn; 1-2 finger plays; 4-8 different art/crafts (not all have to be related to the unit–just offer them throughout the week); 4-8 hands on projects/activities; 1 creative/dramatic play activity, 1-2 field trips (if possible).  Every element does not have to be present.  The idea is to make your “study” meaningful and fun.   Remember, the single most important thing you can do to help your preschooler learn is to read aloud to her.  As long as you do that while providing a loving, consistent, creative home environment with lots of time for free play, you’ll do just fine.

Next post: Unit For A Day


Portions of this post are excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Crafts, Curriculum, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Music, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »