Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Waiting …

Today’s chief lessons? Patience, tolerance, and flexibility.

The girls spent a full third of their waking hours sitting in environments that weren’t exactly kid-friendly and waiting, waiting, waiting while I took care of grown-up business. We kicked off our day at the hospital, where a one-hour glucose test ended up taking 2 1/2 hours. Small waiting rooms aren’t really meant to function as school rooms. But I’d packed a bag full of books (knowing we’d need something to fill the time), and Little Bear proved herself capable of learning anywhere.

For the first hour, we focused on this week’s pond theme. Today’s themed read-alouds included the following:

 

As we read, both girls enjoyed identifying animals that made their homes in the pond. Little Bear went a step further and distinguished between animals that spent their entire lives in ponds and animals that simply began their lives amid murky waters. We also explored …

  • distinguishing characters of ponds;
  • common differences between lakes and ponds;
  • common pond plants;
  • the importance of algae;
  • identifying characteristics of dragonflies and damselflies.

When Baby Bear’s interest in our theme study waned, I handed her the iPad and did math with Little Bear. Because I wanted to limit the number of books we were toting around, we primarily worked in Mathematical Reasoning Level A. Much of this book reviews concepts Little Bear already understands and had I actually seen a copy before ordering, I probably would have started with a higher level. But Little Bear thoroughly enjoys it — so much so that she’s undaunted by the written work and gets much-needed writing practice while reviewing basic math concepts. Over the course of the ten pages she breezed through this morning, she …

  • practiced correct numeral formation;
  • reviewed even/odd numbers and practiced counting by 2’s;
  • reviewed ordinal numbers;
  • reviewed the concept of number sets and added various number sets;
  • used verbal clues to solve problems.

We also completed the final three logic puzzles in Mind Benders Book 1, much to Little Bear’s delight and consternation. She loves finishing books and danced around as wildly as space would permit in celebration of having finished this one. Suddenly, though, it dawned on her that one of her favorite books was finished.

“Mommy, are there any more books in this series?” she asked.

I assured her that there were, and she resumed her cheering. Then she stopped and asked, “Do we have them?”

“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “I need to look and see.”

“Well, can you check just as soon as we get home?” she pressed. “And if we don’t have them, can you order them today? I can’t wait to start the next one!”

Moving on to phonics, Little Bear completed several pages of Explode the Code 1. Once again, the text focused on short /a/ words. In today’s lesson, she

  • spelled /-at/, /-ad/, and /-am/ words aloud;
  • matched pictures and words;
  • read sentences that included similar short /a/ words and matched each sentence with the picture that best illustrated it.

She finished today’s phonics/reading lesson by reading I Love My New Toy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) aloud to Baby Bear.

At last, it was time for my second blood draw of the morning. Both girls watched in fascination, then enjoyed a brief explanation of the process along with an up-close look at the tools used in the lab.

After an early lunch, the girls played while I recovered from the effects of 75 mg. of glucose. Play-Doh time followed active play. Finally, we pulled Zoologic off the shelf for a quick mental work-out before we headed off to our second “hurry up and wait appointment of the day.”

Our second errand of the day took us to a local performing arts company, where Baby Bear will be participating in Kindermusik and Little Bear will be taking dance classes during the 2013-2014 school year. I’d been warned that we needed to be there when the doors for registration today if we wanted to get in the classes of our choice. We got 33 minutes early to stand in a stairwell full of people (in 100-degree weather, no less …) and even at that were No. 46 on the registration list.

I’d naively brought books along on this outing as well, but it quickly became apparent that neither the noise level, nor the crowd, nor my need to listen closely for our number would allow Mommy to entertain. So it was SuperWhy and, later, Doc McStuffins to the rescue as half an hour turned into an hour, then two, while my tired cubs attempted to wait patiently.

P1010529

Waiting …

On the plus side, we did manage to get in our first choice of classes, and we’ve heard great things about both programs. Here’s hoping they prove to be well worth the wait!

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Surprise, Surprise!

Today started out like a typical library day. We got an early start on the day, read a few library books that we needed to return, then tackled one of our Miquon Math lessons for the week. Today’s lesson required Little Bear to assign numerical value to Cuisenaire rods, then make greater/less than comparisons, tasks she completed with relative ease.

While Little Bear completed her workbook pages, Baby Bear built a staircase of C-rods and attempted to count up the stairs just like her big sister. (She’s getting the idea, although five gets left out more often than not.) Staircases led to shapes, then on to random pictures, and I left both girls to play until time to leave for the library.

After we got back home and ate lunch, Little Bear and I sat down to do the rest of her bookwork for the day, while Baby Bear played. We picked up where we’d left off with math and completed the following:

  • six pages of Mathematical Reasoning Level A, most of which we did orally. Today’s work included a review of odd and even numbers, an introduction to ordinal numbers, and several word problems.
  • practice writing the numeral 2;
  • Units 9-10 of Life of Fred: Apples. Once again, Little Bear practiced counting by 5s and 10s and reviewed ordinal numbers. Today’s units also introduced subtraction and number sets.

Moving on to phonics, Little Bear  …

  • completed Skill Sharpeners Spell & Write, Kindergarten Unit 4, spelling /-un/ words, starting names with capital letters, and remembering to use capital letters and end marks in sentences;
  • practiced reading words that included -r- and -l- blends
  • reviewed concept of rhyming words and raced to make rhymes for words I supplied;
  • read Read with Dick and Jane: We Look independently — not exactly “phonics” practice, but she found this book up at the library and decided she could read it. Sight word practice is good too!
  • used part of her screen time to complete the next lesson on ReadingEggs.com.

Baby Bear and I rested while Little Bear enjoyed her time online; then, we sat down together to share today’s pond-themed read-alouds:

Little hands can do big things!

Little hands can do big things!

Somewhere along the way, we seem to have collected an extra student!

Somewhere along the way, we seem to have collected an extra student!

Finally, it was game time, and the day’s real fun began. Little Bear chose a simple short vowel bingo game for us to start with — easy review for her, but not really something I expected Baby Bear to understand. Nonetheless, Baby Bear wanted to play along, so I supplied her with a bingo card and figured either her sister or I could help her find the target words. On her first spin of the vowel spinner, I asked her what letter she had landed on, not expecting a response.  “E!” she replied, quite correctly.

With her second spin, she correctly identified the letter A, and on her third turn, she identified the U. By this time, I was starting to realize that my “baby” girl obviously had a better grasp of her letters than I’d thought, so I asked her if she could find a word on her card that included the letter “u.”

“Bug!” she replied, after a bit of searching.

She doesn’t yet know all of her letters, but she’s apparently learned quite a few of them through alphabet puzzles, alphabet books, and occasional viewing of LeapFrog: Letter Factory.

When the girls tired of bingo, we moved on to Camelot Jr., which was decidedly a game for Little Bear alone. Created for 4- to 9-year-olds, this game includes 48 puzzles cards of varying difficulty. Little Bear flew through the starter level puzzles almost as soon as she got the game, but the next level frustrated her enough that we temporarily shelved the game. She pulled it off the shelf a couple of weeks ago and discovered that she could now solve the puzzles that had frustrated her so much only a few months ago. The game is still challenging, especially now that she’s nearing the end of junior level cards. But she’s having fun, and she’s developing her thinking skills. What more can you ask for in a toy?

"Hmmm. Is this right?"

“Hmmm. Is this right?”

Success!

Success!

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Just the Basics …

We kicked off the day with a morning play date, then came home to find that a water main in our apartment complex had ruptured, leaving us without water for most of the afternoon and evening. Having no water, we quickly discovered, gets really old really fast. So we did just the basics today before heading outside to enjoy the abundance of water in the pool.

Phonics included …

For math, we read chapters 7-8 of Life of Fred: Apples and completed exercises orally. Little Bear also …

  • practiced counting to 100 by 5s and 10s;
  • practiced telling time to the hour and half hour;
  • sorted and sequenced six sets of 4-scene sequencing tiles, then described what was happening in each scene;
  • spent about 10 minutes reviewing addition facts in swimming pool.

Today’s motor work consisted of …

  • writing the letter Ss correctly;
  • writing -ell and -all words on the MagnaDoodle;
  • manipulating 3-D mosaic pieces to create another Mosaic Puzzle Art picture.

With the basics behind us, we headed to the pool for some refreshing afternoon fun, then returned to our still-waterless apartment for dinner, stories, and an early bedtime.

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Hangin’ On

Today was about survival. No, the kids weren’t sick, tired, or out of sorts, but Mommy most assuredly was. And despite my best efforts to channel Naomi Aldort, I could practically feel Joan Crawford’s Mommie Dearest voice struggling to escape my throat.

So we packed up and left — not for the deserted island (or self-sustaining farm of my dreams), but for the library. The girls enjoyed story time and interaction with other little people, and Mommy got some much-needed down time with someone else in charge for a bit. Then, we headed to our local paragon of bad food coupled with a decent indoor playground for more down time. And when we got home? It was PBS to the rescue for a solid hour and half before Mommy even thought about school.

Okay, to be quite honest, I didn’t really think about school. Little Bear knows that I usually cap screen time at an hour, with an hour and a half being the outside limit. So being my little rule follower, when the third half-hour program ended, she dutifully turned off the iPad, brought it to me, and asked what I wanted them to do next. Baby Bear, meantime, pulled their eeboo Preschool Numbers Memory Game and begged to play it.

“Oh, pease, pease, pease?” she pleaded.

… We spent the next half hour matching number cards. For Baby Bear, number recognition and recall was challenge enough. To make the game a bit more challenging for Little Bear, I had her make more/less comparisons whenever she flipped two numbers that did not match and occasionally challenged her to supply the sum of whatever numbers had just been flipped.

Our Haba Ear Tug Game came off the shelf next, and we moved on to tactile recognition and shape manipulation. Then, Little Bear ran over to the shelves to grab a couple of aging Triazzle Jr. puzzles.

“Mommy, this puzzle has ocean animals on it,” she said. “Don’t you think it would be perfect to do while we’re learning about animals that live in the ocean?”

We supposedly finished our ocean theme study last week, but she presented a good argument. … We sat on the floor and did a sea life puzzle together. Then, she chose to tackle the creepy crawly puzzle herself — “so the bugs and spiders don’t feel left out” — while I put laundry away.

We finally got around to actual school work about 4 p.m. and opted for an abbreviated day. On the phonics front, Little Bear …

For math, we tackled chapters 5 & 6 of Life of Fred: Apples. Today’s lesson included an introduction to algebraic expressions, a review of ordinal numbers, and counting by 10s. Moving beyond the book, Little Bear …

  • practiced counting to 100 by 5’s and 10’s;
  • practiced number recognition (51-100) with flashcards;
  • independently solved five math puzzles in Can You Find Me? K-1;
  • used charts to find the solutions to three puzzles in Mind Benders, Book 1.

For fine motor work today, Little Bear …

  • practiced writing her name on the MagnaDoodle and on paper (with an emphasis on using a capital letter at the beginning and correctly orienting all lowercase letters);
  • drew a recognizable picture of an elephant (as one of today’s Life of Fred lessons challenged her to do)
  • followed a pattern and used plastic mosaic cubes to create the colorful fellow below:
P1010502

Squawk!

And so ended our very brief day of school. The girls spent the rest of the evening creating an entire family of Potato Heads, acting out scenes from Thomas stories, and playing school with an old set of Peek-a-Block Alphabet Blocks. Then it was time for baths, a string of just-for-fun library books, two more chapters of The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (Great Illustrated Classics), and BED. Whew! Not one of our more productive days, but we survived it. And some days, survival is enough.

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Friday Fun Day

With the week drawing to a close, we shelved most of our school books today and focused on fun learning activities. We started the morning with a couple of Bible stories, followed by 15 minutes or so of singing along with various Cedarmont Kids music video clips.

Then, it was game time. We began today’s fun with a couple of games of Baby Bear’s current favorite, Ravensburger Teddy Mix & Match, a great tool for encouraging visual discrimination and recall practice. Next, we stepped up the pace by working through half a dozen MindWare Brain Box: My First Pictures cards. Finally, Little Bear and I had some word-building fun with ThinkFun What’s Gnu. (Baby Bear can’t yet spell, so she joined in the fun as our official “Letter Getter.”)

Moving on to more academic tasks, we spent about an hour on phonics and math review. For phonics, Little Bear …

For math, we …

  • read the first two chapters of Life of Fred: Apples (which Little Bear has now dubbed her “favorite book in the whole wide world” — high praise indeed!), talked through problem sets, and used groups of seashells to demonstrate the commutative power of addition;
  • orally drilled addition facts to 10 (with 28/30 problems immediately answered correctly);
  • completed today’s Daily Math Practice, Grade 1 exercise, charting information on a graph and using the graph to make number comparisons.

Once again, we took time to watch today’s episode of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, which focused on water striders and tied in quite nicely to this month’s ocean/lake/river/pond theme study. Baby Bear then watched an episode of Clifford, while Little Bear and I tackled this week’s primary craft project, a paper tube ocean critter from the Alex Little Hands series. Little Bear chose to create a jelly fish and was able to complete her project with minimal assistance. I showed her how to fold tissue paper squares into triangles, helped her coat her paper tube with thick layer of glue (since the Alex glue sticks are far from the best …), and helped her secure her jellyfish’s tentacles with tape. (Contrary to the imaginings of the kit creators, cheap glue does not bond pipe cleaners to cardboard!) As kid craft kits go, though, this one was cute, relatively complete, and simple enough to be truly child-friendly — and Little Bear was thrilled with her finished project:

One silly jellyfish!

One silly jellyfish!

In a rare stroke of almost-perfect timing, Little Bear finished her jellyfish just as Baby Bear’s Clifford episode drew to a close. Little Bear then sat down at the computer to complete her next ReadingEggs.com lesson, while Baby Bear and I tackled her craft project.

Baby Bear chose to create a lobster, which was probably the simplest project in the package. The kit really wasn’t designed for two-year-olds, however; so, she required a bit more assistance. I slathered glue on her tube, helped her wrap it with tissue paper, and folded her critter’s accordion-fold legs for her. She decorated her lobster’s claws with stickers, stuck claws and legs in the proper places, added a sticker face, and decorated the lobster’s body. As with Little Bear’s creation, I added tape to help secure pipe cleaner antennae and heavy card stock bits that didn’t want to stay stuck with glue alone. Once again, the finished project made one little girl visibly happy:

Baby Bear's lobster ...

Baby Bear’s lobster …

Several seashore-themed read-alouds rounded out our day and brought an end to this week’s ocean studies. Among them were …


And now it’s time for little people to sleep and Mommy to gear up for next week’s river and pond study. …

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Just Following Their Lead …

Both girls hit the ground running this morning, with long lists of what they hoped to do today. So instead of trying to return them to our routine, I decided to go with the flow and follow their “plans” for the day. First off? A steady stream of read-alouds! Turned loose on the bookcase, they pulled out favorite after after and listened for as long as Mommy was willing to read:

When my voice and tolerance for kid’s books finally reached their limits, the girls turned their attention to the game shelf and begged to play their Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party Game. Now, I’m generally not a fan of anything branded Disney. But Jessica saw this game in Target before Christmas, and it was love at first sight. The game is manufactured by Wonder Forge, creators of several other good early childhood games that we’ve liked, so I took a chance on buying it, and I’m really glad I did.


So what can a “just for fun” game, complete with Disney Princess hype, actually teach? In this case, quite a bit.

As with most games, players must take turns and follow rules — basic skills for the preschool set and beyond.

Unlike many games, however, Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party Game is cooperative. In order to succeed, kids have to work together. Now, we have shelves full of competitive games, so I’m not “anti” competition. But my girls have competitiveness programmed into their genetic code, and I really don’t have to teach them to try to win. I do, however, sometimes have to actively encourage teamwork and cooperation, and this game is a painless way of doing this. (Arguments take precious time that could better be used building cupcakes — and Mommy doesn’t stop the sand timer for sibling disputes!)

In order to “win” the game, players follow recipe cards to build four-part cupcakes complete with specified cupcake liner, cake, frosting, and decorative topping. In educational terms, that translates into reading and following instructions, visual discrimination, and fine motor work — another set of needed skills.

Last but not least, there’s a healthy element of chance in the game. Each turn begins with a player flipping an instruction card. Only when players have flipped a Mix, Bake, and Decorate card does cupcake making commence. There are also four clock cards in the deck, however, and if all four of these show up before the needed Mix, Bake, Decorate sequence, it’s game over. Our first game today ended with a clock in the first hand, a gentle testament to the fact that sometimes neither board games nor life go exactly as planned.

As we were playing our third and final game for the morning, Baby Bear dug out the previously-unopened Melissa & Doug Sort and Snap Color Match she’d gotten for her birthday and asked to play with it. In keeping with our theme, I inserted a fish pattern card, and the girls sat down to work. Baby Bear initially had a bit of trouble manipulating the pieces well enough to insert the snap caps into the board.

Observing big sister ...

Observing big sister …

But after taking time to observe how her big sister did it and with a bit of practice, she was soon working away by Little Bear’s side:

Working together ...

Working together …

Success!

Success!

The girls went on to do frog and turtle pattern cards as well; then, Little Bear asked whether we had any turtle pictures they could color. I didn’t. (Pond and river creatures are on the schedule for next week!) But Google Images proved to be our friend, and both girls happily colored their turtles of choice while I fixed lunch.

After lunch, both girls helped clean help, then played together happily for a solid hour or more. It was only after I heard Spanish and walked in on this scene —

"Uno, dos, tres, quatro ..."

“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro …”

— that they seemed to remember Mommy was in the house. Yes, both girls were half-hanging off the sofa, half-standing on their heads. Yes, both were counting to 10 in Spanish, thanks to the pedagogy of their good friend Dora the Explorer.

Of course, once Mommy appeared on the scene, happy play time came to an abrupt end. Baby Bear began begging to watch her beloved Dora, while Little Bear asked to do some “real” school work.

Doing "real" school work ...

Doing “real” school work …

So while Baby Bear zoned out with the electronic babysitter, Little Bear and I tackled phonics. Today’s work included …

Then, Little Bear used her screen time to watch today’s coral reef episode of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That and complete Reading Eggs Lesson 45, while Baby Bear and I worked together a bit.

For Baby Bear, “school” is still very much defined in terms of “Play with me! Play with me!” Today’s “work” including building with Wee Wedgits, assembling her Fish Colors Mix N Match Peg Puzzle several times over and reviewing color names, identifying the ocean animals on her Melissa & Doug Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks, and sorting and stacking the blocks.

Sorting ocean animals from largest to smallest ,,,

Sorting ocean animals from largest to smallest …

Baby Bear and I wrapped up our time with a few minutes of Wee Sing and Learn ABC play on the iPad.

Having gotten in her “Mommy time,” Baby Bear ran off to play on her own while Little Bear and I sat down to do math. Today’s work included …

  • yesterday and today’s practice sheets from Daily Math Practice, Grade 1;
  • 15 minutes of Miquon Math (counting, more/less, review of even/odd numbers; numeral formation)
  • counting to 100 by 5’s
  • a quick lesson in adding single-digit numbers to 10

We ended our school time with a game of POP for Sight Words Game, which Little Bear won easily with a bit of help from her sister. (Baby Bear can’t read yet, but she wanted to play too, so she drew word cards for Mommy to read. She took great delight in digging POP! cards out of the box, repeatedly forcing Mommy to return all of our popcorn sight words to the box. …)

More play time was followed by dinner, bath, three more ocean-themed read-alouds (during which Baby Bear succumbed to sleep), and two more chapters of Robinson Crusoe (which ushered Little Bear up to the brink of sleep).

Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to get back onto some semblance of a normal schedule. But for today, the girls proved themselves quite capable of filling the hours with fun and learning.

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Library Day

Barring sickness or some other emergency, Wednesday is our usual library day. We generally try to start school work soon after Daddy leaves for work, squeeze in an hour and a half of planned learning, then head to the library for preschool story time.

Today, however, did not go according to plan. I slept maybe 3 1/2 hours last night (hello, pregnancy insomnia …) and was hoping to sleep in a bit … until Baby Bear woke up crying at 6:45 a.m. and woke Little Bear with her cries.

I staggered into the kitchen to find that I had only decaf coffee left in the pantry … not a good way to start any day, especially a day when Mommy and kidlets alike have had too little sleep. Breathing deeply and hoping the mere aroma of decaf coffee would do some good, I managed to get the girls fed and dressed. We even muddled through morning Bible stories.

Then, we sat down to flip through the 37 library books we currently had checked out and figure out what we could return. … Each week, I go online and reserve theme-related books for us to read over the course of the next week. Each week, we also spend enough time at the library for both girls to pick their age in just-for-fun library books. Usually, the bag of just-for-fun books gets read the soon after we get home from the library (and if the girls chose well, their picks get read several more times over the course of the next week). Last week, however, the “fun” bag got set in a corner and forgotten about … until this morning.

“Mommy!” Little Bear shrieked as she opened the bag, “we haven’t read any of my fun books from last week!”

“Well, we can keep them for another week,” I said.

“No!” she cried, tears welling up in her eyes. “If we keep these, I can’t check out any new books today! You can only have your age in library books. That’s the rule!”

(The whole age-in-library-books thing is Mommy’s rule to ensure that we can actually keep up with the stream of library books entering and exiting our apartment. But I really didn’t want to discuss exceptions to the rule with my very rule-conscious, black-and-white thinking 5-year-old.)

Glancing up at the clock, I told here, “We have time to read them before we go. Bring the bag here.”

Good-bye, Library Day school work. Hello, morning read-a-thon.

We finished reading, loaded up the van, and got to the library just early enough for me to swing through the coffee shop drive-thru next door and get a desperately needed iced caramel macchiato with double espresso. And just for the record, it is possible to consume an entire iced coffee drink in the time it takes to cross from one parking lot to another and park a minivan.

By the time story time ended and both girls had finalized their book selections, they were clamoring for lunch. So we stopped for tacos before heading home to begin our school day.

… except that Little Bear didn’t want to chance this week’s library picks being forgotten. Both girls clamored for me to read the bag of books we’d just brought in the door. (Hello, children, we spent an hour and a half reading at home this morning; then, you spent another half hour listening to stories at the library. How many books do you want in a day?!?)

And so we read … for another 45 minutes or so, until the previous night’s lack of sleep caught up with me.

“Hey, do you girls want to watch Kipper?” I asked.

They weren’t about to pass up that opportunity. They took the iPad and ran while I closed my eyes for 34 blissful minutes …

until Baby Bear’s screams alerted me — even before Little Bear called, “Mommy, it’s over, so I turned off the iPad!” — that their entertainment and my nap had come to an abrupt end.

It was hot, I was tired, and Baby Bear was grumpy. We headed to the pool (once we managed to find the sunblock, Baby Bear’s Crocs, and Little Bear’s cup …) and spent most of the afternoon playing.

By the time we got back inside, I was feeling somewhat guilty that we had done no actual academic work over the course of the day. Baby Bear wanted to play Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, though, so we did — and called it math in a box. Baby Bear got counting practice, while Little Bear added, subtracted, and made more/less comparisons. We also reviewed bodily orifices in which small plastic fruits (and other objects) should not be inserted — health class! And we used prepositions to help each other track down escaped cherries, apples, and blueberries — “Your apple is behind the recliner.” “I think my blueberry rolled under the rug.” “Is that a cherry beside the piano?” Surely, that counts toward language arts.

Only when Little Bear pointed out that we had done no actual bookwork did I feel guilty enough to pull The Reading Lesson off the shelf. She too was tired, however. After reading through two pages, she’d had enough. We shelved the book and called it a day. We’ll try again tomorrow.

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Routine? What routine?

This week seems bound and determined to demolish any sense of routine we’d established during our first three weeks of kindergarten. Today’s challenge was an at 8 a.m. doctor’s appointment on the other side of town. We needed to be out the door by 7:30 a.m., so I packed our busy bag, filled sippy cups, and set kid clothes last night. We succeeded in getting both girls dressed, semi-fed, and buckled into car seats by 7:29 — success! And sometimes those little successes make a big difference in how the day goes.

Once we arrived and signed in, Little Bear and I immediately sat down to do yesterday and today’s Daily Math Practice, Grade 1. Both problem sets put together took no more than 5 minutes to complete, but helped get us back on schedule after yesterday’s missed math practice. Then, we all three sat down to read A Fish Out of Water (much to the delight of both girls and another little person who happened to be in the waiting area). Just as we finished, my name was called — perfect timing!

The girls watched an episode of Go, Diego, Go — Puffin’s Fishing Adventure — that correlated with our ocean theme study while my perinatologist confirmed that all was well with Little Guy.

Since we were already out and about, we took time to stop by a restaurant with a play area for brunch and some active fun. The girls quickly made friends with a couple of other little tikes and played hard for an hour and a half.

Then, we headed home to begin our school day … except within minutes of arrival, it become abundantly clear that Baby Bear needed a nap. All three of us watched some calming underwater video footage of a coral reef while Baby Bear settled. But soothing music and serene imagery nearly put Mommy to sleep as well. So I handed the iPad over to Little Bear and let her watch Popular Mechanics For Kids: Ocean Adventures, do several dot-to-dots, and play an addition game while I “helped” Baby Bear nap.

Finally, Little Bear and I sat down for actual book work. Since we never got around to math yesterday, we chose to begin with math today. Today’s work was based on Mathematical Reasoning Level A and included …

  • practice writing numerals 7, 8, and 9.
  • drilling number bonds to 6, using C-rods to create fact families, and reviewing the commutative power of addition.
  • reviewing the concepts of same, fewer, or more.
  • identifying even and odd numbers.

Next, we tackled the first four pages of First Time Analogies, and Little Bear embraced the challenge of finding which object did not belong in 16 sets of similar objects. We worked through this book about a year ago, but it’s a good one, and I have yet to find an age-appropriate sequel. It was interesting today to see how much her reasoning skills and her ability to express her reasoning have progressed over the course of a year. We wrapped up our math/logic time with a couple of games of ThinkFun Math Dice Jr.. Little Bear handily won the second one after rolling a 1 as her target number, then creating the 5-step number sentence 5-4-1+3-2=1 to reach her target and advance five spaces on the game board.

Moving on to phonics, we spent most of our time today on Primary Phonics. I like the phonics readers that accompany this curriculum, but am finding that the writing/coloring-intensive workbook taxes both Little Bear’s motor abilities and her patience. So we’re adapting accordingly. Today, Little Bear …

  • used alphabet blocks to spell short /a/ words in the workbook.
  • practiced using in/on correctly in sentences.
  • unscrambled word tiles to form sentences.
  • reviewed Mac and Tab (Storybook 1) and completed assessment pages.
  • previewed The Tin Man (Storybook 2).
  • practiced writing lowercase a and copying short /a/ words in Explode the Code 1.

With Baby Bear still sleeping, we turned our attention to fine motor work. Today, Little Bear …

  • cut out six rectangular puzzle pieces, arranged them, and glued them to a sheet of construction paper.
  • completed two coloring pages and two mazes in the Kumon workbook My Book of Coloring: At the Zoo.
  • used a pencil and crossover grip to do two alphabet dot-to-dot pages.
  • used Do A Dot Art Markers to paint a beach scene.

When Baby Bear finally awoke, we paused for a late lunch, then sat down together to enjoy today’s ocean read-alouds:


We wrapped up today’s read-aloud time with several ocean-themed poems including Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat” (a favorite!) and Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (which outraged Little Bear).

With the day drawing to a close, we once again assembled our world map puzzle and identified each of the oceans and continents. Our science experiments of the day took place in the bathtub where the girls observed the fluid nature of water and saw how it conformed to the shape of any container we put it in. We also built on yesterday’s surface current experiment and today used bubble tea straws to create surface currents strong enough to propel various bath toys the length of the tub.

Last but not least, at Little Bear’s pleading, I dug out a Great Illustrated Classics version of The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and read the first three chapters as tonight’s bedtime story. Whew! European colonization, piracy, slavery, and cannibalism in the first 50 pages … I’ve read the unabridged version of the book at least three times over, but it’s amazing how many more objectionable elements you notice when reading to a 5-year-old. I think we may have inadvertently stumbled onto our next series of social studies lessons!

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And We’re Back!

After a web host failure, a server back-up failure, and a long night of nail-biting apprehension, Preschool Years at Home is back online, complete and unscathed.

Unfortunately, the mama who stayed up until 1 a.m. pounding her keyboard and pacing the floor (and who foolishly checked in at 2:30 a.m., 4:20 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. to see whether service had been restored) wasn’t quite so “complete and unscathed” today. Add in a morning coffee fail, an accidentally flushed roll of toilet paper, a broken toilet, and an emergency call to maintenance, and the casual reader might accurately surmise that today didn’t exactly follow the oh-so-cherished rhythm/routine espoused by Rudolf Steiner.

Truth be told, the first two hours of the day were sheer bedlam. By 10 or so, however, tears had been dried, hugs exchanged, and grace both given and received. None of us were mentally up to the challenge of school, but we were ready to regroup. So we piled into the recliner with Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose Book and Thomas the Tank Engine Collection, and spent the rest of the morning simply reading and enjoying each another’s company.

Lunch, play time, and screen time followed. (Yes, I allowed Dinosaur Train and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That to trump “real” work. Oh, the horror!) Then, our dear maintenance lady showed up to fix the broken toilet, and I quickly discovered that both girls were far more interested in seeing a plumbing snake in action than in doing school with Mommy or watching whatever came on after dinosaur train.

… We finally got into some semblance of “routine” about 4 p.m. That said, both girls were actually focused and content to begin school work eight hours later than usual. Despite our late start …

  • we completed two pages of The Reading Lesson;
  • Little Bear read Bear Hugs and Dragon Egg aloud;
  • we completed Skill Sharpeners Spell & Write, Grade K Unit 3; Little Bear practiced identifying subjects and predicates in sentences, she differentiated between complete and incomplete sentences, and she spelled all of the /-in/ words included in the unit correctly. Most exciting of all to Mommy was the fact that she completed five pages of written work of her own volition and without complaint. Major progress!

Moving on to our current ocean theme study …

  • both girls differentiated between continents and oceans on our map and globe.

    Ocean!

  • Little Bear located and correctly identified all five oceans on both the map and the globe.
Little Bear locates the Pacific Ocean.

Little Bear locates the Pacific Ocean.

Identifying the Indian Ocean ...

Identifying the Indian Ocean …

  • Little Bear used Magnatiles to show the relationship between land and water coverage of the Earth.
If our planet were reduced to four magnetic squares, ocean water would cover nearly three of them.

If our planet were reduced to four magnetic squares, ocean water would cover nearly three of them.

  • We shared the following ocean-themed read-alouds:

A gentle wind creates gentle surface currents.

A gentle wind creates gentle surface currents.

A strong wind creates forceful surface currents.

A strong wind creates forceful surface currents.

I realized at the end of the day that we had never gotten to math. Oops! Still, we survived the day. We had fun even. And we learned a few things along the way. All in all, not too bad for a Monday!

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Happy National Ice Cream Day!

In celebration of National Ice Cream Day, we took the girls out for a rare ice cream date and let them choose their favorite flavors complete with mix-ins. Little Bear was tempted by strawberry and even gave banana a passing glance, but settled on cotton candy with miniature marshmallows and Kit Kat chunks mixed in.

Cotton candy ice cream with marshmallows and Kit Kat ...

“Just the way I like it!”

As for Baby Bear, she applied the same criteria she applies to clothes, cups, lip gloss, and even doughnuts. “Dey got pink ice cream?” she asked. “I want pink!” And so she ended up with a cup full of old-fashioned strawberry goodness, marred only slightly by the inclusion of M&M’s and miniature marshmallows.

Good old fashioned strawberry -- "Pink!" -- with marshmallows and M&M's ...

“Mmmmm! Pink!”

Of course, we had to include a bit of learning in the day’s fun, so we took time to watch a brief BBC video clip that showed how ice cream is made. And in this house, every “event” must be accompanied by stories. So after a bit of searching, I chose to read Ice Cream Cows and Mitten Sheep to the girls, along with the tale of Toad’s ice cream mishap in Frog and Toad All Year. I had a much-loved copy of Should I Share My Ice Cream? in our to-be-read stack as well, but Little Bear informed me that she could now read Elephant & Piggie stories all by herself, and she proceeded to do just that.

Wrapping up the day’s fun, the girls played ice cream shop with their Smart Snacks Rainbow Color Cones. They matched colors with flavors, counted out scoops, and even “sold” cones to one another for two rocks per scoop. Then Mommy got in on the fun and challenged them to create a cone with two less than four scoops, a cone taller than a three-scoop cone, a cone with all the scoops in rainbow order, and so on — all in all, a fun and educational ending to a “just for fun” day.

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