Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

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

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Archive for the ‘preschool at home’ Category

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

What Preschoolers Learn Through Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Play? The Importance of Play

Learning Through Play by David Elkind

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

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

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


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

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 »

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

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.)

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, preschool at home | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011

 (Classic repost, updated.)     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live the 4R’s!


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

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Curriculum, Early Academics, Education, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finger-Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 30, 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.

 10 Little Soldiers

 10 little soldiers, standing in a row. (Hold up ten fingers.)

When they see the captain, they bow just so. (Bend finger-tips only.)

They march to the left and march to the right (move hands to the left, then the right),

Then shut their eyes and sleep all night. (Fold hands in prayer stance, then place on side of head; lay head on hands, turn head to one side as if resting on a pillow, shut eyes and pretend to go to sleep. We usually add soft snoring sounds at this point.)

      Have fun, and remember, it is your confidence and enthusiasm that makes finger-plays “work” and come alive with fun!! ~Susan

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, preschool at home | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finger-Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 1, 2011

     O.K., O.K., I know it’s not Friday yet. But I wanted to get a head start, and have these in my subscriber’s in-boxes first thing in the morning. I hope to make “Finger-Play Fridays” a permament fixture around here for awhile–at least until I run out of finger-plays!  Let me know what you think.  ~Susan

 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.

 10 Little Fingers

 I have ten little fingers, and they all belong to me. (Hold up ten fingers)

I can make them do things—would you like to see? (Continue to hold up ten fingers)

I can shut them up tight (close fists)

I can open them wide (open fingers wide.)

I can put them together (put hands together)

Or I can make them hide (quickly hide hands behind back.)

I can jump them up high (“jump” hands up)

Or jump them down low (“jump” hands low.)

And I can fold them quietly, just like so.

(Fold hands together, interlacing fingers. On the words, “just like so”, move folded hands slightly up and down for emphasis; say the words, “just like so” with staccato emphasis.)


Posted in Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, preschool at home | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Review of Homepreschool and Beyond

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 19, 2011

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


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

Curriculum Review: Peak With Books

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 11, 2011

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

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

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

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


*encourages multiple readings of each book

*includes discussion ideas and activities related to each book.

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

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

Unlike Before Five in a Row:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Preschool at Home for Gifted Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 5, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Encourage curiosity and a love of learning.

-Allow lots of time for creative play.

-Continue to read aloud, even to readers.

Remember that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice for Parents of Young Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Method Review: Before Five in a Row

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Even More About Before Five in a Row  

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

 My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

More About Methods: The Waldorf Approach

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2011

        In my last post, I shared about my belief in the importance of balance when it comes to preschool/homeschool “teaching methods”.  I also promised to introduce you to a few of the more popular methods, and help you glean their best ideas for use in your home.  I’m going to start with Waldorf method.  But before I do, I’d like to share a little more about “method obsession.” 

        I disagree with the idea that there is any “perfect” method (or curriculum, later), OR any one method that we should become obsessed with.  Every child–every mom–every family–is different, and must choose the methods/philosophies that fit their needs, goals and beliefs.  I mention this because while I’ve been researching various methods, I’ve discovered that some proponents of certain methods go “over the top” with their enthusiasm.  For example, a book I read about the Montessori approach referred to the fact that early teachers of the method were thought of as  “goddesses” who were “worshipped” by their devoted followers (even if that is “just an expression”, that is NOT O.K.)  Others referred to the results of the approach as “magic”…but we all know that there is no such thing as “magic”.  As I say in my book:

 “…Not only is there no perfect curriculum, but there is no perfect or magical method or way of teaching that can guarantee success.  The most magical thing I can think of is simply the love, time, and attention of a patient parent who wants to help his children learn.  Because the truth is, homeschooling is more about relationship than curriculum or methods.  Parents can and do make just about anything work as curriculum if they have to.  More than the perfect curriculum, what learning takes is your time. Learning takes repetition, work, and discussion with an involved parent. Every method, book or text has its own strengths and weaknesses, but it is you-the “teacher”-that teaches, not the text or method.  What you bring to your homeschool is most important.”

        Another thing I’ve noticed that disturbs me: Many method enthusiasts vehemently object to any criticism of their preferred method, and take the criticism personally.  Instead of debating calmly or even “agreeing to disagree”, they become rude and hateful…even to the point of trying to take “revenge” on other people, putting them down, or trying to harm their reputations.  I’ve even seen people who claim to be Christians do this…this very un-Christian behavior.  I feel sure that my regular readers have more integrity than to behave that way, and I trust that new visitors to my site will behave accordingly.

        It is not my intention to initiate a fire storm, especially with me at the center of it.  I don’t want to get burned.  Nevertheless, I am determined to share my own personal opinions about these matters.  If you believe that I am in error, please feel free to comment about it—but do it kindly, gently, and in a spirit of Christian love and concern, which is the same spirit in which I endeavor to write.

        Finally, you should know that when I examine any “method”, I examine the main ideas it is known for, but I also go deeper and examine the method’s “founder” (if there is a single person famous for the approach), and his or her goals (what should the method achieve?) and world-view.  Is this person a Christian?  Does the method intend to impart any certain religious view or message?  If so, what is the message?  Is it Biblical? 

        Personally, I am extremely suspicious of any philosophy or “method” that is based on any ONE PERSON’S ideas. 

        The Word of God is our standard, and it is the only “perfect” method. 

What I Like and Don’t Like About the Waldorf Method

        The Waldorf method is gaining in popularity, and so it is a name that you may hear discussed in homeschooling circles.  It is an international movement, based on the writings of Rudolf Steiner.  The Waldorf method is best known for its most positive elements—the things I like about Waldorf (although they are NOT unique to Waldorf):

-A home-like environment filled with natural objects

-An emphasis on creative play and the imagination, including dramatic play, dress-up, etc {also used in the Creative Curriculum and the Charlotte Mason approach.}

-Lots of time spent outside, gardening and exploring nature {also used in the Charlotte Mason approach}

– Following a daily rhythm (routine), and following the rhythm of the year in regards to activities and stories (seasons, holidays and “festivals” are important in the Waldorf method; most homeschooling families make a big deal out of them, too.)  {These methods are also used in the Creative Curriculum approach.}

-The planning of specific activities for each day of the week (there is no rule about this–Monday could be painting day; Tuesday baking day; Wednesday nature walk day; Thursday dress-up day, Friday is cooking or hands-on science day, etc)  {a slightly different take on routines that would work with ANY method.}

– Encourage the use of imagination through stories and dramatic play (prop boxes are great for this.) {Creative Curriculum} 

-Emphasis on the arts: Singing, chanting, making music, painting and ceramics (sculpting/clay) and knitting (yes, even in the early years) are especially encouraged.  {Creative Curriculum, Charlotte Mason again.}

-Teachers stay with their students several years in Waldorf schools (often 8 years; of course, when you homeschool, your children will always know who their teacher is!)

-Television and computer time should be kept to a bare minimum (always a good idea.)

        As you can see, Waldorf has some ideas that are applicable to homepreschoolers/homeschoolers.  However, I cannot recommend the “Waldorf method” since it contains new-age, occult elements (reincarnation, pagan rituals, “karma”, clairvoyance, etc).  Even if/when these elements are not taught directly to the students, they are at the heart of the philosophy.   Waldorf also contains some very odd beliefs about education.  From the sources linked below, I’ve learned that, in general:

-“Outlining” (i.e. “drawing” or “sketching”) is discouraged; painting is preferred, wet-on-wet;

-No black or brown colors are to be used;

-No felt-tipped pens are allowed;

-Oral storytelling is preferred over picture books (oral storytelling is fun, but you know how adamently I feel about the importance of picture books!);

-Fairy-tales, myths, and legends (along with fairies, gnomes, and “gods”) are introduced to young children and presented almost as fact;

-Listening to recorded music is discouraged during the early years (I disagree; young children need to be introduced to classical music!)

-Only natural materials are to be used for clothing and in the classroom/home (no plastic toys, only toys made from natural materials such as wood, silk, or cotton is allowed/child-made/homemade is encouraged);

-Academics are delayed even if readiness, interest, or self-teaching exists (until around age 7, or the loss of the first tooth?!)

-“Spirituality” is emphasized, but only in reference to Waldorf beliefs, NOT Christianity (many beliefs and rituals are introduced, all on equal footing)

        According to Wikipedia, “The educational philosophy’s overarching goals are to provide young people the basis on which to develop into free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals, and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny, the existence of which anthroposophy posits.” (Huh?! Anthroposophy  is the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf’s founder.) 

        Some people claim that Waldorf is based on Christianity.  I disagree.  It is based on Steiner’s theories about child development, and his occultic philosophy of anthroposophy.  In my opinion, Waldorf is the ultimate in syncretism, or the blending of Christianity with other religions, beliefs, and gods—and humanism (the idea that man can better himself, without God.)  There is even a racist element to Waldorf. 

        The positive and best-known tenants of this method are  appealing at face-value, if they are separated from all occult content, but they are NOT unique; they are important parts of several other “methods” (I put them in brackets { } above.)  Therefore, even though I see the value in some of Waldorf’s ideas, in light of Waldorf’s occult content, I could NEVER call myself a proponent of the Waldorf method.  I also would NEVER choose to go ANY deeper into ANY of the Waldorf philosophies…or participate in ANY Waldorf-method training, due to those concerns…and I warn you not to, either.  For some other opinions and facts about Waldorf, check out the links below:

Warldorf’s twisted treatment of mythology and history

Spiritual aspects/ occultist teachings/Racist elements, written by a Jewish parent

Waldorf Watch:  The goal of Waldorf teachers—to become clairvoyant (with quotes from Steiner)

More information about Steiner, and his theories/beliefs

One family’s experiences in a Waldorf school (some interesting insights into the philosophy)

In Steiner’s own words:  His lectures  




        And finally, for another take on Waldorf, through a couple of popular Waldorf sites (they look so appealing!  Remember, there are many takes on the Waldorf method; but the philosophy behind the method is NOT Christian. Some Christians chose to identify themselves with the method anyway…hopefully, they “pick out the bones and use the meat”…separating themselves and the positive elements/methods from the spiritual beliefs of Steiner. 

The Magic Onions

Waldorf Homeschoolers        

Next post:  The Montessori method

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Some of this post was taken from the book, Homepreschool and Beyond; used with permission.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Methods, preschool at home, preschool curriculum | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Traditional Winter/Snow Unit for Preschool/Kindergarten

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 12, 2011

     Here is a traditional, literature-based preschool/Kindergarten unit on winter/snow for one week.  I listed the finger plays and songs first, since you will enjoy them all week.  The finger plays have been passed from teacher to teacher, and are therefore “author unknown.”  If anyone knows the author of these poems, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due.

Music/Finger Plays for the Week:

Snowman  (use this as a finger play, or sing it to the tune, “I had a little turtle, his name was tiny Tim…”)

There was a little snowman, who had a carrot nose (circle arms in front of self like a fat snowman.)

Along came a bunny, and what do you suppose?  (Hold up two fingers to make bunny ears and make them “hop”)

He was very very hungary (rub tummy)

And looking for some lunch (put hand over eyes to shade them and look from side to side)

He ate the little snowman’s nose (pretend to put food in your mouth)

Crunch, crunch, crunch! (pretend to chew a carrot).

5 Little Penguins

5 little penguins sat on the shore (hold up 5 fingers); One went for a swim, then there were 4 (“swim” one finger away; hold up four fingers.)

4 little penguins, looking out to sea, one went swimming, and then there were 3.  (hold up fingers OR remove felt board figure from the board.)

3 little penguins said, “What can we do?” One jumped in the water, then there were 2 (hold up 3 fingers; “jump” one finger away, then hold up 2.)

2 little penguins sat in the sun, this one swam off, then there was 1 (hold up 2 fingers; “swim” one away and hold up only 1.)

1 lonely penguin said, “This is no fun.” He dived in the water, and then there were none.  (Hold up 1 finger; make it “dive” into pretend water.  Hold up closed fist to show “none.”)

NOTE:  Find a picture of a penguin in a picture book or a felt board pattern book; make your own pellon felt board figures according to the directions  HERE. 

Songs to Sing

1 little, 2 little, 3 little snowmen.  4 little, 5 little, 6 little snowmen.  7 little,  8 little 9 little,  10 little snowmen, 10 fat little snow-men. 

Scroll down on THIS SITE to read some cute poems, finger plays and songs about winter/snow. 

Weekly Plan

Day One: 

Read the book, Snowflake Bently  by Jacquelin Briggs Martin. 

Activity:  Look up Snowflake Bently online and click on the snowflakes to get a closer look at his real pictures.

 Art:  Cut snowflakes and tape them to your windows or walls.  You can find directions HERE and HERE (Note to mom:  Save several detailed snowflakes of various sizes for another craft later in the week.)

Day Two:

Read Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. 

Discussion:  Katy kept going without complaining even though her work was hard. 

Activity:  Talk a little about maps.  Take your child for a walk around the block, and draw a map for your child (similar to the maps in the book) of your neighborhood or of other major landmarks close by (the grocery store, the library, Grandma’s house, etc.)  After your walk, let your child color her map.

Art:  Paint with white tempera paint on blue paper, like the pictures in Katy and the Big Snow.  Teach your child how to paint asterisks (“snowflakes.”)  TIP:  Mix tempera paint with salt to make sparkly, textured “snow”.

Day Three: 

Read The Mitten  by Alvin Tresselt (this is, by far, my favorite version.)

Art:  Make your own pretend “mittens.”  Trace around your child’s hand to make a mitten shape, and have your child cut them out (cut only one for each hand.)  Use a hole punch to make holes around the edges of the mitten; “sew” around the edges with yarn (you may need to tightly tape around the end of the yarn with masking tape to make it easier to thread through the holes.)   Last of all, decorate with felt-tipped pens. 

Punch holes where the dots are, then "sew" your mittens

Discussion:  What would these animals really do to keep warm during winter? (You can find out more tomorrow!)

Day Four: 

Read Animals in Winter (A National Geographic Book for Young Explorers) by Ron Fisher or another book that explains how animals survive the winter.  Another good book to consider is First Snow in the Woods, a Photographic Fantasy, by Carl R. Sams. 

Vocabulary to learn:  Migrate, hibernate, den, burrow.

Art:  Lay out one of the more detailed snowflakes you saved onto navy blue construction paper.  Use a sponge or cotton balls to dab paint around the snowflake and in all the holes.  Carefully lift up your snowflake to reveal a new snowflake. (NOTE:  You can also use doilies for this.)

Day Five: 

Read the Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. 

Activity:  If you live in a snowy area, bring in some snowballs and watch them melt. If you leave them a little longer, you can talk about how they disappear altogether (evaporate.)  If you don’t live in a snowy area, substitute ice chips for snow.  You can also experiment with salt and snow; does salt make the snow melt more quickly?  Why do cities put salt on their roads?

Vocabulary to learn:  Melt, freeze, salt, sodium, evaporate.

Poem:  Read the poem “Snowball” by Shel Silverstein HERE. 

Art:  Make a snowman.  Use two or three different sizes of doilies (very cute) OR paper plates OR construction paper circles to make a snowman.  Other option:  Have your child paint the circles, and let dry before decorating.  Add real buttons, small sticks for arms, black construction paper circles for eyes, nose, and mouth OR draw facial features.  Other ideas:   Mom can cut  a “carrot nose” out of construction paper, and a hat out of construction paper or felt (OR draw them out and let your child do the cutting.)   Here’s an old snowman that one of my kids made years ago:

     If you live in a snowy area, be sure to make a snowman  outside, too!  You can also try dragging a stick through the snow, smacking the stick on trees or bushes, and making snow angels just like in the book.  We live in sunny southern California, so we made a special trip to the mountains to play in the snow as a wrap up for our unit.

Other Books to read:

Big Snow, the, by Bertha Hader

Hat, The, by Jan Brett

Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

White Snow, Bright Snow, by Alvin Tresselt

Other unit ideas: 

-Play with white play dough (make snowmen, animal tracks, etc.)

-Finger paint with shaving crème (our favorite place to do this is during bath time, on the walls of the tub.)

-Stamp with snowflake-shaped stamps onto black or navy-blue construction paper.

-Making a paper bag penguin is a tradition in most preschools—and easy to do at home, too.  Find directions HERE  or HERE

-Collage with white packing peanuts (to emulate snow.)

-Make a scarf out of fleece.  Purchase fleece remnants.  Cut a rectangle to the length you desire. Mom should cut a fringe; children can tie the finge off (knot every two fringes together) OR—allow your child to cut a shorter fringe.  For more detailed directions, look HERE

-Read other books about penguins,  polar bears, and Inuits (what we used to call “Eskimos”.)

-Make an Inuit out of a paper plate:  Cut tan construction paper to fit the inside of a small paper plate.  Color a face with felt tipped pens.  Glue on black yarn for hair (forehead area) and cotton balls on top all the way around to make a fur hood around the face.

Have fun!


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

Posted in Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 25, 2010

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

Planning Your Routines

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

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

What to Do if You Have Older and Younger Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Let me know how it goes–I love comments!


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

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

Thanksgiving Unit Ideas for Preschool through 3rd Grade

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 25, 2010

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

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


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

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

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

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

 Memory Verses:

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

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

 Vocabulary/Things to Learn About:

-Pilgrims, Indians, Native Americans

-Squanto, Samoset

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


-The first Thanksgiving

 Books to Read:

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

Thanksgiving Is, by Gail Gibbons

Three Young Pilgrims, by Cheryl Harness

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

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

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

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

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

Three Young Pilgrims, by Cheryl Harness

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

Books for Older Children (5-7+): 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving:  A Time to Remember, by Barbara Rainey

Turkey Trouble, by Silvano/Harper

Music and Finger Plays:

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

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

 Songs to sing:

 Turkey Dinner (Tune:  Frere Jacque) 

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

Who will get the drumstick?  Yummy, Yummy drumstick?

All sit down.  All sit down.

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

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

Me-oh-my!  Me-oh-my!

(Author unknown)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hymns/Spiritual Songs to Sing:

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


Praise to the Lord, The Almighty

God is so Good

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

Showers of Blessings

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

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

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

 Finger Plays:

5 Little Pilgrims

5 little Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day.

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

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

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

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

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

But before they had any turkey and dressing,

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

(Author unknown)

We Thank Thee

We thank Thee, oh God, for sunshine bright

(Arms up, fingers touching to make a sun)

For birds that sing at morning light.

(Touch thumbs together, fly bird)

For happy children everywhere,

(clap on bold print)

And for our mother’s loving care.

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

(Author Unknown)

The Brave Little Indian

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

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

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

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

He ran like a rabbit (fingers run)

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

(Author Unknown)

5 Little Turkeys 


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

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

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

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

It comes with lots of love, especially to say,

I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving Day!

(Author unknown)

Indian Headbands

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

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

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

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

Foods to Try/Cooking Experiences:

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

-Make homemade applesauce

-Make cornbread

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

    Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!


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

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

Generations Radio Interview

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2010

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

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

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

     Live the 4R’s!


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