Homepreschool and Beyond

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

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
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    • Covers all areas of curriculum
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    • Literature based
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Posts Tagged ‘Preschool curriculum’

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 8, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Links About Readiness:

Best Homeschooling (ALL these articles are great!)

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

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

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

Paula’s Archives (another great collection of articles)

Books about Readiness/Early Learning:

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

Home Grown Kids, Raymond and Dorothy Moore*

Miseducation: Preschoolers At Risk, David Elkind*

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

The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick*

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

 © 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved.


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

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 4, 2011

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

Great Big Cat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 14, 2011

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

5 Little Monkeys

5 little monkeys, swinging in a tree,

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

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

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

Along came Mr. Alligator quick as can be,

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

And he snatched that monkey right out of the tree!

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

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

Now there’s no more monkeys swinging in the tree

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

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

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

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool | 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 »

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 »

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 »

Preschool/Kindergarten: A One or Two Day Unit for Groundhog Day (Feb. 2)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 17, 2011

Books to read:

Groundhog Day, by Gail Gibbons

Gregory’s Shadow, by Dan Freeman 

Groundhog Day (Rookie Read About Holidays) by Michelle Aki Baker (all the books in this series that I’ve seen have been good.)

What Makes a Shadow (a Let’s Read and Find Out book)

 Shadows and Reflections, by Tanya Hoban

How Groundhog’s Garden Grew, by Lynn Cherry (I haven’t seen this one, but I have some of her other books and enjoyed them very much.) 


-Watch the news in the morning (on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2nd) and see what the groundhog “predicted.” Talk about the prediction, and whether or not you think it could be true.

-Record the weather for the next six weeks and see if the groundhog was right or wrong.  If he was right, be sure to explain to your children that he isn’t always right.

-Check out the website, Groundhogs at Hogheaven and look at pictures of groundhogs and listen to the groundhog’s calls.  Find out even more about groundhogs (or woodchucks)  HERE and more about Groundhog Day HERE

-Play shadow tag.   

Learn a Tongue-twister:  Teach your kids the old stand-by:  “How much wood does a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”  (“Woodchuck” is another nickname for the groundhog.)

Vocabulary:  Hibernate (“Phil” is pulled from his burrow—he hibernates), groundhog, woodchuck, whistle pig (other names for the groundhog), predict, weather.

Art: -Make a pop up ground hog or a stick puppet groundhog (preschoolers can assemble these if you prepare the pieces.) 

-Make shadow art:  Fold a piece of construction paper in half.  Have your child paint (thick tempera paint works best) on only ONE SIDE of the fold.  Then carefully fold the paper together and press gently.  Open the fold to see an exact copy (or shadow) of what your child painted.

© 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, Homeschooling, preschool curriculum, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Character Catechism: Obedience, Honor, and Self-Control

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 28, 2010

         Many Christian parents believe it is important to use some sort of catechism to systematically teach their children about God.  But I wonder…how many of them have ever considered the importance of learning a “character catechism?”  I’ve been thinking about it for some time now.  During our Bible time, we practice our catechism and our memory verses (we use Bob Jones curriculum’s catechism.)  I’ve started to write a “character catechism” to go with it.  Some of it I’ve gleaned from the wisdom of others, and some of it I’ve put together myself.    Here is an example I gleaned from the book, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes…In You and Your Kids,  by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller:

1.  Obedience

Q.  What is Obedience?

A. Obedience means doing what you are told, right away, with a good attitude, without being reminded.

Q.  How do we obey? 

A.  Everyday, all the way, in a quick and cheerful way.  (Tip from the book: Instead of allowing children to argue, tell them to “obey first” and then you’ll discuss it.  Usually once they’ve obeyed, they won’t need to talk about it anymore.)

 2.  Honor: 

Q.  The Bible says to “honor your father and mother.”  What is honor?

A.  Honor means:

  ~ Treating others as special

  ~ Doing more than what is expected

  ~ Having a good attitude.

  You can show others honor when:

  ~ You’re told to do something.

  ~ You’re told, “No”

  ~When someone dishonors you.

 Bible Verses About Obedience & Honor:

  Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.  “Honor your Father and Mother,” (which is the first commandment with a promise): “that it may be well with you, and that you may receive long life on earth.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 (NKJ)

 Children, obey your parents in all things for this is well pleasing to the Lord.  Colossians 3:20 (NKJ)

         I put these definitions in with our memory verse cards and we use them in the traditional “catechism” style; I ask the question, the children answer (we answer together till they learn it.) 

         It’s easy to make up your own character catechism for other character traits you are emphasizing/studying.  First you need to decide on a trait that’s important to you, and then find a good definition.  You can look for definitions in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary or on websites such as Heart of Wisdom.  The best online sources I’ve found is the Character Journal and Lifestyle Homeschool.  Once you find a definition you like, re-word it so that it is simple enough for your children to understand.  This completes the “what” part of the question—i.e. “What is self-control?” Answer: “Self-control means…” Next, brain-storm the “how”:  How do we show self-control? Be specific, and use examples that your children will relate to.  Finally, do a topical/keyword search on Bible Gateway   to look up Bible verses on self-control.  Here is my “catechism” for self-control:

 Q.  What is self-control?

A.   Self-control means controlling my thoughts, attitudes and actions.  Self-control means doing what is right even when I don’t want to.  For older children/adults: Self-control means that “I consider a later benefit more important than my present impulse” (this definition is so convicting!  I found it in another book by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, Good and Angry.  It’s is my current read and I’m loving it.)

Q.  How can I show self-control?

A.  I show self-control when I do what I’m supposed to do quickly and cheerfully even when I don’t want to.  I use self-control when I do not let others “make” me get angry (anger is a choice.)  I have opportunities to use self-control when:

~I don’t get my way.

~I have to wait for what I want/I can’t have what I want.

~When someone is annoying me.

~When I’m told to do something I don’t want to do.

~When I want to say something mean or sassy.

~When I’m tired, hungry, grumpy, or not feeling well.

 Bible verses about self-control:  Galatians 5:23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

1 Thessalonians 5:6b …Let us be alert and self-controlled.  (NIV)

 For older kids, memorize 1 Peter 5:8: Be self-controlled and alert.  You enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.   ~and~

 Proverbs 25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.  (NIV) (Explain to your kids that in Bible times, cities had walls around them to keep our wild animals and enemies.  If we don’t have self-control, we are like a city with no walls; bad things can come to us.)

          If you can, think of a hymn or Sunday school song (that your children can understand) that applies to what you are learning.   Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam applies to obedience, honor, and self-control.  For self-control, also sing  Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See (other verses:  Oh, be careful little hands what you do; oh, be careful little feet where you go; ears what you hear; lips what you say; mind what you think.)

          Other resources you might want to explore to help you develop your own character catechism: 

Character First! Curriculum (ages 6-7+)

A Child’s Book About…(Being Lazy, Being Mean, Disobeying, Interrupting, Throwing Tantrums, etc-many other titles), a “Help Me Be Good Book”, by Joy Berry.  (Not from a Christian perspective, but very good. I don’t understand why they got such mixed reviews.  I have found them to be very helpful.)

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank-You Book, by Richard Scarry, which contains the story of Pig Will and Pig Won’t, a little pig who learns to be cheerful, cooperative, and helpful around the house. (Obedience/self-control.) 

 What Do You Do, Dear/What Do You Say, Dear? , by  Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak  (Manners=self-control!)

What Would Jesus Do? Charles M. Sheldon’s Classic In His Steps now retold for children, by Mack Thomas (5+)

My Favorite Resources for Adult Reference:

Building Christian Character:  Developing Christ-Like Qualities in our Personal Lives,  by John Regier (used to be available from Biblical Concepts in Counseling; appears to be out of print.) 

Creative Correction:  Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline,  Lisa Whelchel

 Don’t Make me Count to Three, by Ginger Plowman

 Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook, by Sonja Shafer

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

Posted in Character Traits, Curriculum, Discipline, Family Rules, Holiness, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Common Preschool Myths Debunked, Part 3

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 11, 2010

 Myth #5:  Waiting for children to develop “readiness” is the same as withholding academics from them.

Truth:  Waiting for readiness is not the same as withholding academics/learning from your children. Don’t think that being careful not to push early academics means that you are holding your children back or not exposing them to academics at all.  (I don’t believe in holding children back if they truly are ready; nor do I believe in pushing….I believe in balance.)  Preschoolers are learning all the time, whether we are aware of it or not.  If you provide your preschoolers with a print rich, stimulating home environment and read aloud to them everyday (preferably several times a day), your children will learn.  These developmentally appropriate activities are “teaching” your child more than you can imagine.   The goal of my approach is balance.  A balanced approach addresses not only your child’s academic needs, but his spiritual, physical, and emotional needs as well. 

     The thing to do is watch your children for signs of readiness, interest, or natural learning.  When you see those signs–when your children begin to ask you about letters and numbers–-that’s the time to begin short, play based lessons in the form of hands-on activities and games.  You can use store bought or home-made games like Memory or Lotto games, High-ho Cheerio, Leap-In-A-Line or Leap Frog Letter Factory Game  and so on.  You can find all kinds of file folder games for free online, or make up your own “Bingo” games/card games.  Your children will be having so much fun that they won’t even realize they are learning.   No expensive “curriculum” required, no pressure; just have fun together and your children will learn.   For more information about early academics, be sure to see the post, “The Truth About Early Academics” for more information.  Also see the tab, “Readiness” for more links and resources.

 Myth #6:  If my preschooler/Kindergartener has learned her letters and letter sounds…so that means she is ready to learn to read, right? 

Truth:  Maybe, maybe not.  How do we decide that our children are ready for the next step?  As I said above, we need to “watch for the signs.”  There are many signs we need to look for before we decide that our children are ready for formal reading lessons.  For a detailed list of readiness skills, many of which might be new to you, read my article, “Preschool or Kindergarten?”   Just remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning or wisdom…NOT phonics.” (Mary Schoalfield.)  

  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Readiness | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Common Preschool Myths Debunked, Part 2

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 8, 2010

 Myth #4:  The Importance of early (formal) academic education.  Everyone knows that “earlier is better,” right?  In our competitive world, anything we can do to give our children an “advantage” is a good thing.  Besides, why not take advantage of all that brain development?

Truth:  Earlier is not  better.  The idea that we have to teach our preschoolers academics in order for them to “succeed” in school later is an idea promoted by the public schools, because of their inappropriate pushdown in curriculum. It is not supported by any of the research coming from the academic world.

          Developmental research has proven that in general, (most) young children are not developmentally ready for formal academics–and that early formal academics can even be damaging.  Some of the dangers include:

~The tendency to overlook other, more developmentally important activities in favor of an academic emphasis.

~Dr. Raymond Moore, in his books, Home Grown Kids and Better Late Than Early states that young children who spend too much of their time doing workbooks or other intensive/close-up work increase their risk of becoming nearsighted (eye strain/damage)

~ Many experts believe that early formal academics increase children’s risks of developing learning disabilities–including ADD and dyslexia.  

~Children who start formal schooling very young often “burn out” on academics just when they should be getting excited about learning.  

~Parents who try to teach formal academics to young children often face a difficult task, increasing the likelihood of parental frustration and possibly burnout.

 You should also know that: 

~Studies have shown that any academic advantage or gains your preschooler might make will disappear by the third grade (so what’s the use?!)

~It is true that young children are learning all the time; they seem to be learning “like sponges”.  But research has also shown that young children’s brains work differently than older children’s /adult’s brains do.  Young children need more hands-on/real life experiences than older children do if they are to make sense of the world and internalize the meanings of symbols (things that stand for other things, such as letters, which stand for sounds, and numbers, which symbolize amount.)

      I want parents to be aware of the research on this issue, and “tread softly” (i.e., proceed carefully.) I’m not putting down the parents who decide to teach their young ones to read, but I do worry about the trend and I don’t want all parents to think that because some people do, everyone else should, too.

      Finally, remember:  There are always exceptions to the rule.  Some children are ready to begin phonics/reading at a young age. Even if they are, though, I think it is wise to ask ourselves—is learning to read the best thing for them?  Just because they can learn phonics/learn to read/do math–should they?  Are there other, better ways to spend your child’s time?  Are the benefits worth the risks?  Will early reading offer any long lasting benefits?  You must decide for your children.

       Dr. Ruth Beechick, in her book, the Three R’s, talks about a study that was done to settle the issue once and for all.  It was done by a school district.  They had two classes of Kindergarteners.  In one class, they focused on early academics:  Phonics, reading, math, workbooks, etc.  In the other, they took a play based approach.  They did no formal reading lessons at all.  Instead, they read to the children, played with science (learned about nature, played with magnets, melted ice, did real life and play activities.)  They assessed the children when they were in the third grade to see which class was doing better.  The result:  The “play-based” Kindergarten children were doing better!  They learned to read later, yes—but they learned to read more quickly and easily than the “academic” children did.  They had higher reading scores and better vocabularies than the “academic” children did, too, because they had spent more time living “real life” and doing/talking about ‘real things.”  …Earlier is definitely not better.   

~~To find out more, see the tab, “Readiness”; see the tab, “Important Links” and scroll down to “Readiness”; see the tabs, “Preschool Goals” and “Goals for a Balanced Mom”; see the tab, “My Articles” (What Your Preschooler Really Needs, Why I Flunked Kindergarten, Preschool or Kindergarten?); see my posts archived under readiness, especially “The Truth About Early Academics.” 


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

Posted in Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Readiness | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Start Homepreschooling (Homeschool Preschool) in Six Simple Steps

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 25, 2010

           How do you start homepreschooling?  Are there any specific things you need to do to start your homeschool preschool?  Here is a simple list to help you get started:

 1.  Pray.  Pray about your decision, and ask the Lord to give you the wisdom and patience you will need.  Also ask Him to give you His vision for your homepreschool.  What should your goals be?  What does He want you to teach your children this year—and how should you teach it? (See tab, “Homepreschool Goals”.)

 2.  Write down your goals and the vision the Lord gives you, and then don’t be afraid to step out in faith and go for it!

 3.  Contact your local Christian homeschool support group and join it now.  (Be sure to ask them if they offer meetings for newbies, or mentors for new homeschoolers.)  This will give you a chance to make like-minded friends for yourself and your children; participate in park days, field trips, etc, and it gives you the opportunity to glean ideas about parenting, curriculums and methods so that by the time you are ready to “officially” begin homeschooling (which I hope you will!) you will be informed and prepared.  The best place to find your group is Home School Legal Defense’s website.  Click on your state to find the group closest to you.  You can also Google your city/state and the words, “Christian Homeschool Support Groups”, or your state’s name plus the words, “Considering Homeschooling groups” or “Smoothing the Way Groups.” Both these groups offer mentors and meetings to help you get started/to help you during your first year of homeschooling.  

4.  Set up a simple daily routine (see “Routine” tab.) Remember, it doesn’t have to be timed to the minute; just a simple schedule of “what comes next” will suffice.

 5.  Decide on your preschool “units” (see my posts about unit studies, especially THIS one, which lists suggested units.)

 6.  Gather your materials:  For the very basics, I’d start with four things:  1)  Classic picture books/books related to your units (see the archived posts on “book lists”, especially THIS one);   2)  art supplies;  3) classic toys (such as blocks, pattern blocks, props for dramatic play, puzzles, and so on,)  and 4) my book, which has chapters covering all the things your preschooler needs to learn, how ot choose quality toys, learning games to make/buy, and chapters to help you make the transition to Kindergarten. (See tab, “My Book.”)

         Remember, preschoolers learn differently than older children do.  They don’t need workbooks or flashcards; they need a simple daily routine; they need to be talked to, read to, and sung to; they need art and music experiences; they need real life experiences, and they need lots of free time to play.

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Getting Started, Homepreschool | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Spring/Gardening Unit/Theme for Homepreschool/Homeschool

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 23, 2010

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

Signs of Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art ideas: 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Animals and Spring

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

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

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


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

Other books about birds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Animals, by Harry McNaught

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

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

 General Books About Spring/Seasons:

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

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

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

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

Have fun!

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

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

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

Teaching Children to be Gracious

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2010

Teaching Through Parenting       

          The hardest thing about teaching children any character trait is modeling it for them.  And if we want our children to learn graciousness, we have to make sure they see graciousness in action~~through us.  This is the hardest part of parenting…changing ourselves.  Anne Ortland says, “Successful  parenting means: One, becoming what you should be,  and two, staying close enough to the children that it will rub off.”  She challenges us further by asking, “What will you become, in order that your offspring may turn out to be great human beings for God?”  (Disciplines of the  Home.) 

           Mrs. Ortland’s quotes neatly summarize what the Bible says about discipling our children. Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Luke 6:40 says, “The disciple (we could insert “student,” or “child” here) is not above his master (parents); but every one that is perfect shall be as his master (parents).”

           When our young children are misbehaving, we should always look to ourselves first—because young children reflect all we say and do with their behaviors.  Before we can help our children change, we must change ourselves.  “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it.  Good parenting is just as much about controlling ourselves as it is controlling our children—remembering that as much is “caught” as is “taught.” 

           Yes, parents are teaching their children all the time– whether they intend to or not. We consciously teach them about the world, but we also unconsciously teach them with our behavior and our attitudes.  We need to be sure that the lessons we are teaching are the lessons we want our children to learn.  (In my book, I call this “teaching through parenting.”)

Teaching Graciousness~Systematically         

           A large part of graciousness boils down to good manners—and manners can be systematically taught. A good book to start with is The Family Book of Manners, by Hermine Hartley.  This book could be used with preschoolers and/or older children (tackle one behavior/manner a week.)

          We say a little something we call a “character catechism” along with our memory verses most mornings that I adapted from Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky, & Joanne Miller):

~”How do we obey?  Everyday, all the way, in a quick and cheerful way.” 

~God wants us to honor others.  What does honor mean? 
1. Treating others special.
2.  Doing more than what is expected (going the extra mile.)
3.  Having a good attitude.
~I have a chance to show honor to people when:
1.  I am told to do something.
2.  I am told, “No.”
3.  When someone dishonors me.

Golden Rule Poem:
“Be you to others kind and true, as you’d have others be to you; and neither do nor say to men, whatever you would not take again.”   ~Author unknown

           I just picked up a real treasure for my boys:  A 1940 version of the Boy Scout’s Handbook.  We are going to begin reciting the “Boy Scout Pledge” (with a few of my own tweaks):
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Golden Rule…to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong and morally straight, and to do a good turn daily.  A Christian should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  Be prepared.” 

 Things to do:
~Set a good example for your children.
~Memorize Bible verses with your children, and practice them every morning during your devotions.
~Develop your own “character catechism” to practice during devotions (I’m working on a more complete version.)
~Practice being good:  Role-play manners with your children.  Act out possible scenarios, and practice proper responses. 
~Label your children’s character traits throughout the day:  “That was very kind of you.”   “Thank-you for sharing with your sister.  That was very unselfish of you, and it shows real love.”   “What a good helper you are!   You’ve done your good deed for the day.”   OR:  “You need to keep your hands to yourself.  Hitting is not kind.”  “Your tone of voice is not honoring me.  Can you say that again in a pleasant tone of voice?” 
~Read books to your children that will teach them character traits.  Look for examples of the character traits exemplified in books and real life, and point them out to your children.

 Suggested Books: 

           An especially good series, although not written from a Christian viewpoint, is A Child’s Book About… (Being Lazy, Being Mean, Disobeying, Interrupting, Throwing Tantrums, etc-many other titles), a “Help Me Be Good Book”, by Joy Berry (preschool age and up.)  Another favorite for our family is Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank-You Book, by Richard Scarry, which contains the story of Pig Will and Pig Won’t, a little pig who learns to be cheerful, cooperative, and helpful around the house. Other books to read:

 If Everybody Did, by Jo Ann Stover

 What Do You Do, Dear/What Do You Say, Dear? , by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak

 What Would Jesus Do? Charles M. Sheldon’s Classic In His Steps now retold for children, by Mack Thomas  

 Books for Parents: 

Creative Correction:  Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, Lisa Welchel   

Don’t Make Me Count To Three, Ginger Plowman (my favorite; shows how to use Bible verses to teach character and reach the heart.)

 Etiquette Plus: Polishing Life’s Useful Skills, by Inge P. Cannon (use with children 6 and up.)

 For Instruction in Righteousness, A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical Child Training, by Pam Forster

 Hands-On Character Building, Rick and Marilyn Boyer

Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook, by Sonja Shafer

 Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes…In You and Your Kids!  and Good and Angry, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

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

Posted in Book Lists, Character Traits, Curriculum, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Homepreschool, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

List of Classic Preschool Picture Books

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2010

          Books! Books contain the throb of human life; the magic entrances, fascinates, sets alight imagination, opens doors of interest and curiosity, informs, and triggers questioning.  Restless bodies become still and concentrated-thinking is encouraged.  Reading out loud together fosters warm ties in human relationships.  The experience is shared, and then interesting and meaningful conversation ensues.  Developing the ability and desire to pursue reading is education.  

 -Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, in the introduction to Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature, by Elizabeth Wilson


          Following are some excerpts from the chapter “Book Lists: Preschool Through Grade School”, in my book, Homepreschool and Beyond.  Bear in mind that this is only a small excerpt; pages 81-101 in my book are devoted my book list, which is categorized by topic. 

          These are all books I used with my own children.  I try to avoid titles that include witches, ghosts, references to Halloween, evolution, etc.  If a title I include in my list has any questionable content, I try to warn you so that you can decide if the title is redeemable with some editing, or if you should skip it altogether (only a very small percentage of the books I list would fall into that category.)

  Favorite Authors and Illustrators  

 A Hole is to Dig and others by Ruth Kruass

Angus Lost, Angus and the Cat, Angus and the Ducks, Ask Mr. Bear, The Story About Ping, and others by Marjorie Flack

Animals of Farmer Jones, The, Pig Will and Pig Won’t, and others written and/or illustrated by Richard Scarry

Bedtime for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, (part of a series of Francis books), by Russell Hoban  4+ (note:  Frances struggles to stay in bed at night, but finally learns self-control after threatened with a spanking–so real to life–hilarious.)

Biggest House in the World, Fish is Fish, Swimmy, and many others by Leo Lionni

Beady Bear, Corduroy, A Pocket for Corduroy, Dandelion and others by Dan Freeman  2+

Curious George (part of a series of “Curious George” books), by Hans A Rey

Donkey-Donkey, and others by Roger Duvoisin  (I just found out this wonderful book is back in print!  Snap it up while you can!  Donkey Donkey doesn’t like his long ears, so the other animals in the barnyard encourage him to “wear” his ears the same way they do:  Dog says to wear them down; Sheep suggests wearing them the side; Pig says wear them over his eyes, etc.  As you can imagine, his ears get him into a lot of trouble until he realizes that he is a donkey, and should wear his ears as donkeys do.  A great lesson in accepting ourselves for what we are/self-esteem (but not preachy.)

Goodnight Moon, Home for A Bunny, Little Fur Family, The Big Red Barn, The Runaway Bunny and others by Margaret Wise Brown  2+

Harry and the Lady Next Door, Harry by the Sea, Harry the Dirty Dog, No Roses For Harry, and others by Gene Zion   I think these are probably my all time favorites.  Don’t miss them!

Katy and the Big Snow, Little House, The; Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and others by Virgina Lee Burton   ~Others that are too good to be missed!

Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, and others by Robert McCloskey

Tale of Peter Rabbit, The and others by Beatrix Potter

Very Hungary Caterpillar, The; Ten Little Rubber Ducks, Grouchy Ladybug, The; Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, and MANY others by Eric Carle

 Harder to Find/Out of Print  (OOP) Books That Are Worth Looking For:

Christian Mother Goose, volumes I and II, by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker

Dog Who Had Kittens, The, by Polly M. Robertus

Part Time Dog, by Jane Thayer

Ten In the Bed, by Penny Dale  (OOP-a Discovery Toy’s book)

Who Wants Arthur? by Amanda Graham  (OOP-a Discovery Toy’s book)

Wonderful Shrinking Shirt, The, Leone Castell Anderson*  (OOP)

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

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Book Lists, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

What Should a Four Year Old Know?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 13, 2010

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         I have been disturbed by the trend in homepreschool circles to push young children into early academics.  So many parents have fallen for the public school’s curriculum push down and believe that they must force feed their preschoolers academic “facts” to get them “ready for Kindergarten”.  Somewhere they have found a list of skills that “every four-year old should know,” and with the best of intentions, they diligently teach this list to their preschoolers…turning life into a list.  While seeking the “good” for their children, they overlook the “best”:   The things their children really need:  Relationships.  Routine.  Readiness.  Reading Aloud.  Imagination.  Play.  And most of all, learning about God.

        Here is one of my favorite articles about what preschoolers should be learning.   Note that embedded in this post from Magical Childhood, is a link to World Book’s Scope and Sequence (a traditional “list” of what children “should” know).  Take a look at it; I think you’ll be surprised. 

      What should a 4 year old know? 

          By Alicia Bayer of Magical Childhood (used with permission.) 

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.1.  She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.  

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only 3. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

1.  He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.  

2.  She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.  

3.  He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.  

4.  She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.  

But more important, here’s what parents need to know.  

1.  That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.  

2.  That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.  

3.  That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.  

4.  That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.  

5.  That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. 

They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.  

And now back to those 4 year old skills lists…..http://www.worldbook.com/wb/Students?curriculum
Since we homeschool, I occasionally print out the lists and check to see if there’s anything glaringly absent in what my kids know. So far there hasn’t been, but I get ideas sometimes for subjects to think up games about or books to check out from the library. Whether you homeschool or not, the lists can be useful to see what kids typically learn each year and can be reassuring that they really are doing fine.

I know it’s human nature to want to know how our children compare to others and to want to make sure we’re doing all we can for them. Here is a list of what children are typically taught or should know by the end of each year of school, starting with preschool:

If there are areas where it seems your child is lacking, realize that it’s not an indication of failure for either you or your child. You just haven’t happened to cover that. Kids will learn whatever they’re exposed to, and the idea that they all need to know these 15 things at this precise age is rather silly. Still, if you want him to have those subjects covered then just work it into life and play with the subject and he’ll naturally pick it up. Count to 60 when you’re mixing a cake and he’ll pick up his numbers. Get fun books from the library about space or the alphabet. Experiment with everything from backyard snow to celery stalks in food coloring. It’ll all happen naturally, with much more fun and much less pressure.

My favorite advice about preschoolers is on this site though:

What does a 4 year old need? 

Much less than we realize, and much more.

       Visit Magical Childhood at http://www.magicalchildhood.com/index.htm .

(Thanks, Alicia!)

Posted in Goals, Homepreschool, Mothering, Parenting, Readiness, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Key Word in Homepreschool is “Home”

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 1, 2010

        I’ve been trolling the internet this weekend, looking to see what’s “out there” in the realm of homepreschool.  I’ve seen many colorful and creative blogs, with pictures of beautiful children.  I’ve seen pictures of “homeschool rooms” that look just like public schools–rooms with desks or tables lining the walls and rows and rows of bookshelves filled with books,  art supplies, puzzles, games, and other “educational” toys and materials.  I’ve seen blog after blog depicting tiny tots busily completing their “school work”.  I’ve seen a pattern.

       Isn’t it ironic? Preschools and elementary schools work hard to try to make their schools as home-like as possible…while many homepreschoolers/homeschoolers work hard to make their homes look and function like schools. 

       Don’t get me wrong.  If you have the space in your home for a school room–you are truly blessed!  If you have the money to spend on shelves full of “educational” toys and games–how wonderful!  But don’t make the mistake of thinking that those things will make your homeschool successful…and don’t think that if you DON’T have them, your homeschool is doomed to failure. 

       I’ve homeschooled for 17 years now, and we’ve never had a dedicated “school room”.  (Well, we had an office we called the “school room”-and some school did get done in there-but we’ve never had a room just for homeschool stuff.)  We do “school” all around the house.  During Bible, music, and story-time, we sit on the couch in the living room (or on the floor.)  For art, games, and manipulatives we sit in the breakfast nook.  When my children begin doing “seatwork” or written school work in Kindergarten or First grade, we did it in the breakfast nook as well (our china buffet has been repurposed to hold books, paper, and art supplies.)  Some days my older children need quiet, and so they retreat into the office or even into their bedrooms to finish their work.

         We store our games, puzzles and manipulatives in bookshelves or in the hall closet.  Art supplies have been kept in the garage, utility room, kitchen cabinets, or in roll-out carts (in the kitchen.)  And books–books line the walls of the hallways, spilling over into baskets here and there—and into the kid’s rooms, too.  There usually isn’t a room in the house without books in it–not even the bathrooms. 

          Most of our books, educational toys and manipulatives come from yard sales or thrift stores.  Some I earned as a Discovery Toys Representative, but most of our “educational” games were homemade.  And my children haven’t suffered a bit. 

        ((All this fits well with my philosophy that learning is a lifestyle, and that “school” is always in session.  I will say that I would love to have a “school room”, but I think it’d be more of a library/craft room—a place for the boys to leave out their messy projects–models, sculpting and the like. Knowing us, I think we’d still do most of our “school” at the kitchen table.)) 

          I’ve always believed that homeschool/homepreschools should be “home-y”; filled with light, plants and animals (if possible), and of course, love.  All those fancy extras are wonderful to have, but they are not necessary; you can homepreschool/homeschool successfully without them.   In fact, looking back, I think we’ve gotten the most use out of our “homemade” toys and learning materials. 

        Another way I see homepreschoolers/homeschoolers emulating the public schools is in the area of curriculum.  We are always comparing ourselves and our homeschools to the public school’s standards.  Most parents of preschoolers have fallen for the public school’s push for early academics, even though the issue has been studied (in depth) and proven to be misguided.  (See tab The 4 R’s tab on “Readiness”.)

       Homepreschoolers/homeschoolers should not hold the public schools up as our standard.  They are failing the children of America.  They overlook the most important things our children should be learning about—a personal relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ; moral and character training, and life skills.  Why would we want to copy them? 

       The simplest way to put it is this:  Don’t bring the “school” into your home. Not their strict schedules, not their emphasis on early academics, and not their educational standards.  The key word in homepreschool is “home.”

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »