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

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Archive for the ‘Homepreschool and Beyond’ Category

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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 »

Enter for a Chance To Win Homepreschool and Beyond

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 22, 2012

Home Educating Family Magazine has posted a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond on their review website. Hop on over, read the review, and enter for a chance to win one of two copies of Homepreschool and Beyond. Good luck!


Posted in Book Reviews, Homepreschool and Beyond, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

New Review of Homepreschool and Beyond/How You Can WIN a Copy

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 6, 2011

I am very excited to announce a new review of Homepreschool and Beyond.  Along with the review is a chance for you to win one of two copies for FREE! Read the review and find out how to enter on the wonderful blog, Generation Cedar.  If you have never taken the time to visit Generation Cedar, you are in for a treat! Enjoy, and good luck!


Posted in Homepreschool and Beyond, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 11, 2011

NOTE: This finger-play is written out as I learned it.  I do not know its original source. Most finger-plays, like “mother goose” rhymes, have been passed down from mother-to-daughter or from teacher-to-teacher, with slight variations.  When finger-plays are included in books, the author is usually listed as “unknown” or “traditional.” If anyone knows the original source of this finger-play, please let me know so
that I can give credit where credit is due.

This finger play is great to use in fall–for Johnny Appleseed Day, things harvested in fall, etc.

Ten Red Apples

10 red apples grow on a tree (put both hands up and out to make a tree)

5 for you (hold out one hand, indicating “5”)  and 5 for me (repeat, with other hand)

Let us shake that tree just so (hold out hands and pretend to shake tree)

And 10 red apples fall down below (make 10 fingers fall down.)

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

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 28, 2011

NOTE: This finger-play is written out as I learned it. I do not know its original source. Most finger-plays, like “mother goose” rhymes, have been passed down from mother-to-daughter or from teacher-to-teacher, with slight variations. When finger-plays are included in books, the author is usually listed as “unknown” or “traditional.” If anyone knows the original source of this finger-play, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due.

Ten Red Apples

10 red apples grow on a tree (put both hands up and out to make a tree)

5 for you and 5 for me (hold out the five fingers of each hand one at a time.)

Let us shake that tree just so (hold out hands and shake them)

And 10 red apples fall down below (make fingers fall down.)

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

Naughty Hands

(This one is definitely politically incorrect, but I love it and think it is very appropriate!)

Sometimes my hands are naughty (hold our hands, then slap one with the other)

And so my mother says, that she will have to scold them (shake finger as if scolding)

And send them off to bed (fold hands in prayer stance, then place on side of head; lay head on fingers, turn head to one side as if resting on a pillow, shut eyes and pretend to go to sleep.)

So little hands, be careful, of everything you do (hold out hands and look at them–OR extend pointer finger and shake it)

Because if you are sent to bed, I must go there too! (point to self; then fold hands in prayer stance and place on side of head; lay head on hand, turn head to one side as if resting on a pillow, shut eyes and pretend to go to sleep.)

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Review of Homepreschool and Beyond

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 19, 2011

Here is another review of Homepreschool and Beyond from Education Cafe. There are also some good links to other articles and sites included.


Posted in Book Reviews, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, preschool at home, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond, Susan Lemons | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preschool at Home for Gifted Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 5, 2011

NOTE: I hate the word “average”, because all children are blessed and gifted in their own ways! I just can’t think of another word to replace it…

         My advice to parents of gifted children is basically the same as my advice for parents of “average” children. These are the things I recommend:

-Provide a rich, stimulating but calm home environment. Follow the general guidelines for homepreschooling, emphasizing the 4 R’s (see tabs); remember, routine is especially important for emotionally sensitive, easily over-stimulated children.

-Provide lots of opportunities for hands-on exploration, including nature walks, simple science experiments, “field trips”, etc to make learning “real” to preschoolers.

-Provide quality, traditional toys that encourage creative thinking (Dr. Drew’s BlocksCiti Blocks, Tegu magnetic blocksDuplos, pattern blocks and cards  etc.)  When they get older, switch to Legos , Magnetix and Geomags, etc. Timberdoodle and Hearthsong carry good selections of creative, educational toys and puzzles for children of all ages and abilities.

-Introduce your preschooler to the best in art and music (looking, listening and doing.)

-Keep the amount of “seat work” short and sweet, even for gifted children. Better yet, let it be child-initiated only until age 4-5, depending on the abilities of your children. Remember that writing skills often lag behind verbal skills, so be patient.

– If your child is truly advanced academically, consider trying learning games and Montessori-style (hands-on) learning experiences to replace seat-work, or at least to supplement it.

-Consider yourself a “facilitator” of your child’s learning. Provide your children with the materials they need to learn independently.  

-When you do start formally “teaching” your preschooler, remember that you don’t have to teach the things that s/he already knows, even if your child is several grade levels above his/her age level. BUT…. you may want to check and make sure s/he has fully mastered concepts (phonics, etc) before moving on.  Fill in any holes, and then let them move ahead.

-Be careful to find the balance between encouraging/facilitating advanced abilities and pushing, which often results in burnout.

-Even if your child is several grade levels ahead of his/her peers, remember that it doesn’t automatically follow that you should treat him/her like an older child in every way, or that you should get frustrated if s/he doesn’t want to keep advancing academically at the moment. He’s already ahead!! Relax and enjoy the journey; learning may come in spurts.

-Remember that some preschoolers have the tendency to temporarily SLOW DOWN/almost stop practicing other skills while new skills are emerging. They seem to concentrate on one major skill at a time. Just think of babies; many previously verbal babies will become less talkative while learning to walk. Once they master walking, the babbling picks up again to its previous level. Some preschoolers tend to be like this, too, concentrating on one skill at a time. The new skill seems to consume their every thought. Even so, be sure to contact your pediatrician immediately if your child SUDDENLY loses skills altogether, dramatically regresses, or if your heart tells you “something’s wrong.”

-Encourage curiosity and a love of learning.

-Allow lots of time for creative play.

-Continue to read aloud, even to readers.

Remember that:

-Preschoolers can learn more than just those traditional “academic” facts (colors, letters, numbers, learning to read, math) we associate with the early years.  In fact, all preschoolers, included gifted preschoolers, can learn a lot about science/nature, people and how they live (or lived in the past), holidays and traditions, art, music, poetry, love of literature, and so much more. Work on building that simple base of knowledge about the world, and the vocabulary to go with it. This is done through conversation, real-life experiences, and reading aloud.

-Remember that building vocabulary is vital for young readers; it is necessary for reading comprehension.Reading has no value to your child if he/she doesn’t understand what he reads.

-Preschoolers are capable of memorizing many facts. Many parents make the mistake of thinking this means their children are gifted. This may or may not be so. Truly gifted children differ from “average” children because they tend to understand the meaning of the facts they memorize (and often how to use those facts). Remember that knowing the facts (alphabet, letter sounds, numbers) doesn’t automatically mean children are ready for the next step. Be careful not to push your child too far ahead.

-Follow his/her lead. The goal is not to push our preschoolers, but not to hold them back, either. One of the marks of a truly gifted child, in my opinion, is that they will not allow themselves to be held back. They will push and push to learn, and often teach themselves to read, do math, etc. They will spend a lot of their free time pursuing academics. Our job is to facilitate this learning/exploration without demanding that they sit down and do hours of work sheets, just because they can.

-If your child is begging to be taught to read and you’re sure s/he is ready, go ahead and try a few short, play-based lessons. If your child enjoys the lessons and seems capable of learning to read, let him. But if your child resists or is disinterested, back off.

-Remember that there is no proven academic advantage to learning to read early, or having an academically based preschool/Kindergarten. To the contrary, studies have shown that children who are provided with a play/exploration-based preschool/Kindergarten actually do better academically throughout their lives. 

Advice for Parents of Young Readers

-If your child has taught himself to read, be sure he doesn’t strain his eyes by reading for too long at a time. Give him/her frequent breaks to look away at the horizon. This can help prevent nearsightedness.

-Make sure the books you allow your child to read are not only appropriate to his/her reading ability, but to his/her social/emotional/spiritual maturity; double-check the content. Early readers should start by reading picture books, and then move up to longer picture books and short chapter books that focus on animals and family life. The goal should be to avoid mature content (too intense, scary, or complex.) See my “book list” category for ideas, as well as chapter 7 in Homepreschool and Beyond.   

        Finally, I’d like to remind parents of gifted children that:

-Sadly, parents of “average” children often feel threatened by gifted children. So when you share with other parents about your child, be sensitive to the fact that some of them might feel that you are bragging or implying that their child should have the same abilities as yours…even if that is not your intent. Bear this in mind and try to be especially tactful and understanding of others.

-Don’t assume that ALL your children will be gifted in the same areas/ways

-Don’t assume that because your child is gifted, everything will come easily to him/her. As I stated in my previous post, some children are gifted in only one area; others are gifted in one or more areas but have learning problems in others, and so on. Each child is unique and so the variations are endless.

-Don’t assume that because your child is advanced now, s/he will always be advanced.

-Be sure to teach your children that their abilities and talents are a gift from God. Remind your children hat God has a plan for their lives.

-Especially gifted children may have tendencies towards arguing with adults or correcting them. Each family will have to deal with this in their own way (it may be a discipline issue.)

-Remember that academics are only a small part of life. Relationships (with God and family) are the most important thing in the life of your child; keep them the main thing.  Don’t “overlook the forest for the trees.” Don’t concentrate so much on academics that you over look activities that are important/developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Even gifted preschoolers need lots of time to play and explore, make messy art, sing, do finger plays, dress-up, play games, etc, etc. See “Goals of Homepreschool” for more.  


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


Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Early Academics, Family Life, Gifted Preschoolers, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, Readiness | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Method Review: Before Five in a Row

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 17, 2011

        Before Five in a Row: A treasury of creative ideas to inspire learning readiness is a great resource for families who would like a little more “specific” help homepreschooling their very young children (those not ready for themes or unit studies).

        Before Five in a Row  is not a curriculum or an intensive “readiness” (i.e. formal academic) program; it does not concentrate on teaching A, B, C’s or 1, 2, 3’s (and rightly so; after all, Before Five in a Row is intended for children ages 2-4–I think it’s best for age 2-3.) Instead, Before Five in a Row uses the best in children’s literature to get preschoolers talking, thinking, playing and learning via relating to their favorite picture books. And once preschoolers get talking, thinking and playing, their learning really does take off. To quote from the introduction of Before Five in a Row, “This series of little ‘lessons’ was created especially to bring enjoyment to children ages two through four. The point is not so much to instruct or teach as it is have a happy introduction to books, provide an interesting, light introduction to many different topics, and to build intimacy between the  reader and the child. The topical subject headings are only to suggest in what areas these activities might lay a foundation for academic subject to be encountered by your child on later grades.”

        Before Five in a Row  offers ideas and activities that lay foundations in the areas of Bible, art, language arts, cognitive skills (noticing/talking about colors, patterns, shapes, sequencing, problem solving, etc); drama, literature, poetry and art; noticing order and detail;  science, games, math, etc all in a developmentally appropriate/fun way. Before Five in a Row uses classic picture books such as Caps for Sale, Blueberries for Sal, Angus Lost, and Corduroy as the basis for its “lessons” (24 books in all.) Many of the “lessons” are simply observing things about the book or its characters through conversation. This can be done during the time of the reading, or later—whenever “life” relates to the lessons of the book, or whenever the book is re-read (these books are so good that your preschoolers will want to hear them over and over!)

How Before Five in a Row Differs from Five in a Row

    First of all, Five in a Row is a “curriculum” (unit study/literature approach) for ages 4-8.  Five in a Row gets its name from the fact that you read each picture book every day for five days; thus the title, “Five in a Row.” After the daily reading, you proceed to do one or more of the activities suggested in the curriculum—you pick and choose the activities depending on the age, attention span, and abilities of your children. But Before Five in a Row doesn’t work that way. It does not encourage you to read the same book each day for five days in a row. The suggested activities are not intended to be used all in one week, either. Instead, they are meant to be used as a natural part of life during the reading and subsequent readings of the books.

Even More About Before Five in a Row  

        The first half of the book includes the books and activities, while the second half of the book includes a “treasury of creative ideas for learning readiness.” It includes activities in the areas of reading readiness, music, coordination, activities for the bathroom and kitchen, the arts, and more.

 My Thoughts

        Before Five in a Row is a good introduction to the literature approach for parents of very young children. The second half of the book is a good reference of basic activities. This book would be especially helpful for parents of 2-3 year olds who need a little help figuring out how to pull learning activities/conversations out of picture books.

        If you would like more activity/play/unit study ideas for preschoolers, check out my tabs, archives, and especially Homepreschool and Beyond.   

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

Posted in Book Reviews, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool Preschool, Methods, Picture Books, preschool at home, preschool curriculum | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Old Schoolhouse’s Review of Homepreschool and Beyond

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 10, 2011

     I’m excited to announce that The Old Schoolhouse magazine has included a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, in it’s latest issue.  Amy M. O’Quinn gave a very positive review, stating that Homepreschool and Beyond is “a resource that is sure to become a handbook for home preschool education for years to come.” You can read the review for yourself HERE.


Posted in Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond, Susan Lemons | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Review of Homepreschool and Beyond, and Another Chance to Win My Book!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 2, 2010

     I have been blessed to have Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations read and review my book, Homepreschool and Beyond: A Comprehensive Guide to Early Home Education.  You can read her review HERE. 

     Best of all, Jolanthe is offering you a chance to win one of my books.  Simply go to her blog, read her review, then come back here and explore my blog.   Find the answer to her question and then go back to her blog and place a comment under the review.  That will be your entry.  You can enter two times, and we will be giving away two books, so that you get a better chance of winning.   Good luck!


Posted in Freebies, Homepreschool and Beyond, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Generations Radio Interview

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2010

      Ever wonder what I sound like?  I’m sure it won’t be what you imagine.  But if you’d like to know, you can listen to me on Generations Radio

    I was blessed to be interviewed this week by Kevin Swanson, a Pastor, author, leader in the homeschool community, and a homeschooling dad. 

    We talk about my book, the advantages of homepreschool versus institutional preschool, building relationships, the importance of conversation, music, and lots more.  You can listen HERE.

     Live the 4R’s!


Posted in Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Picture Books, Play, preschool at home, Radio Interviews, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Susan Lemons, Teaching Reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Building Your Home Library

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 14, 2010


     This is (a part of) our home library.  I believe that every home should have books in it.  I always feel sad when I visit a house with no bookshelves in it….the house feels empty somehow…it just doesn’t feel like a home to me.   


     We have books in every room of the house (yes, even the bathrooms have books sitting near the potty…perfect for extended “sitting”, LOL.)     

     I like to say that I “decorate” with books.  In fact, I’m so crazy for books that finding room for bookshelves was one of our primary considerations when we purchased our house.  In Educating the Wholehearted Child, Sally Clarkson says that her family falls just short of “book envy and book covetousness.”  I feel the same way!   


   Choosing Good Books   

      I have very high standards when it comes to the books that go into our library.  I try to pre-read or at least preview books before they go into our library—especially if I am unfamiliar with the author.  I have a shelf in my room nearly full of books just waiting for me to read and approve (or disapprove—often you can tell just a few pages.)  Some of my standards are unexplainable—who can account for taste?  But some of my standards I can explain—and so I’ll try to do so below.   

     The overall rule for acceptable content in literature comes from the Word of God.  Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  And Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.”   I therefore avoid books with witches, demons, mythology, and other “paranormal” content, as well as books that directly or indirectly contradict our beliefs or “teach” lies (wrong ways of thinking, evolution, wrong attitudes, etc.)  And I ask myself:   

-Does the book present an accurate picture of the character of God?   

-Does the book encourage good morals?  Is sin punished and good behavior rewarded?  Does good triumph over evil?   

-Does the book “teach” a good lesson?   

– Are parents and other authority figures presented in a good light, or made to look “dumb”, cruel, abusive, etc?  Are children written as “misunderstood” by adults?   

-Does the book encourage rebellion?   

-Is the book “twaddle”?    

(A small part of my Landmark collection--you can recognize them by their distinctive spines.)

 -Does it exist simply to sell a product or promote a television show?  Is it based off a movie?  If so, it is probably “twaddle” and not worth the time.   

-Is it something adults enjoy, too?  Something you don’t mind reading over and over?   

-Is the book a “classic” or a “living book”?    

-Does the book leave you “hanging” (feeling as if the story isn’t really finished?  I hate that!)   

-I like books that “swallow me up.”  You know what I mean—books written so well that your imagination takes over, and instead of seeing the print, you only “see” the story.  I also like books that make me think.   


-I like books whose characters seem real and have depth (you have to care about what happens to them.)   

Where to Find Your Books    

   If you don’t have lots of money to spend on growing your home library (who does?), you’re going to have to be persistent and patient.  Over the years, we’ve built up our library by scouring yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and library book sales.  You can do the same!  (It’s the thrill of the hunt, baby!  If you ever go to a yard sale or book sale and find a Landmark book or a Happy Hollister’s book when you know other collectors came before you somehow missed it, you’ll know what I mean.)  Other sources you might investigate include Yahoo loops that allow “sale days” (where members can post books for sale via the internet), chat groups devoted to buying and selling books, and the old standbys EBay and Amazon, which also sell used books–some for as little as a penny (plus shipping.)  You might consider budgeting for books as part of your homeschool curriculum, which can then be added to you home library.   

Happy Hollisters Books

 Organizing Your Books   

     Why spend all that time and money acquiring a home library if it isn’t organized?  Without organization, you won’t know what you have, and you won’t be able to find what you have when you need it.  I’ve divided my books into categories.  I used to label some of my less “special” (i.e. non-collectable books) using colored tape, stickers, or file labels covered with clear strapping tape (this can damage books, so don’t EVER do this on hard to find/vintage books.) 

This obviously makes the books easier to find and re-shelve.  But now that my children are growing older, I simply shelve books together by subject, and instruct the children to always put them back where they came from.  If they don’t know, they are instructed ask me to put them away.   

     I do shelve some of our books by author—but only the special authors I that I collect (Gene Stratton Porter, Genevieve Foster, Marguerite D’Angeli, Marguerite Henry, C.W. Anderson, etc.)    

     Here are my categories:  One whole bookshelf is devoted to Picture Books, and one is full of Easy Readers (when my children were young, these were divided into sub-categories.)  I also keep chapter books for younger children together (First Chapter Books), and  divide the rest into Middle Literature and Preteen-Adult Literature—some grouped by author.  Additionally, there is a whole shelf devoted to Famous Animal Stories (especially dogs and horses); a full shelf of Missionary Stories; a couple of shelves of Religious books and Reference, a full shelf of Poetry, a full shelf of Eyewitness books, and a shelf for Art, Artists and Architecture.   Holiday books are kept in tubs and placed across the top of the longest wall of shelves (divided by holiday.)  I also keep my Seasonal books up there (summertime, wintertime, etc.)    

      History/Geography is divided into these major categories (these topics have at least one shelf each):   

General World History; Ancient History; Middle Ages/Renaissance (Kings, Queens, castles, etc);  Geography/Places to Know/Cultures; Early American History (Columbus until Civil War); Civil War/Slavery/Reconstruction; Later American History (approximately from the late 1800’s until the present, excluding the major wars); Wars and Warfare (World Wars, later wars, war craft, weapons, etc); Biographies (some biographies are shelved with their time period—i.e. Lincoln is shelved with the Civil War).  California History shares part of a shelf with the topic, Ships, Sailors and the Sea (pirates, etc).   

     Science is divided up into these major categories (most are only a part of a shelf):  Field guides/General Nature Study; Creation Science/Dinosaurs/Archeology (one shelf); Science Experiments/Microscopes/Disaster Science and Spies share a shelf; Human Body/Medicine (& history of—one full shelf); Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians (one shelf), Insects, Trees and Plants (one shelf); Oceans/Ocean Life (one shelf); Habitats (one shelf); Disaster Science/Weird Science/Spy Technology (one shelf); Science Sets/Reference (one shelf); Space/Astronomy/Weather share a shelf, as do Rocks, Caves, and Volcanoes (earth science); How Things Are Made/How Things Work; Energy, Gravity, Physics, and Technology (engines, machines, inventions—including airplanes, etc).   


Book Lists and Books About Books   

       There are many ways to “find” good books.  A good place to start is in homeschool catalogs.  I you see a certain book praised in several different catalogs, it is probably a fairly safe bet. However, even within homeschool catalogs I have found books that I would never want my children to read and some that I felt were a waste of time (twaddle…as I said, I’m very picky.  Additionally, some books fall into another special category—books we don’t read because we find their content objectionable, but for the sake of cultural relevance, we’ll discuss the premise of the book and/or read a summary of it.)    

     Here are my favorite ways to find good quality literature books:   

-Stick to the classics.  It’s disturbing to me that so many of the great classics don’t even appear on book lists nowadays (especially government school book lists.)  It’s better to have a few of the very best books than shelves and shelves of “twaddle”.   

-It’s not always true, but in general, books written before the 1950’s will be less likely to contain offensive material and MORE likely to include references to God or good morals.   

-Learn about the great authors.  Once again, there are exceptions, but in general, when you find an author you like, it’s a good idea to seek out the other books s/he has written.   

-Seek out a mentor/friend who has the same standards as you do, and ask for recommendations.   

My "First Book of" collection

-Use books about books:  A some of the best are:  Honey for a Child’s Heart,  Turning Back the Pages of Time, Books Children Love,  and Who Then Should We Read?   

    There are many others, but these are my favorites.    

     If you have a preschooler, you will find that these books list very few picture books.  That’s why I included an almost chapter-long list of books especially for preschool-third grade (25 pages of mostly picture books!)    

     There are also some good booklists online.  Here are some of the more popular ones (remember, I can’t vouch for each and every book on these lists–they are just a “jumping off” point for you.  You must still investigate your books before purchasing.  Some of these lists DO contain books relating to mythology and magic..use your own judgement.  These lists can introduce you to authors and titles that you may not be familiar with, but tread carefully.) 

Five In a Row Book Lists (very highly recomended; no objectionable content that I am aware of.)  

1000 Good Books List  

Eager Reader Website   

My favorite catalogs for literature (not mentioned above):  

Purple House Press (reprints of classic picture books!) 

The Book Peddler   

Lifetime Books and Gifts   

Winter Promise  

My Father’s World    

     Final tips:  When you’re just starting your library, take your wish list, a list of the books you already have (especially the books from any series you’re collecting) AND a book about books with you whenever you hunt for books (better yet, just keep it in your purse/car.)  This will help you decide if a book is appropriate, remember what you’re looking for, AND help you avoid buying doubles.  

        Happy hunting!   


Books I Collect:  Landmark books, “First” books, Gene Stratton Porter books, Marguerite Henry books (this website does not contain a complete list of her books.  Cinnabar the One O’Clock Fox is missing, among others, I’m sure), Happy Hollister Books, Marguerite de Angeli books,  and many, many others!!     

Portions of this post were paraphrased from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.   Remember, copyrighted materials may not be used or re-posted without permission. 

Posted in Book Lists, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Picture Books, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »