Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Presidents Day

Our Presidents Day celebration got off to a rough start today, after a certain Baby Bear stayed awake until nearly 1 a.m., and a Little Bear woke up at 1:50 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 4:15 a.m., and 6:50 a.m. … Sleep-deprived Mama Bears have a hard time getting excited about dead presidents!

But two cups of coffee later (the second one being caffeinated coffee with sugar and cream), Mama Bear was ready to embark on the day. Since today was both Presidents Day and February 20th, we counted out the date with crayon rubbings of a penny in a heads/tails/heads/tails pattern. Little Bear struggled with rubbing her crayon lightly and evenly across the surface of the penny, so our final product left a little to be desired. She did, however, discover through the process that two groups of 10 equaled 20.

Instead of reading our usual Bible story this morning, we read and discussed Romans 13:1-5. We noted that our current President, along with past and future Presidents, are ultimately chosen by God. We also identified other authority figures and talked about how all of us have to obey some form of authority, be it a Mommy issuing a reminder to use gentle hands or a police officer enforcing a speed limit.

Next, we read Presidents’ Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays) as an introduction to Presidents Day. I’ve used this series extensively in the classroom in years past and ordered this book without previewing it. Midway through the text, I realized that was a mistake. Although geared toward a K-2 audience, the book gave no explanation whatsoever of the President’s role and offered only a cursory history of the holiday. The bulk of the text offered instead a dull introduction to Washington and Lincoln, along with a revisionist account of the Civil War. I found A Picture Book of George Washington and A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln  to be much more accurate, enjoyable, and age-appropriate.

After our read-alouds, I gave Little Bear the following magnetic letter tiles: d e e i n p r s t . I first encouraged her to listen to letter sounds and use the tiles to spell given CVC words. Then she used the same listening technique (with a bit more help) and all the tiles to spell the word “President.” She was quite proud of her handiwork, but Mommy failed to snap a picture.

Painting a cherry tree


By early afternoon, it was warm and mostly dry outside, so we headed outdoors for penny cleaning, finger painting and a Presidential Penny Toss. Our pennies, we cleaned with salt and vinegar, following the directions here.

While our pennies dried, Little Bear painted her card stock treetop green.

Presidential Penny Toss


Graphing the results

Next, we took our shiny pennies and did a coin toss, graphing the number of times they landed heads up and the number of times they landed tails up. I’d only planned for us to toss them a few times, but Little Bear was fascinated by the heads/tails “race” and wanted to continue to the end of our chart to see which side “won.” Baby Bear was also captivated by the process … mostly because she held out hopes of snagging a bright, shiny penny!

George Washington's Cherry Tree

We paused for some free play time while Little Bear’s green treetop dried,  then added red fingerprint “cherries.” (The project I adapted called for red cherry stickers or red circle stickers, but we had neither.) I’d planned to give Little Bear a paper towel tube to serve as her tree trunk, but discovered that we had none. So we improvised and used the inside of a cereal box instead. I recounted the legend of George Washington and the cherry tree, while Little Bear glued the pieces together. The finished product didn’t have the 3-D effect I’d originally planned on, but Little Bear was nonetheless happy with it.

Penny hunt

Found one!

Wrapping up our Presidents Day fun, I hid our bright, shiny pennies in Little Bear’s Thera-Flex Therapy Putty, and she thoroughly enjoyed the sensory experience of digging them out. This proved to be a great wind-down activity and one that we’ll definitely repeat.

And while Little Bear hunted for pennies, Baby Bear (alternately referred to as “Little Monkey”) demonstrated the monopoly she now has on what used to be Little Bear’s desk. I’m just glad she hasn’t yet figured out how to scale the dining room table!

Little Monkey!

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The Week Ahead …

According to my long-range plan, we’re supposed to be focusing on manners and the Letter Jj this week. As I sat down to plan for the upcoming week, though, I glanced at the calendar. … In my original plan, I failed to consider Presidents Day, which we’ll want to observe on Monday. In addition to that detour from “the plan,” Baby Bear has a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, Little Bear has speech therapy on Thursday, and we have MOPS on Friday.

I could try to squeeze a holiday, a theme, a letter, and appointments all into the schedule this coming week. Doing so, however, would probably make us all crazy. And this is preschool. We’re supposed to be having fun.

Instead, I think we’ll deviate from “the plan” and take a more relaxed approach. Monday, we’ll focus on Presidents Day. Tuesday, we’ll play catch-up and finish up the letter Ii activities that we allowed Valentine’s Day to squeeze out of our schedule. Wednesday, we’ll devote to the letter Jj. Thursday, we’ll go to speech therapy, then head to the park to enjoy sunshine and warm weather. We’ll visit the library while we’re out so that I can pick up a few more books that relate to our theme. Friday, we’ll plan on spending the morning at MOPS and the afternoon with Daddy Bear. (Got to fit socialization into the calendar somewhere!)

Next weekend, I’ll assess what we got done and adjust the schedule accordingly. Little Bear knows her letters well enough that it won’t hurt to limit our time on Jj. I don’t want to rush through our manners theme, but wouldn’t mind spreading it out and doing it alongside other themes.

For now, here’s what’s on the agenda:

Monday (Presidents Day)

  • Bible — Read Romans 13, and take time to pray for the current President.
  • Math — Count out the date in pennies. Flip a penny 10 times and graph the number of times it lands on heads v. tails.
  • Art — Fingerpaint a cherry tree top and stick it onto a paper towel tree trunk. Add puffy paint cherries.
  • Science  — Use vinegar and salt to clean pennies.
  • Social Studies — Complete an online jigsaw puzzle of the White House. Learn who the current U.S. President is. Talk about the job of the president. Read the following books aloud:

 

  • Language Arts — Sound out the word “president.” Make the following words from the letters in “president”: pet, sit, ten, rip, net, den, red, dip. Read the legend of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, and talk about what a legend is.

Tuesday

  • Watch video clip of inchworms, and make a paper inchworm. Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Use picture cards to re-tell the story in correct sequence.
  • Read about ice. Make ice pops. Conduct ice melting experiment with ice in cold water, ice in hot water, ice in salt, ice in sugar, and just ice; chart results.
  • Decorate uppercase I with ink drops and turn lowercase i into an ice cream cone.
  • Stop for ice cream after doctor’s appointment.

 

Letter Jj
Decorate uppercase J with jewel stickers or with scraps of cloth from old jeans. Outline lowercase j with jelly beans.

Jj Lunch
Jam on bread (cut in J shape); jicama; julienned vegetables; Jello; juice

Art
Make a jellyfish and/or jack-in-the-box as seen here. String O-shaped cereal onto pipe cleaners to make jewelry.

Bible
Read the story of Joseph. Memorize John 14:6.

Cooking
Make different types of juice.

Fine motor skills
Use tongs to transfer jellybeans from one jar to another jar; screw lids on jars.

Gross motor skills
Learn to do jumping jacks; play jumping games.

Language Arts
Practice writing names that start with Jj. Complete literacy activities based on “Jack and Jill” and “Little Jack Horner.”

Math
Sort jelly beans by color, count, and graph. See how far Little Bear can jump. Count the date in jumps on the trampoline.

Science
Read about jungle life. Learn why some foods are considered “junk food” and differentiate between junk food and healthy food.

Social Studies
Learn about the country of Japan. (We make do some simple origami and enjoy a Japanese meal as part of this.)

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If Play is the ‘Work’ of Childhood …

… then the cubs worked their hardest today.

Add Valentine’s Day, sunny skies, temps near 80, and cubs who are beginning to feel OK for the first time in several weeks, and you get one fun-filled day out of the house.

Little girl, big playground

We spent a couple of hours at the park, had a picnic lunch there, then went on to the library before picking Daddy Bear. The only academic task of the day was a ReadingEggs.com lesson. I’d planned to squeeze a couple more things in this evening, but Little Bear crashed before 6 p.m. Oh, well, we got some fresh air and sunshine, had fun, and made memories.

Mommy's Sunshine

Freedom!

I’m constantly amazed by these two precious girls, so alike and yet so different. I am so blessed to be their mother — to get to watch them grow and learn, to encourage and inspire them, to help shape their precious little lives. They are indeed my Valentines!

(Almost) always smiling ...

On the go ...

My little chipmunk lover

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We Heart Mondays (or at least this Monday)

Concentrate ...

Monday is usually is not my favorite day of the week. With today being just one day shy of Valentine’s Day, though, Little Bear rolled out of bed this morning ready to start “school.” Her enthusiasm soon rubbed off on me.

First on the agenda was Bible time. We usually focus on the life of one Bible character and alternate between stories about that character and stories out of The Jesus Storybook Bible. As I planned for this week, though, I realized that we were in the portion of our story Bible that focused on Christ’s earthly ministry — the greatest “love story” ever written.

During calendar time this morning, Little Bear built a tower of blocks equal to the date. She observed that the tower was tall, but that she was taller. She then spread the blocks out, letter side up, for our morning phonics review.

Hunting for initial sounds

Sequencing ...

Finally, she put the blocks away in alphabetical order and counted to find the 13th letter of the alphabet. She was excited to discover that it was M, the letter she’d already celebrated by marching around the living room on a “marvelous Monday morning.”

13 Hearts

Continuing our calendar fun, she used a toilet paper roll bent into the shape of a heart and dipped in paint to print 13 hearts (followed by a whole  lot more) on a sheet of construction paper. And, yes, those are yellow hearts. I pointed out that Valentine’s hearts are typically red. She responded with, “But I like yellow!’ So I supplied her with yellow paint, and she created art she deemed beautiful.

It's about the process, not the product.

After our painting adventure, we paused for some snuggles, rest time, and read-alouds. Little Bear’s favorite was The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting. We ended up reading it twice, and I suspect it may come off the shelf several more times this week. Little Bear also completed her next online reading lesson with surprisingly little assistance.

After lunch, we spent some time outside, then came back in for more Valentine fun. I showed Little Bear how to cut a heart on a fold so that both halves were symmetrical. She then cut some hearts on her own, the largest of which we turned into these Valentine critters.

Rounding out the day’s activities, we counted hearts, compared groups of hearts, and added groups of hearts. Finally, Little Bear practiced listening and following directions by making chocolate-covered strawberries as an early Valentine’s treat.

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Groundhog Day

Thursdays are usually no-school days for us. Little Bear has speech therapy on Thursday morning, and we usually go to the park and library afterward.

Today was Groundhog Day, though. And Groundhog Day is an important event in the life of a 3 1/2-year-old … or at least in the life of my 3 1/2-year-old. (I first ventured into Cyperspace with a holiday website, The Holiday Zone, in 1997, so holidays tend to Big Deals in our home.)

In order to get us ready quickly and painlessly, I handed Little Bear a granola bar and a glass of milk, then turned on “Sid the Science Kid” to buy myself 25 minutes to unload the dishwasher, dress myself and Baby Bear, make beds, lay out clothes for Little Bear, and grab our Groundhog Day read-alouds. We don’t usually do processed food or television in the morning, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Besides, “granola” and “glass” start with our letter of the week, and this morning’s episode of Sid focused on garbage and recycling.

As Sid ended, I met Little Bear with a wash cloth, toothbrush, and clothes. Between the sugar and the TV, my so-not-a-morning-person girl was awake enough to get dressed quite happily, and we were left with an hour to spend on preschool.

We read the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den and discussed times when disobedience is appropriate, then reviewed our verse and sang along with “God Is So Good” before moving on to calendar time.

Once again, we focused on the concept of before and after, noting what days came before and after Thursday, what months came before and after February, and what dates came before and after February 2nd. We also reviewed ordinal numbers and practiced using “first” and “second” correctly.

Our read-alouds for the morning included the following:

Little Bear’s favorite proved to be Go To Sleep, Groundhog, perhaps because it led her through a fun review of fall and winter holidays prior to Groundhog Day. She also empathized with Gretchen Groundhog’s reluctance to perform in front of a crowd and cheered when Gretchen finally mustered up the courage to do her part. Somewhere along the way, she asked how a groundhog differed from a woodchuck, and I got to explain the concept of synonyms. … She went to bed tonight still brainstorming pairs of “simomyns” …

On the way to speech therapy, we talked about how light created shadows and hypothesized that since today was a cloudy day, we would *not* be able to see our shadows. We proved our hypothesis correct in the therapy center parking lot. We tested our hypothesis a second time at the park and again found that overcast skies left us shadowless. Little Bear pretended to be a groundhog and predicted that winter would soon come to an end.

Shortly before we left the park, the sun broke through the clouds, and we enjoyed some shadow play. Little Bear observed that when the sun was in front of her, her shadow lay behind her; but when the sun was behind her, her shadow lay in front of her.

On the short drive home, we entertained ourselves by singing:

I'm a Little Groundhog
(to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot)
I'm a little groundhog, furry and brown.
I'm popping up to look around.
If I see my shadow, back to bed I'll go;
Then, six more weeks of winter -- Oh no!

By the time we got home, Baby Bear needed a nap. Little Bear entertained herself by coloring a groundhog picture I found online, cutting it out, and turning it into a finger puppet. She returned to my lap long enough for us to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic poem “My Shadow” and Moonbear’s Shadow, the story of a Little Bear who tries to escape his shadow.

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