Favorite Books for preschoolers

One of our favorite times of the day has been when it was story time. We have loved all sorts of books at our house. From Lilly’s purple plastic purse… to Ispy books… to Dinner at the Panda Palace… Each of our children have had their favorites… and there have been times that we have done fun little projects to go along with the stories that we read.

Recently we made little finger puppets and a house that went along with the family of pandas in the book “Dinner at the panda palace.” These cute little pandas and house can be found at the Toy Makers website. This website is wonderful for printing off a rainy day toy. My little ones have spent hours playing with their sets and finger puppets. But watch out… everything is so cute… you’ll want to print it all!

Keeping Your Little Ones Engaged

I must admit… my children are not calm. It is just a fact. From the time they are born they are ready to move, curious, inquisitive, and play rough. My girls enjoy playing baseball with their brother, and all six love to wrestle with daddy. What can I say? They have mountains of energy, and just sitting still for hours on end just doesn’t suit them. So, it truly has been a challenge over the years to keep the little ones busy while the older children study. I typically use a few simple resources/tools to help me accomplish this. Though my youngest will be going into kindergarten this year… I will still have a lot of time left over to keep her engaged with something other than getting the older children distracted! Here’s a few of my basic resources…

1) Have a stack of really interesting (their favorite things) worksheets and color sheets. At the preschool age my little guys loved dot-to-dot. They were just learning how to count and this made them feel so big!

2) Have puzzles and other cool quiet games on hand that are ONLY allowed to be used during this time. (Limiting their use keeps the interest level high!) Tangrams are great for this as well!

3) Have a high interest preschool program available for them. We use Time4Learning and Spelling City to help us with this.

4)I have loads of folder games left from when I taught first grade at school. We use these educational games in the early years to help fill in the gaps while momma is helping brother or sister with school work.

5) Pull the puzzle portion out of the Sunday paper and laminate it (if it’s a good one). They can reuse the puzzle over and over. I did this while the paper was printing those really neat depth perception pictures, and where’s waldo… I have them laminated, and my kids love to play with these. If all else fails, the backside has basic comics on it… that’s always fun!

Keep on Homeschooling… even when you don’t feel like it?

There are always days when homeschooling just seems like an insurmountable task. Days when you are sick, tired, overwhelmed, whatever… are days when you would rather be laid out doing nothing. Granted – as homeschoolers – taking a day to recuperate now and then is part of the blessing of homeschooling. Yet, sometimes a sickness or weariness just drags on and on… in those cases we just can’t stop. Somehow we have to dig deep, find the strength that only God can give, and go on.

Using resources that are motivating and easy for our kids to do on their own can also help with this. Great homeschooling curriculum is available to help you with this. Check out christianbook.com for info. In fact, teaching our children to be independent learners when we are well really pays off when we have times of adversity.

Sometimes, the trouble at home can be just so overwhelming that you just can’t school. If that is the case, don’t let it make you feel guilty. Just take the time you need away, and when you get back to schooled give it your all!

Homeschooling is designed to help us teach our children, you be the master… don’t let homeschooling master you!

Preschool Tree Math

I love finding ways to teach my children without being “teachy.” Sounds crazy, but it sure does make learning a bit more fun and a lot less “stuffy.”

Here are a few ideas that use trees to teach math at the  preschool/kindergarten level.

1. Go for a walk and gather pinecones, acorns, leaves, or nuts. Use them to count and sort when you get home.

2. Get out the scale and weigh the various objects that you gathered on your walk. Ask questions that really make them think… why do the nuts weigh more than the leaves?

3. On your next walk count all of the evergreen and broadleaf trees. Sorting and classifying are great aspects of math learning.

4. Take time to “brainstorm” all of the things that are made from trees… write them out on construction paper trees!

5. Make a recipe that uses something from a tree… such as nuts. Allow the children to measure etc.

Bubble Science for Preschoolers

Making bubbles uses a scientific process, and can be a simple way to introduce preschool children to scientific investigation and exploration. I love preschool science!

1)     Begin by making a bubble solution.

  1.  ¼ c liquid dish soap
  2. ½ c water
  3. 1 tsp sugar
  • Ask the children questions about how the solution feels and how it looks.
  • Have objects available to make bubbles with (chenille stems, six pack holders, funnels, open ended tin cans, plastic straws)
  • Ask preschoolers questions about which tools made the best bubbles
  • Touch a bubble with a wet finger and then touch one with a dry finger… what happens?
  • Write down your preschooler’s discoveries and talk about them later

2)     Sing Pop! Goes the Bubble ( to the tune of Pop! Goes the Weasel)

Soap and water can be mixed.

To make a bubble solution

Carefully blow,

Now, watch it go!

Pop! Goes the bubble!

3)     Make a favorite bubble gum chart. Use empty wrappers on the left side to represent the types and then draw bars for each vote from your preschool children.

4)     Make a bubbly beverage-

6 oz frozen OJ

6 oz frozen limeade

6 oz frozen lemonade

6 oz frozen pineapple

1L lemon-lime soda

1L club soda

5)     Take a bubble bath – don’t you love homeschooling?! :0)

Top Tips for Teaching Math To Young Children

Giving our children a solid foundation in math should be a homeschool mom’s priority. With the US falling more behind each year in this area, the demand for mathematically based jobs is increasing. I know, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy to mention early learning and math careers in the same paragraph. Yet, I don’t want to be a part of the “declining education” statistics.

Teaching math sense to our young children through games and fun activities is an awesome way to provide a concrete awareness along side a fun view of math. Here are a few ideas to you going…

1) Encourage your children to help you with daily mathematical duties. Things like preparing recipes, planning a grocery store visit, doubling a recipe or dividing up the cookies are all great ways to begin concrete mathematical sense.

2) Encourage them to use a calendar. Make it a family “thing” by planning your schedule on it or even keeping track of rewards.

3) Use a regular face clock in your home.

4) Teach fractions by dividing recipes or pizzas.

5)Look for pattern and symmetry in the world around you.

6) Use wonderful mathematics integrated literature from your local library.

7) Solve jigsaw puzzles regularly.

8) Use measurement tools – yardstick, ruler, daddy’s tape measure…

9)Use a scale to weigh various things, and introduce the concept of weight.

10) Have a thermometer hung somewhere so you can track the outdoor temperature.

Sure, each of these things seem little, but put together… they can give your child the solid preparation they need for more formal math learning. After a few years of math games they’ll be ready for abstract thinking!

Teaching Preschool Science

Teaching a preschooler is so much fun… well if you love wiggles, silly faces, and lots of questions! But it’s those questions that make it all worthwhile. The preschooler is a natural learner. They enjoy finding out what they can about their environment. Just think, in the few short years that they have been alive, they have quadrupled in size, learned a whole language, learned how to eat, how to dress, and how to walk. WOW! That’s more than what we’ve learned in the past few years…  They are incredible little learning machines, and introducing them to high interest subjects like science can be a great opportunity.

Of course, as most of you know I am not one of those who advocates pushing preschool learning. I think there are more natural ways to impart knowledge to these early learners. Science is a great way to do this. You can read them science stories, look at amazing science books (library has some pretty cool ones!), and even do some experiments. Natural learning by going on a walk and collecting things and then looking them up and finding out what they are when you get home –  is also an awesome way to get your preschool hooked on science. Make it fun, make it interesting, remember their learning potential is huge!

Teaching Intuitiveness in Every Day Learning

Are you thinking… ??What?? I know it sounds off the wall, but what I really mean is that we must teach our children the meaning, and the usefulness of math, language, science, and history… while we are teaching them. Research has shown that education today is very disjointed. High school students can add, subtract, divide, and multiply but when asked a word problem evoking a practical situation…only 70% can apply the math to a real life situation. Then when asked a question that would result in 1/2 or a 1/4 of a person… only 33% of students realized that the answer would need to be a whole number.

…There is obviously a disconnect somewhere…

I believe it is the fact that so much learning today is solely text book oriented. What happened to learning while working and doing? Remember the days when young girls practiced fractional math while baking a double batch of something? Or young men helped dad build a shed and measured and cut and planned the dimensions. In pushing for test scores, and specific subject performance… we have left out the common sense equation in education.

Good news… homeschoolers have a wide open opportunity to make their child’s education apply to real life. For example, when you begin teaching your preschooler math it shouldn’t start with a text book or flashcards. It should start with games. “Can you get momma 5 apples for this pie?” or “Can you divide your candy in half and give half of it to your sister?” They must see the numbers and their meaning in a concrete form before they begin formal instruction. Yet, this doesn’t negate using flashcards and drilling the facts after they have the understanding. Before children can move into higher math they must be able to rattle off their elementary math facts without hesitation.

This is the foundation of education that lends to common sense. Children can see “why” they are learning math, science, and history when they see how it helps them and affects their daily life.

Teaching Your Child How to Read – Part 3

Baby Step 3 – Special Sounds, One Vowel and Two vowel rules, and 3 letter words

By now your early learner is well on his or her way to reading. In fact, if they are anything like mine, they are already trying to jump ahead and read some. There may be some small words that they can go ahead and pick out. That’s great! At this point, I would suggest getting them some type of reading books that are on their level. The local library has plenty of these, and you can also invest in a set of Bob Books. There are several levels to these sets, but they are paperback and rather inexpensive. However, they are awesome for your beginner reader to gain confidence in their reading skills.

Your early learner is ready now for the one vowel and two vowel word rules. Once your child is at this point, you begin teaching them these rules. “If there is one vowel in a word it usually says it short sound.” and “If there are two vowels in a word the first one says its long sound and the second one is silent.” I usually have my daughter go through story print outs and mark her vowels. We then try to read the easy 3 letter words.

Special sounds are those consonant combinations that defy all English grammar rules. These are also called digraphs.  Combinations such as “sh”, “thr”, and “th”. I suggest printing out flash cards that help you explain these sounds and then review them regularly with your child.

As your child begins to comprehend the special sounds or digraphs, understands the one vowel and two vowel rules, he or she should be taking reading by leaps and bounds. Your worries are almost over! From here, the things to watch for are speed, flow, and comprehension. You will want to begin incorporating comprehension exercises into your daily reading. Warm up by asking a few questions about the subject they will be reading then ask the questions after they have finished reading.

What an awesome gift you  have given to a child. The key to wisdom and understanding lies in the ability to read!

Teaching Your Child How to Read – Part 2

Vowels and consonants and blends

In the first edition of our series on how to teach children how to read, we discussed the beginning steps of phonemic awareness. Many homeschooling moms are terrified of teaching their children to read, but taking one baby step at a time will naturally bring your child to the place where they not only read, but read well!

Baby Step 2

Differentiating between vowels and consonants can be something that you incorporate with your beginning letter awareness or something that you really bring out after your child has already learned their alphabet and the letter names and sounds. There are alot of really great games that you can play and songs that you can sing to help bring out the concept of vowels. One of my children’s favorites was “Old McDonald” but on his farm he had vowels… with an aa here and an ee there… you get the point. They loved it, and my four year old still loves it! We played memory with vowel cards, and then of course they would have to tell me their sound and one word that began with that sound.

It is easiest to start with the concept of vowels, because then you can state that all the rest of the letters that aren’t vowels are consonants.  After your child has mastered these two concepts and completely understand what vowels and consonants are, you can move on to blends.

Blends are simply the combination of vowels and consonants. When I begin to teach this I usually make blend families. These are little groups of blends that have the same consonant but use each of the vowels. For example, b-a, b-e, b-i, b-o,bu. Introducing a new blend family and then reviewing it each day is an incredibly important step on the road to reading.

As with every step toward reading, making sure the child enjoys a print rich environment is important. Surround him or her with plenty of books that they can “read”, and then be sure to read to them each day.