Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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  • A Balanced Approach:

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

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

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

Archive for the ‘Homeschool Preschool’ 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.

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 3, 2014


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

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

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

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

How to Get Started

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

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

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

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

Playing With Our Children:

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 28, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About us (parents):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Storybooks

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

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

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

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

Happy Day Books (available most Bible bookstores)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of our favorites for older children:

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

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

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

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

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

Finally: Conversations and Daily Life

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

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

“It makes Jesus happy when you share.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exposing the Seven Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers, by Reb Bradley

Christian Child Training Versus Free-Will by Barbara Frank.

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

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

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 18, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adult Peer Pressure and the Homeschooling Parent

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 6, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Circle Time for Preschool at Home/Homeschool

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 12, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

2. Bible memory work/catechism

3. Bible story and/or devotional.

4.  Prayer

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

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

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

3.  Story time

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

Keeping Circle Time Fun

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

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

Circle Time for Older Children 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

~Susan

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in circle time, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homeschool in Freedom: Breaking All the Rules, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 20, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth About Early Formal Academics (revisited, with lots of new research links)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 8, 2012


We’ve all heard these sayings about education: “the earlier the better.” “Let’s start our kids early, and give them an advantage.” “Early readers do better in school,” and so on. But are any of these widely held ideas true? Is there any proof to back up these sayings? The truth is, not one single study that has shown that early formal academics are beneficial to normal young children from loving homes. No study has shown any long-term benefit to early formal academics, and there is no proof that learning to read earlier is better than learning later. However, there is considerable proof that early academics can cause harm.

Consider this: Until the last 30-40 years or so, most children weren’t introduced to the alphabet in a formal lesson type of way until Kindergarten–and even then, often only the upper case letters! Nowadays, many children are taught the alphabet in preschool—or even before (as toddlers.) The results have not been encouraging. In fact, the more the public schools demand of young children, the worse America’s children do—academically and behaviorally. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Look at the evidence for yourself:

-More and more children are being diagnosed with learning disorders. Many developmental experts believe this is due to the recent “push down” in preschool/school curriculum, combined with a lack of time for play and other more traditional preschool-type activities.  On average, 1 in 6 children are diagnosed with some type of  developmental disability, a 15% increase between 1997-2008 (this is mostly due to attention deficit disorder.)

School/academic  preschool often presents unique problems for boys:  Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder  than girls are, probably because boys naturally have higher activity levels than girls do, and thus have a harder time sitting still (or listening, or being quiet, etc…). Additionally, in general, boys mature later than girls, and often are not ready for formal academics.

-Literacy and literary knowledge continues to decline. The web is abuzz with commentators questioning/lamenting: “Is reading dead?”  Even Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

But there is hope…Most commentators  conclude that reading is not dead–it’s just changing. Less people are reading the great literary works, and more are reading in short snippets–tweets, texts, and blogs versus reading real literature. If that is true,  reading is in its death throes as far as I’m concerned. Thank-goodness homeschooolers are still keeping it alive! (For more, read the Literary Crisis  or read the shocking statistics about reading in the U.S.)

-Studies have shown that children whose preschool experience was child-initiated did better in elementary school. From Moving up the Grades: Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success, by Rebecca A. Marcon, University of North Florida: “.….By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences. Their progress may have been slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduced formalized learning experiences too early for most children’s developmental status” (emphasis added; read the entire article HERE.)

-Many parents/schools are “miseducating” young children. From “Academics, Literacy, and Young Children,” Childhood Education, Spring 2000, by Elizabeth M. Nel: Important points: “Miseducation…(It) puts a child at risk for psychological damage (Werner & Strother, 1987); what is worse, it is apparently for no good reason, since the benefits of early reading instruction are relatively insignificant. …Therefore, with respect to literacy, developmentally appropriate preschool academics do not involve formal reading instruction, but rather they promote print awareness (Kontos, 1986) by exposing young children to letters, words, and numbers in meaningful contexts (Lesiak, 1997).…Reading to children is one of the best ways to model literacy skills (Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995). Reading should not be limited to a set story-time, but rather should be shared with children throughout the day.”

-There is no advantage to learning to read early: From Rush Little Baby: How the Push for Infant Academics Might Actually be a Waste of Time-or Worse, by By Neil Swidey, October 28, 2007, The Boston Globe: (Watch the video, then scroll down for the article. It’s long, but worth the time; and it’s not only about infants.) Quote: “A classic study in the 1930s by noted researcher and Illinois educator Carleton Washburne compared the trajectories of children who had begun reading at several ages, up to 7. Washburne concluded that, in general, a child could best learn to read beginning around the age of 6. By middle school, he found no appreciable difference in reading levels between the kids who had started young versus the kids who had started later, except the earlier readers appeared to be less motivated and less excited about reading. …”Many efforts to teach a child to read before 4 or 5 years of age are biologically precipitate and potentially counterproductive for many children. ‘The danger in pushing reading too early, Wolf says, is that, for many children, we may be asking them to do something for which their brains are not ready. You run the risk of making a child feel like a failure before they’ve even begun,’ she says. And while the gains from early reading may fade away, the damage from being tagged a slow kid at a young age has the potential to be permanent.’” …..”Study after study shows the best thing parents can do for their children is give them a nurturing, rich, vibrant environment, reading to them often and exposing them to lots of language in organic ways. Reading books out loud is most effective when the parent uses the words on the page to help the child make connections to his or her own world.” …”As long as parents are exposing their children to a nurturing, vibrant environment, reading to them regularly, and speaking with them intelligently, they should feel free to put the flash cards away.”

. -Harm is the result when children enter an academic first-grade program too soon: This is from a surprising source–The Longevity Project,  a twenty year project at the University of Riverside: (My summary):  According to the study, these children had adolescent problems, problems later in life, and “an earlier DEATH!” Now THAT’S scary!! (NOTE: The study results regarding early learning are toward the end of the video, linked above.)

My conclusion: We should relax and enjoy the preschool years! Following your children’s lead when it comes to early academics is the wisest choice. Watch your children for signs of interest and natural learning, so that you neither push your children, nor hold them back. Remember, our goal should be to find “balance”….we do this by addressing the needs of the whole child (spirit, mind, and body) and by using an individualized, developmentally appropriate approach. This is more than just a “good idea”; it is a necessity, since every child is different and develops at his/her own, God-given time-table.

Finally: It’s important to know that most, if not all of the studies that are highly promoted as showing  the “benefits” to early formal education have been done on “at risk” or “disadvantaged” children, NOT children from average American homes. Furthermore, the studies showed that any “advantage” the children gained was short-lived, and disappeared altogether by the third grade. Furthermore, the studies ignored the negative effects of early formal education, such as those listed above (and more.) Still not convinced? Check out the links below, and the following books:

 Links About Readiness:

Best Homeschooling (ALL these articles are great!)

Preschooling at Home: My article, What Your Preschooler Really Needs (lots of good resources on this site.)

Is Five Too Soon to Start School? (from the U.K.)

Should Preschools be all work and no play? (This highlights a lot of the research I mention above in a practical way. Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to get our children ready for Kindergarten; we can make our Kindergarten ready for them, instead.)

Paula’s Archives (another great collection of articles)

Books about Readiness/Early Learning:

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think-and What We Can Do About It, Jane M. Healy, PH.D., Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 1990.

Home Grown Kids, Raymond and Dorothy Moore*

Miseducation: Preschoolers At Risk, David Elkind*

Einstein Never Used Flashcards, Kathy Hirsh-Paskek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick*

(Remember, there is a whole chapter on the issue of readiness in Homepreschool and Beyond.)

 © 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Early Academics, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool curriculum, Readiness | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2012


Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2012? I can’t believe how fast 2011 went. Why do the years seem to go faster the older you get?

This is the time of year when many of us reassess our lives and our homeschools, making changes and setting new goals. How are things going for you? I have to admit, I seem to be making the same type of “resolutions” the last several years…I think I have a problem!!

While I’ve been contemplating this and re-working my goals, the Lord has laid something on my heart. We always examine the goals that we think are the “big things” in our lives—the main things–and rightly so. But what about all those little things?! Sometimes those little things add up to really big things—or they are important components of the “big” things.

As always, I think about relationships first. I’ve been considering how much little time I really spend on them. We all know we can never spend enough time with the Lord (reading/studying His Word, praying, etc.) Along the same lines—I’ve also been considering how I model prayer for my kids. I want our prayer time to go way deeper than it has before. And now that my boys are getting bigger, I want to encourage them to pray more on their own, as well as practice/become more comfortable praying aloud—even in front of people outside of our family.

When it comes to my relationship with my kids: I want to be sure that I don’t live only for peace and quiet, or rules, or routines; yes, those things are important, but relationship if MORE important. So I’m asking myself if I’m taking the time to do those little things that communicate my love and availability to my kids. Am I taking the time to build our relationships? Am I doing those “little” things, like:

-Am I giving the boys plenty of (appropriate) loving touch (cuddling, hugs, ruffling hair, rubbing shoulders, patting their backs at night, etc)

-Do I really listen to them, or do I tune them out and say “uh-huh,” without really paying attention?

-Do I call to them across the house, or get up and attend to their needs? (OUCH—I’m SO guilty of this one!)

-Do I do little things to let them know that they are loved/that I’m thinking of them? Things like buying them their favorite yogurt, making their favorite meal/treat, and so on?

-Do I praise their good behavior, naming the character trait they are modeling (obedience, patience, diligence, self-control, etc?)

-Do I take the time to play with them? Play games with them? Get silly with them?

-Am I making time for the “fun stuff” in our homeschool? (We did lots of “fun stuff” over our Christmas break—I want to keep the trend going!)

I know there’s one thing I have been overlooking: Time outside—exercise—otherwise known as PE. All kids need it, but when it comes to pre-hormonal boys….well, let’s just say it becomes a necessity. No matter how I feel, I’ve got to take the time to go outside with the boys and make SURE they spend at least an hour playing hard, be it in free play or in specific skill areas. I’m thinking about putting together a PE post…would that be helpful to any of you?

Finally, I’m going to re-read my tab, “Goals for the Balanced Mom.” I know I have lots of new subscribers, so I’d like to encourage you to take the time to read it, too, if you haven’t already. It talks about those “main things” all children need, no matter their age. By keeping our goals in mind, and remembering those little things that make up our larger goals, we can break our goals into “do-able” bits that we all can accomplish.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Teaching Our Children About the Symbols of Christmas

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 7, 2011


(This is a repost that I thought should be brought to your attention.)

Christmas is my favorite time of year AND my favorite holiday.  Some families worry that Christmas has become too commercialized, and that its real meaning has been forgotten.  Even many of the traditional Christmas symbols seem faded or jaded to us.  But have you ever considered teaching your children the real meanings of our Christmas symbols?  This can help our children focus their attention where it belongs. Many of our traditional symbols offer perfect Christmas object lessons!

Many of our symbols (nativity scenes, sheep, wise men, stars, angels, etc) have obvious meanings.  Others are not so obvious, but they are just as special:

The Christmas tree is an evergreen tree—a tree that never turns brown and never loses its leaves.  This reminds us of God’s unchanging love for us.  Evergreen trees point towards heaven, reminding us to think about God.  Additionally, many pine trees’ new growth (around Easter time) is in the shape of a cross!  (School-age children will enjoy the book, The Legend of the Christmas Tree.)

Lights and candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, and that He wants us to be lights in the darkness, too.

Wreath:  The circle shape of the wreath reminds us that God is eternal-from everlasting to everlasting.  He has no beginning, and no end.  It also reminds us of His everlasting love.

Bells are rung in times of celebration.  Many churches around the world ring bells on Christmas to celebrate Christ’s birth.  Also, sheep wear bells so that their shepherd knows where they are at all times.  Jesus always knows where we are, what we are doing, and even what we are thinking.  We can depend on Jesus to help us when life gets hard—just as the shepherd takes care of His sheep.

Candy Canes:  Turn a candy cane upside down and you have a “J” for Jesus.  Turn the candy cane over and you have a shepherd’s hook, to remind us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  The red of the candy cane reminds us that Jesus shed His blood for us, and the white reminds us of Christ’s sinless life. (The book, The Legend of the Candy Cane shares this beautifully (for ages 5 +). It also states that the stripes remind us of Jesus’ suffering, and that “by his stripes we are healed.” There is also a new version of the candy cane story that is by an author I enjoy (although I haven’t seen the book): The Candymaker’s Gift: The Legend of the Candy Cane.

Doves—are traditional symbols of peace. Birds remind us to praise the Lord with song.  They also remind us that Jesus knows when even the smallest sparrow falls.  If God knows and cares for the sparrows, how much more will He care for us?!

Holly reminds us of Christ’s suffering.  The sharp leaves remind us of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, and the red berries remind us of His shed blood.

Santa Claus:  Santa was a real man—“Saint Nicholas”, who was famous for His giving, so “Santa” is often a symbol of giving and “the spirit” of Christmas.

A personal note about Santa:  I hope you’ll think about telling your children the truth about Santa.  We choose to tell our children the truth; Santa is something fun we pretend about at Christmas time (we also tell them not to spoil the secret for any one else—learned that through experience!)  We don’t want our children to learn the truth about Santa and be crushed.  We don’t want them to wonder, “If Santa is pretend, is Jesus pretend, too?  What if my parents are lying to us about Jesus, just like they lied about Santa?”  We don’t want to place the seeds of doubt in our children’s minds.

We give gifts to remind us that the wise men gave gifts to Jesus on His birthday.

Here are some symbols we learned about in the book, The Jesus Tree: 

Jesus Tree

Christmas balls (ornaments) are round, like the world.  This reminds us that God made the world.

Snowflakes are unique; no two are alike.   No two people are alike, either.  God makes each of us are special, and He loves us all.

Christmas colors: 

Red-the blood of Jesus

Green-God’s everlasting love

Gold-was given to Jesus by the Wise Men.  It is also a symbol of Kingship or royalty.

Purple-the color of royalty.

© 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 Family Life, Holidays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | 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 »

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 November 4, 2011


 This is one of the finger plays you might learn if you attend Gymboree with your children. You can also  hear it on Parachute Express’s CD, “Shakin’ It”.

Great Big Cat

There was a great BIG cat (hold hands out wide)

And a WEE little mouse (say “wee” in a high-pitched voice; hold pointer fingers close together to show how small the mouse was.)

Who ran around, and around (twirl hands around quickly)

In a high, high house (hold finger-tips together over head to make the roof-line of a house.)

Now, that WEE little mouse (say “wee” in a high-pitched voice; hold pointer fingers close together to show how small the mouse was.)

Got caught (begin to pretend to “catch” mouse by moving arms/hands together to scoop up mouse; clap hands together right after the word “last”) at last

Because the great BIG cat (hold hands out wide, emphasis on the word “big”)

Ran around (dramatic pause here-begin to twirl hands around)  and  around (dramatuc pause here; twirl hands faster)  sooo fast.  (hold out the word “sooo”, emphasize the word “fast”, saying it quickly, while twirling hands around quickly.)

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool | 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.)

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Backyard Nature Study: A Surprise Visitor

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 27, 2011


We had a visitor in our backyard this week—one that really surprised us. Here’s what
happened:

The dogs were barking like crazy. They seemed to be barking at something on the ground. In the past, they’ve killed mice (our doxies are great mousers), toads (I can’t tell you how many toads I’ve saved from the “jaws of death”—I’ve decided to count  next spring/summer), baby birds, and kittens (they dug under the fence and dragged them out of a neighbor’s yard—so sad–but they survived, thank goodness.) Anyway, the dogs were intently staring at something
on the ground, and barking like maniacs. I sent Ben outside to see what they were upset about, but I quickly followed him outside when I heard the dogs starting to fight over it. Was it another mouse, or some other creature I needed to save? I could see something in the grass, oblong shaped, but I wasn’t quite close enough to see what it was (or didn’t believe my eyes) until Ben shouted, “It’s a turtle!”

Sure enough, it was a turtle, flipped onto its back. I quickly snatched it out of the dog’s reach and brought it to safety inside.

The turtle was completely pulled into his shell.  There were not even any visible openings for its head, arms, or legs. We put it in a plastic container with some lettuce and a lid filled with water, and waited to see what would happen. We weren’t even sure if it was alive.

But after only a few minutes, a little head poked out! While the boys watched it, I got on the internet to see if I could identify it. I had noticed that the bottom of its shell seemed to be cracked in a straight line across the upper third of its body, and there was a tiny bit of blood in spots. That “crack” turned out to be a hinge—and we quickly identified it as a box turtle.

I found out that the box turtle’s hinge allows it to completely hide inside its shell. (There aren’t any visible holes in the shell at all when it’s pulled inside!) It can open and close its hinge  like a little door. Also, while inside their shells, box turtles can move their hinge and “rock” themselves from front to back. There is a band of skin around their necks—almost like a tight, thick choker necklace—that their head retracts into. Josh said it looked like
leather. This little guy had three back toes and four front toes, both with impressive little claws, and it had orange spots on its body. Whenever it was startled, it hissed. We were fascinated!

The boys begged to keep the turtle, but I knew that its presence, even in a habitat in the front yard, would drive our dogs nuts. I also knew my dear husband had no interest in trying to build
us a safe place to keep him/her…so I decided  to find our visitor a new home, and it’s a good thing I did.

A friend knew a friend who kept turtles, and she agreed to take it…until she saw it, that is. She could tell that it was a female, and she could tell right away that it was hurt and might
be sick. She didn’t want to risk exposing her healthy turtles to a sick one. So I drove it out to California Living Museum, having been assured by another friend that they would take her. However, they take only indigenous animals, so they didn’t want her, either! Even so, it wasn’t a wasted trip, because they gave me the name of someone from our local “Turtle and Tortoise Club”, saying they did “recues.”  What a relief.

That very night we bid good-bye to our visitor and drove her to the man from the Turtle Club. He immediately recognized that her shell had been chewed, right near her head (I don’t know why I didn’t realize it—it was obvious.) Also, her hinge had small specks of blood on it, still. Additionally, by then, we had realized that she wasn’t eating. He assured me that she would be seen by a vet right away, be nursed back to health, and then placed in a good home.

So ends our turtle adventure–except…naturally, like any typical homeschooling family, we had to learn more about turtles!

Box Turtle facts we learned (besides what I shared above):

-Box turtles are land-dwellers.

-Our little turtle was no more than 5 or 6 inches long, but she was surprisingly heavy.

-Box turtles eat grass, lettuce and so on (as I expected), but I was surprised to find out that they are omnivores–enjoying snails, worms, and other insects as well (they eat the snails shell and all.) According to  Box Turtle Care A to Z,  “Wild turtles are omnivores and in will eat earthworms, snails, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, carrion, grasses, fallen fruit, berries, mushrooms and flowers. They will take a bite of anything that smells edible.”  Apparently they love corn on the cob.

-Their backbones and ribs are fused to their shell. Since they have backbones, they are vertebrates.

-Turtles hibernate. Our friend told us that their pet turtles stop eating before hibernation (that’s not why ours had stopped eating–it is still warm here, and too soon for hibernation). When it’s time for them to hibernate, some people put their turtles in the vegetable drawer of their refrigerators for the winter; others put them in boxes (with newspaper padding) and then put them on a shelf in the garage until spring.

-Box turtles cannot right themselves if they are flipped on their backs. If we hadn’t found her, she would have died.

-Box turtles are NOT slow. They are quick little characters, and can even CLIMB.

-Box turtles can live as long as fifty years.

This was a unique opportunity for us to see a turtle close up–it really was amazing. I’m sorry the dogs chewed on her…I’m sorry we couldn’t keep her…but I’m glad we got to study
her for a couple of days, and glad to know she’ll get a good home.

Turtle books we’re going to read for continued research (This is one of those “teachable” moments that we’ll turn into a mini unit study):

Box Turtle at Long Pond, by William T. George

Take Along Guides: Frogs, Toads, and Turtles, by Diane L. Burns

A Turtle in the House, John Gabriel Navarra

Album of Reptiles, by Tom McGowen

(We’ll see if we get off on a tangent of reptiles, in general.)

Books for the boys to read:

Let’s Get Turtles (A Science I Can Read Book), by Millicent E. Selsam (a longer one)

Reptiles do the Strangest Things, by Leonora and Arthur Hornblow

© 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 Lists, Creation Science, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Nature Study, preschool at home, Reading Aloud, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 21, 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.

Galloping Horses

10 horses galloped into town (start by holding your hands behind your back, then bring hands around to the front and “gallop” your fingers in front of you.)

5 where black (hold out right hand in front of you, as if you were motioning to stop)

And 5 where brown (repeat action with other hand.)

They galloped up (make hands “gallop” up)

They galloped down (make hands “gallop” down)

Then they galloped and they galloped right out of town! (“gallop” hands off to one hand.)

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Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 14, 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.

5 Little Monkeys

5 little monkeys, swinging in a tree,

(hold up one hand for “5”, then hang hand down and “swing” it back and forth like a monkey hanging from a tree by it’s tail.)

Teasing Mr. Alligator “you can’t catch me—you can’t catch ME!”

 (put thumbs behind ears and mock the alligator by moving fingers back and forth)

Along came Mr. Alligator quick as can be,

(make an alligator by placing hands in the “prayer” position and then hold them straight out in front of body to make an alligator’s head; wiggle from side to side, so the alligator “swims”.)

And he snatched that monkey right out of the tree!

(use hands, still in “alligator” stance, to open and close with a clap right on the word “snatched”.)

Repeat, changing the number: 4 little monkeys swinging in a tree, and so on, counting down to zero. When you get to zero, you say:

Now there’s no more monkeys swinging in the tree

(old up fist to indicate “zero”, while shaking head, “no”.)

But here comes Mr. Alligator (put palms together to make alligator; make alligator “swim”)

As fat as he can be. (On the word, “fat”, hold arms out to sides to show a “fat” alligator body; rock arms and body from side to side, as if waddling.)

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Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011


 (Classic repost, updated.)     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

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