Preschool

What to do with Our Little Ones While We Work with Our Big Ones

Our little ones are a blessing from The Lord. No matter how much we love them, we all still struggle at times. I remind myself frequently that this is a season of my life. All seasons, good or bad, change quickly. I try to remember to enjoy the things that are special about each age. This is a challenge for me after clearing poop out of my two year old’s underwear and off of the floor for the third time in a day, but then I see his contagious smile and joy at the simplest things in life, such as peanut butter and crackers for snack. He is so precious! Thank you God for using my son to remind me of the simple joys in life.

 

When we are faced with seasons of our life that are more challenging than others (sickness, new baby), remember that it is okay to change what school looks like for a while. Perhaps taking 12 weeks off of traditional schoolwork, after a baby is born, to work on home economics and baby care, is the best thing for all involved; Or focusing only on the 3Rs. More multi level learning or more independent workbooks might be what is needed. Adapting curriculum to the specific needs of our family is one of the benefits of homeschooling.

 

As much as I’d like to do it all, it’s simply not possible. We have to make choices of what is the most important in our children’s education. If I have to choose between math and teaching my son to control his temper when his little brother breaks his Nerf gun, I think the character choice is the way to go. Hopefully, by making this choice now while they are young, I will have more time with them when they are older and have developed good character, to teach them the other things that I want to teach them. If my daughter knows calculus and all of the presidents in order, yet can’t cook herself a meal or get along with others, I will consider her education a failure!

 

I believe self-discipline training is also important when trying to find the time to do school. If my preschoolers and toddlers are

  • patient,
  • obedient the first time,
  • can play by themselves when told to (alone time), and
  • can sit for a period of time when told to,

everything is easier. These skills take practice to develop and time to learn. Having my preschooler sit and color for 15 minutes in the morning is not so much because I want her to develop her coloring skills; It’s because I want her to develop her obedience and self-control. Learning to color inside the lines is a bonus.

 

Another thing I do in order to have more time teaching my children traditional subjects, is to utilizing a number of time management strategies.

 

  • Meal plan.
  • Turn off phone.
  • Have kids help with chores (Also part of teaching them life skills)
  • Have big kids help little kids (School of littles, Read to littles, Play with littles)
  • Schedule errands only one day a week

 

Infant

I plan my time of instruction around my infant. When he naps, we do subjects that require more involvement from me, like science. When he nurses, I read to the kids things like history and geography or have them read to me. Older kids can help with my infant, even if it’s just holding him or sitting on the floor next to him. Sleep training can be helpful. Some find babywearing to be helpful. It may also be a season where more field trips are easier than sit down instruction.

 

Toddler

With my toddler, I try to involve him as much as possible and save the other techniques for when I really need them. He’s my little buddy when I do chores in the morning. He may sit on my lap or a big siblings, when we are doing schoolwork. He may hold the completed flashcards as we do them. When I want to have more focused instruction with my older kids, then I have him do things like alone time, listen to books on tape, puzzles, coloring, stringing beads, pull out a bin of special toys, or simply wait till nap time.

 

Preschooler

My preschooler is most often involved on her level. She has her own workbooks when big siblings do theirs. She listens when we read history and science and is often involved in the experiments. At other times, she does puzzles, coloring, lacing cards, stringing beads, cutting, gluing, alone time, listens to music, watches an educational video, or plays with her siblings. I require my children to take an afternoon nap until they at least start kindergarten.  

 

Though little ones are a joy, they can still be frustrating at times. I try to remember to always show God’s love to my children. First Corinthians 13:13 reminds me And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities III

Last article “Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities II” I shared about the educational opportunities I create as I prepare for grocery shopping. This article is about how I use our time for educational opportunities on the way to and from the grocery store.

The grocery store I frequent most is only about ten minutes from our house. Yes, I am thankful that I don’t have to travel far to get groceries. Even though our drive is very short, I still like to make use of the time with my children as I usually go grocery shopping with them on a school morning. I have incorporated this time into my school schedule and actually planned to use it accordingly. Currently there are two activities that I have scheduled for this time in our van.

Memory Work - I have my children take turns reciting the Books of the Bible (One of our memory goals for this year). Often one child recites the Old Testament and another child recites the New Testament. Then I have them recite things that they are working on, such as my preschooler will count to 20 or my 1st grader will name the days of the week or my 3rd grader will recite The Lord’s Prayer. At other times I will have them recite Bible verses.

The memory work I choose is one of the goals that I set for them at the beginning of the year. In the future I plan to have them learn things like the 50 states or all of the US presidents. A helpful tip for driving is that I have them work on things that I already have memorized. Since I don’t have all of the US presidents memorized in chronological order, I will have to either personally work on that for the future, or come up with some other method by that time.

Reading - Sometimes my children each read from their own reader/book and other times I have one of my children read aloud.

In the past I have also done other activities with my children in the van.

Music - I have borrowed CDs from our library with different types of music in order to teach and expose my children to different styles of music. I’ve also used our time to sing and teach them new songs.

Audio Books - I have borrowed audio books from our library on different topics. Obviously we can’t finish an entire book in one ten minute trip, but we can listen to part of it during each of multiple trips until we do finish the entire book.

There are websites and books out there dedicated to travel entertainment. I have only listed a few of the ideas that I have personally used on our short weekly drive to the grocery store. I’m sure many of you have many more ideas than I do. Please leave a comment and share one or two with the rest of us.

I hope you have enjoyed my series on Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities.

Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities II

Last article “Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities”, I wrote about the educational opportunities I encounter while grocery shopping with my children. This article is about the educational opportunities I create as I prepare for grocery shopping.

Grocery Store Preparation

Cut Coupons - I have my children cut coupons for me. When my preschoolers are first learning to cut with scissors, I have them practice with coupons that I don’t want. The straight dotted lines are a good place for them to start learning scissors skills. Once my children are able to cut reliably, then I have them cut out coupons that I intend to use. They get to practice their scissors skills, and participate in saving our family money. This activity is also great because it saves me time!

Make a List - Depending on the age and ability of the child, making a grocery shopping list can range from me writing a list for them to read off at the store, to them making a list of the ingredients we will need for the next week’s meal plan.

Meal Plan - I recently gave my seven year old son the assignment of making a meal plan for our family for the whole week. He had to design a plan that was balanced and fit into our budget. Then he had to make a list of the ingredients we would need. He helped me find the items at the store and made choices when there were some about which option to pick. He helped me prepare the meals for the entire week including planning ahead to take items out of the freezer as needed so they had time to thaw. This also works at younger ages on a smaller scale. For instance planning and helping with a single day or single meal instead of an entire week.

What educational opportunities have you encountered while preparing for grocery shopping? I’m sure there are many more in this area and I love to hear your suggestions.

Next article I will write about how I use our time for educational opportunities on the way to and from the grocery store.

Grocery Shopping for Learning Opportunities

The grocery store seems to be an endless opportunity for learning. It’s amazing that so many of my children’s learning opportunities are tied into the grocery store in some way. I realized that I spend almost an hour there every week with my children. It’s hard to be with my children for an hour and not teach them something. It’s just not natural for me. My oldest child is only seven years old, so I’m sure that the teaching opportunities have barely even begun to be tapped at the grocery store.

Here are some of the lessons we have done while grocery shopping and a few extra that I plan to do in the future. Most of them only take an extra minute or two while shopping. They are mostly  preschool or early elementary related. It seems that whatever stage my children are at, I can tie it into something while at the grocery store. Oh, the possibilities are endless!

Counting

I can have him count the items as I put them into the cart. He can count how many eggs are in a dozen. He can count how many yogurt cups we buy today. He can count how many bananas are in the bunch. He can count how many different types of grapes the store sells. He can count how many people he sees in the store.

Colors

I can have him look for a certain color of food. The produce department is my favorite area for this game.

Shapes

I can have him look for items that are a particular shape such as a cube or cylinder.

Letters

I can have him look for a particular letter on signs or labels. He can find items that beginning with a particular letter (again, the produce department is great for this). To take this a step further, during my Letter a Week kindergarten curriculum, I even let the child pick out an item that started with the letter of the week. I would then incorporate it into our meal plan for that week. My boys really loved this! I have to admit, I did too.

Reading

I can have him read signs, labels, or anything in the store. Sometimes I make a grocery list in advance for my son and have him check off the items as we put them into the cart or read the items to me that are left on the list. I’ll ask one of my sons to get me a specific item such as sharp cheddar cheese. He can’t just look at the picture then. He has to read to figure out which cheese is the sharp cheddar.

Writing

I can have him write the items that I buy on a list.

Money

I can have him write the cost of items I buy on a list. He can calculate the total bill. He can round each item to the nearest dollar. He can then estimate the total bill (this is my method of estimating my total bill each trip to make sure that I don’t go over budget). This is a great still for him to learn! I can pay with cash and have him figure out how much of each denomination is needed to pay the total or how much change I will get back.

Other Math

I can talk about and show him different units of measure such as 1 dozen eggs, 2 pounds of bananas, 1 gallon of water, 1 quart of milk, or 2 liters of pop.

He can compare and contrast items by type or size.

We can discuss metric versus English measurements such as liters versus quarts. He can find items that are sold by English or metric measurements.

He can find items that are sold by volume or weight or quantity.

He can estimate the weight of bananas or other produce that we buy.

Social Studies

Where we live, we often see people from different ethnicities and speaking different languages. I like to teach my children a little about where they come from, or what language they are speaking. If I know, I’ll maybe even teach them a few words from that language (I can at least say “Hello” in a few different languages).

History

This one pops up occasionally and unexpectedly for me. Sometimes I’ll see something that was common in the past, but not common now, such as glass bottles of pop. I’ll take that opportunity to discuss with my kids how things are different now than they used to be when I or our ancestors were children. I can discuss with them how glass bottles of pop were common for Grandma and Grandpa and how they used a bottle opener to open them.

Sometimes my kids will ask questions like why an item comes in a certain type of container such as baking soda in a can. I can discuss the history of how that came to be (though I often have to look things like this up).

I can teach him the history of certain foods. We once read a book about bananas. We learned how they came to the US and how many different varieties of bananas there are. It was fascinating! Did you know there are bananas that taste like ice cream?

Geography

I can have him look on food labels to see where different foods come from. He can look up that county on a map when he gets home or even learn about that country from an encyclopedia. He can look for foods from a particular country that he has learned about at home or heard about in the news lately.

Science

I can point out different produce that the store sells. If I don’t know what something is, I can learn by asking a produce department employee. We can maybe even try the new food.

I can discuss how different plants grow such as carrots are roots, apples are fruit of a tree, or celery is the stalk of the plant.

I can discuss what is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. When my children are older, I can even have them research these things on their own and write reports on them.

What learning opportunities have you discovered at the grocery store?

Next time I will write about the educational opportunities I create as I prepare for grocery shopping.

To Tell or Not to Tell of Santa

When the first Christmas came around after my husband and I had children, we had to decide what our stance was going to be about teaching our children about Santa.

Santa is everywhere in our culture and it can be cute and fun to join in and pretend. It's tempting to just go along with it all and not do anything about it. We could have just not told our children about Santa and allowed them to make their own conclusions about the subject. Though this may be the easiest solution, I believe that in order to raise our children into Godly adults, we need to be more intentional in our parenting.

We were not going to “tell” our children that “Santa is real”, as we believe that this is a lie. We want our children to grow up to be Godly adults. We don’t want to sin nor do we want our children to sin. As their parents, we need to set the right example for them in this area. We also believe that lying to our children can cause confusion and a lack of trust. We want our children to be able to trust us whole-heartedly. In raising children up to be Godly adults, it's important that they don't have to question everything we've taught them. If we teach them that Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny are real, why wouldn't they question whether Jesus is real when they learn about the fairy-tale status of the others? This approach sets them up for doubting Christianity. This is a dangerous road to head down and not one we were going to choose.

We decided that our stance would be to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We talk to them and read to them regularly about the birth of Jesus. We also knew that our children would inevitably be exposed to Santa, so we chose to teach them about the real “Santa”, St Nicholas. In addition, we choose to teach them about the fictional story of Santa, making it very clear that even though others may believe in Santa, he is not real. That being said, they also should not go around telling other kids that Santa is not real unless asked. It is not the job of a child to tell others how to think. Some people believe differently and we need to be respectful and polite of their choices even if they are foolish.

How are you choosing to handle the 'Santa' issue with your children?

Useful Junkmail-An Oxymoron

I hate wasting things. I’d probably be a hoarder if I didn’t hate clutter so much. Because of my unique combination of personality traits that God has created me with, I try to find non-traditional uses for things that I would otherwise just throw away (If I can’t find an alternative use for something I still throw it away, so in case you were wondering, no, I don’t have a big ball of dental floss hidden in a cupboard somewhere in my house). One of the items that keeps coming into my house, that really has no traditional usefulness, is junk mail. Since we have such a plethora of it, I have through the years come up with a few creative, educational uses for the junk mail I am constantly receiving.

How I taught my son to read at Four (and a little writing and spelling)

I don’t know how to teach your child to read. Every child and parent is different. You as the parent know best how to teach your individual child how to read. I will tell you how I taught my son to read at four (I’ve used this same method with my oldest two sons) and hopefully that will give you some ideas how to start teaching your child to read (though not necessarily at four). Don’t worry about doing it the wrong way, there are many different methods of teaching your child to read, some may work better for one person or another, but as far as I know, they all do work. I learned how to read phonetically, whereas my husband learned how to read whole words. You can’t get much more opposite approaches, yet as adults we both know how to read well.

Initially my husband and I wanted to incorporate the best of both worlds, and teach our oldest son to read primarily phonetically but also learn the DOLCH sight words so that we would be able to read more rapidly-we thought. However, he really didn’t get the sight word approach, it just kept frustrating him. I ended up dropping that approach altogether. He is only 6 yet he is able to read most of the words on the DOLCH word list without a problem after learning them phonetically.

My second son’s brain works differently than my oldest son’s. My second son learned many sight words on his own after I read them to him just once or twice in a book. Sight words come very naturally to him. I am still teaching him phonics in the same basic steps that I taught my first son, just tailoring it to fit his style a little. This approach seems to work just as well for him as it did for my eldest son, even though they seem to learn a little differently.

Read on for the basic steps I used to teach my child to read and some ideas on how I did each step.

 

Be Careful With Your Stuff-Learning The Hard Way

It’s inevitable that children will break things. Our oldest son was quite careful with his stuff early on and didn’t break very many things. Usually when something of his did break, we would fix it for him. My wonderful husband is a great handy man and can fix almost anything. Then, along came our second son and suddenly lots of things started getting broken. Initially we would fix everything just like we had when we only had one child. We were obviously busier now that we had two children and since things were getting broken at a much more frequent rate, we started getting a pile of toys and things that were waiting to be fixed. For the most part, the children didn’t even seem to miss them. I am not a fan of having toys or work piled up waiting for me. It stresses me and I try to avoid it. So, I decided it was time for a change in our fix it plan.

We changed our fix-ability criteria from “Are we capable of fixing it and is it economical to fix it?” to now adding on “Is it also an absolute favorite toy of the child’s or is it something that we really want their younger sibling to have someday?” With our new fix-ability criteria, we started NOT fixing most of their toys and things. If the toy was unsafe or unusable, they had to throw it away. Otherwise, they could choose to use the item in it’s broken state.

As a result, their pile of toys started diminishing to a more manageable number with no effort on my part. My children seemed more satisfied with less than perfect things (which is something I feel is important for them to learn). I also noticed that the frequency of things getting broken, had decreased! They had learned how to be more careful with their stuff. We had taught them a very important lesson-that not everything can be fixed.

What ways have you used to teach your children to be careful with their stuff?

 

Make Your Own: Lacing Cards

I was straightening up my shelf today and found my preschool lacing cards behind some other stuff on the shelf. It got me to thinking about how I made them. I’m not the most craftsy person. Making my own lacing cards is about as craftsy as I get, so I thought I’d share how I did it, in case creating your own craft ideas is as hard for you as it is for me.

Homemade lacing cardsI simple used flat brown cardboard (non-corrugated stuff that I had around the house). I cut out the shapes that I wanted. The first time I did it, I kept it really simple and cut out a big rectangle and a cross. Then I used a paper hole-punch to punch holes, about every inch, around the edges of the cardboard shapes. I considered using yarn, with tape around the ends, for the laces. I decided to use spare shoe strings that I had around the house instead of the yarn, because I felt that the shoe strings would hold up better.

I made these about two years ago, and the shoestrings are still in great shape, but the cards are a bit bent up. I think it’s about time that I make some new ones. This time, I don’t have anymore of the nice brown cardboard around the house, so I plan to use cereal boxes to cut the cards out of instead. Since the cereal boxes have printing on one side, I plan to glue two boxes together (printed sides in) before I cut them into shapes. Then, to make them prettier, I plan to let my older boys decorate the cut out shapes. I think my younger children will love the cards that will be decorated by their big brothers and big brothers will love to decorate them for their younger siblings.

What are your favorite lacing card designs? Those of you that have made your own lacing cards before, how have you done it?

Gift Stress

My husband and I sometimes struggle with giving gifts to our children or receiving gifts for our children from others. We are thankful for whatever our family receives and are truly appreciative of the sentiment behind the gifts given to us and our children. However, sometimes the gifts we receive bring with them issues.

One of the issues that sometimes arises with gifts of toys, is the educational value of them. We are okay with our children playing with toys just for fun, but we don’t want mindless entertainment toys that quickly lose their entertainment value to be the main focus of our children. We prefer toys that serve some form of educational or developmental value. We feel that quality is far superior to quantity in the area of toys.

The other main issue that arises with gifts of toys for us is quantity. The reasons are two-fold. First, there is the general issue of a large quantity of toys and the stress it places on the child. There are studies on this topic so I will summarize it to say children with fewer toys are often less stressed and happier (which also makes Mommy less stressed and happier).

The second part of this issue, is that we live in a small house with very limited storage space. I am constantly going through stuff in our house to try to make room for other stuff that I deem more important. When we receive more stuff, there is always the question of where to put it. Even if the stuff received is more exciting and fun toys, the question of where to put it still remains.

We’ve done a few things to help deal with these issues. We now limit the number of gifts we give to our children. We usually choose no more than three gifts per child. Sheer quantity helps with the issues of storage immensely. We are also mindful of the size of the gifts we choose. Some things are simply too big for our space and are therefore just not options.

We have also stopped giving mostly just fun entertainment toys to our children. We now give mostly stuff with a purpose. In addition to the old standby option of clothing, we have gotten a little more creative. This year one of our children is getting a new backpack because his old one is worn out. Our children love art projects so they have gotten things like glue and tape and even construction paper before. They love this! It’s also helps our financial budget. We like to give our children educational gifts as well, like science books about animals, manipulatives they can play with, a microscope to view things, or a globe to learn about the world. Sometimes we give these gifts to an individual child, but often the educational gifts we give jointly to all the children to share. Another type of gift that we have considered, but not yet given, are less tangible items like a zoo membership, tickets to a museum or sporting event, or a state park pass.

Not only have we made these personal changes in our gift giving to our children, but when grandma and grandpa inquire about gift ideas, we make sure to request these types of gifts as well.

One thing we have done to help with the quantity issue after Christmas, is the “In one, out one” rule. If you are not familiar with this one, it means that when you receive “one” gift “in”, you take “one” item “out” and get rid of it. I usually do this with my children a week or so after Christmas or their birthdays.

We also encourage our children to give of their own stuff to others throughout the year. This takes a bit of effort on my part to find areas for them to give their stuff that it will be appreciated, but it is worth it. In addition to minimizing the quantity of toys that creep into their space, it helps them learn to be givers. Which is a lifelong character quality I want to instill in my children.

Merry Christmas!

 

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