Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Back Into the Swing of Things …

After a Zoo Day Tuesday and a rough day yesterday (the aftermath of too much excitement and too little sleep), both girls woke up happy and eager to start the day today. I wasn’t quite as ready, so I made an exception to our general no-TV-before-afternoon policy and let them watch an episode of Sid the Science Kid while I reviewed grocery ads, planned menus, and made a shopping list. Then it was time to tackle the girls’ least favorite chore of the week: grocery shopping.

Much to the girls’ delight, about half of this week’s shopping was set in the one area of the supermarket they do like — the produce department. Between the two of them, they managed to add raspberries, cantaloupe, grape tomatoes, and corn to an already long list of planned purchases. And that was after I said no to fresh coconut (too much work for Mom!), pineapple (ditto), eggplant (yes, it’s pretty, but the kids don’t actually eat it!), Hatch Chiles (why is my spicy-food-disdaining 5-year-old obsessed with these things???), and probably as many more things that never actually registered on the Mom Radar. The rest of the shopping trip, while perhaps not fun, was at least tolerable … perhaps because the much-desired carton of raspberries somehow managed to stay front and center in the shopping cart.

Errands done, we headed home where the girls built a MagnaTile maze for their Hexbugs while I put groceries away. Building together isn’t usually their forte, and I was admittedly a bit surprised by the welcome peace and quiet. Then, I discovered their motivation. “Stay in here and play with me, {Baby Bear},” I overhead Little Bear say. “Mommy has to put all the refrigerated stuff away before we can have our raspberries, and she can put stuff away a lot faster if we’re not in the kitchen!” … Smart kid! And perhaps I should consider increasing the weekly raspberry budget! …

After raspberries and an early lunch, we finally got started on school work. “Can we p-l-e-a-s-e start with Can You Find Me? K-1,” Little Bear begged. “And some Mind Benders? And more of that new book with all the riddles in it {aka Dr. DooRiddles Book A2}?” (Obviously, the books we’ve gotten from The Critical Thinking Co. tend to be favorites!)

In addition to completing five puzzles from each of the books she asked to do, we rounded out our logic/critical thinking activities for the day with a couple of lessons from Lollipop Logic Book 1 on identifying similarities, three visual recall challenges from MindWare My First Brainbox, and a jigsaw puzzle.

Moving on to phonics, we …

  • continued on through Unit 8 of The Reading Lesson, focusing on improving fluency, pausing between sentences, and reading with expression;
  • began Skill Sharpeners Spell & Write Kindergarten Unit 6 and practiced writing /-an/ words on the MagnaDoodle;
  • reviewed Primary Phonics Reader 2, unscrambled sentences, completed comprehension assessment, formed short /i/ words with magnetic letters, and practiced writing short /i/ words.

For math, we …

  • practiced counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s;
  • continued working with place value of tens and ones — yesterday, I would give Little Bear a number, help her break it down into 10s and ones, then have her “show” the number using base 10 rods and cubes; today, I supplied numbers in the format of “6 tens and 4 ones” and challenged her to supply the correlated number (i.e. “64″);
  • read and discussed Life of Fred–Butterflies Unit 3.

On the science front, we read The Magic School Bus At The Waterworks and reviewed the water cycle. We sang “Water Travels in a Cycle” several times over. We also brainstormed a list of ways we could conserve water and talked about why it is important to conserve water.

Wrapping up the day, we played with Play-Doh and puzzles. Little Bear drew and colored a recognizable picture of an elephant while Baby Bear scribbled to her heart’s content. Finally, we played a couple of games of Colorama after dinner, then settled down into the recliner to enjoy a fun hour of reading before bed.

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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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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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A Full Friday

Jessica's Handiwork

Both girls are still under the weather, but we’ve gotten so far off our usual schedule this week that I wanted Little Bear to get at least a bit of her “normal” work done. We read about our sense of hearing this morning and examined a diagram of the ear. We  brainstormed a list of quiet and loud sounds. Little Bear also tried to identify random sounds I played on the computer. Finally, I pulled out her hand bells and helped her order them from the lowest pitch to the highest.

Shortly before lunch, I pulled her cutting and coloring workbooks off the shelf. As a rule, we try to do our core fine motor activities — cutting, pasting, coloring, and tracing — at least every other day. Otherwise, I tend to see a marked decline in the quality of work. Today, though, she surprised me. Although she hadn’t used scissors in the better part of a week, her cutting work today was quite good. Her coloring page, also, was completed neatly. Slowly, but surely, we’re making progress. She’s learning to take time and do her best.

Letter Hh Houses

This afternoon, we made houses from the letter Hh and talked about ways to make a house a happy home. Jessica allowed that a house needed a Mommy, a Daddy, kids, love, food, water, “and nothing else” to make a happy home. Simplistic? Perhaps. But sweet, innocent, and probably more accurate than a lot of grown-up lists would be!

We also brainstormed a list of words that start with Hh, and she came up with the following: hot, hug, heart, house, hand, horse, hippo, head, hair, hit, hen, hear, hurt, high, hat, hello, here, help, half, ham, honey, hay, hula hoop, hill, hum, Halloween, hedgehog, helicopter, hive.

Hula Hoop Toss

Late this afternoon, we headed outdoors for some more hula hoop and hopping fun. After a short-lived hula hoop hurling contest and a hula hoop roll, we took turns tossing bean bags into a hula hoop. After each round, Little Bear counted the number of bean bags inside the hoop and the number outside and made more/less comparisons. Finally, she arranged the bean bags in numerical order and hopped from bean bag to bean bag while singing a hopping song.

Bean Bag Hop

Formal work aside, Little Bear continued work on her sticker mosaic tiara, completed a magnetic counting book, laced alphabet beads in ABC order, colored Valentine hearts, tried to teach Baby Bear how to do the Hokey Pokey, spent some time with her ABC Eye Spy Bag, and transformed the living room into a bean bag toss arena — all in all, a full and well-spent day.

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A New Week

While the rest of the world watches the Superbowl and my sick Little Bear vegges out with Dora and Diego, I’m planning for the week ahead. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, our theme this week will be friendship. Our letter of the week will be the letter Hh.

Planned activities include the following:

Letter Hh
Decorate capital H with heart stickers. Use shape cut-outs to transform lowercase h into a house.

Hh lunch
Ham, honeydew melon, hash browns, hummus & vegetables, hot chocolate

Art
Practice cutting hearts out of construction paper. Make a handprint hen.

Bible
Read the story of the Good Samaritan. Talk about what it means to be a friend. Memorize Proverbs 17:17.

Cooking
Help make hot chocolate.

Gross Motor Skills
Practice hopping; play outdoor games with hula hoop.

Language Arts
Read stories about friendship. Complete the sentence “I am happy when _______.” Make a book of h words.

Math
Measure and compare heights. Practice dividing items in half.

Music
Learn the songs “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” (Friendship) and “H Says Hi” (Letter H). Sing “Make New Friends” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (Letter H). Do “The Hokey-Pokey” dance. Play Hot Potato.



Social Studies
Make a friendship photo collage. Read about housing in Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World and Houses and Homes.

Science
Read about the sense of hearing; arrange hand bells by sound; play Sound Bingo.

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The Many Faces of Gg

A Grinning Face

A Glad Face

A Goofy Face

A Growling Face


We had another beautiful, sunny day today, so we spent much of the afternoon outside and adapted our planned activities accordingly. That meant postponing the last of our snow activities until tomorrow, when it’s supposed to be 20 degrees cooler and overcast.

Today, we focused on the letter G. While Baby Bear napped, Little Bear glued green squares on an uppercase G to make a Great Green G, reminiscent of the G song off Sing Along and Learn: The Alphabet.

Nex, we headed outside, where Little Bear ran through the growing green grass. We played a game of golf (or at least knocked a plastic golf ball around the yard with a toy golf club). Of course, Little Bear wanted to play in the dirt, so we compromised, and she used a stick to practice writing Gg on the ground. Last of all, we painted a lowercase g with glitter glue — affording Little Bear the fun of glitter, while allowing Mama Bear to avoid most of the mess. All in all, we had a great day.

And our final g word for the day? GRUNGY!

A Grimy Face

Time for dinner, bath, and bed!

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A Fun-Filled Friday … I hope

My day got off to a jump start this morning when Little Bear woke up about 5 a.m. and started a chain reaction of people waking up tired and grumpy. While she and Baby Bear are now back to sleep, I settled for caffeine in lieu of sleep, and decided to use the early morning quiet to prepare for the end of our week.

As often happens, we’re running out of week before running out of activities. We’ve got MOPS this morning, leaving us with just this afternoon and tomorrow to squeeze as much snowy, polar, Letter Gg fun and learning as possible … time to prioritize!

As we wrap up our snow theme, I want to squeeze in the following read-alouds:

We also still need to make paper snowflakes, sort them from smallest to largest, then toss them up into the air and do our snowflake dance:

Snow is Falling
to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?"

now is falling, snow is falling,
All around, All around.
Whirling, twirling snowflakes,
Whirling, twirling snowflakes
Hit the ground. Hit the ground.

For the letter Gg, we still need to make our great green uppercase G and gluey, glittery lowercase g. The Day the Goose Got Loose is on our must-read list, and we’ve got a related rhyming word match-up to do along with a naked tagboard goose waiting to be dressed in feathers. Little Bear wants to practice writing the letter Gg more as well.

Wrapping up our polar animals theme, I want to help Little Bear do her world map floor puzzle and locate the polar regions once again. Ice Bear and Little Fox somehow jumped out of our stack of Arctic books and got mixed in with our stack of already-read penguin books, so we need to squeeze it in as well. Last of all, we’ve got a polar animal sorting activity to help Little Bear differentiate between Arctic and Antarctic wildlife.

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Goodbye, January. Hello, February!

A sick Mama Bear, feverish Little Bear, and three loads of laundry delayed the start of our school day today, but we still managed to cover a decent amount of ground.

Little Bear started the day by independently doing a visual discrimination puzzle while Mama Bear started laundry. She got additional problem-solving practice by sorting and completing two puzzles Baby Bear dumped while the puzzle rack was accessible.

We began our day together by reading “Operation: ‘No More Tears!’” from The Jesus Storybook Bible and discussing God’s glorious plan to rescue His people, then reviewing Psalm 23:1-4 (Little Bear’s ongoing memory project) a couple of times.

Moving on to calendar time, we said goodbye to both January and our pocket chart calendar to welcome February and a wall calendar Little Bear made with the help of her Sunday School teachers. We counted the number of days in the month, found today’s date, and reviewed concepts of before and after. We compared February to January and discovered that February was shorter. We also discussed Leap Year and noted that this year is a leap year. Neither of our voices were up to our usual morning songs, but we listened to the February song from our Scholastic Calendar Time Sing-Along Flip Chart & CD so that Little Bear could begin learning the words. Little Bear brainstormed a list of words that began with the same sound as Monday, then listened to words and marched only when she heard an /m/ sound.

As we moved to our Letter of the Week work, Jessica read her Gg alphabet reader aloud with minimal help and practiced tracing uppercase G and lowercase g on the Magnadoodle. We also began learning “The Green Grass Grows All Around” with the help of YouTube and my least favorite cartoon character.

We read two versions of The Three Billy Goats Gruff aloud and took turns pretending to be the different goats. We also ordered pictures of the goats from smallest to largest and oldest to youngest. Next, we read My Goose Betsy and noted that all members of the goose family — goose, gander, and gosling — started with the letter Gg. We continued our animal fun with Giggle, Giggle, Quack . We finished by watching a Weston Woods adaptation of Good Night, Gorilla, giving Mommy’s voice a welcome rest!

Our Gg lunch

By the time our video clip ended, Baby Bear had fallen asleep in Mommy’s arms. Little Bear sat down beside Mommy and sorted 20 pictures according to whether they began or ended with /g/ sound.

We then read My “G” Sound Box and brainstormed a list of as many /g/ words as we could think of. We noted that the letter Gg actually makes two sounds and sorted hard /g/ words from soft /g/ words.

As lunch time approached, Little Bear watched a series of classic Sesame Street clips about the letter Gg, while I prepared a G-themed lunch of grilled cheese, green beans, green pepper strips w/ garlic dip, grapes, gingersnaps, and a granola bar. Letter lunches are easily her favorite part of each week’s letter study.

Following lunch, Little Bear worked independently to complete a cutting exercise, a pasting exercise, a folding exercise, two tracing activities, and two one-to-one correspondence exercises. On a practical note, she also practiced her grouping skills by helping Mama Bear sort clean laundry.

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Tying Up Loose Ends

Mondays usually offer us a fresh start. Since last week’s schedule was derailed by plumbing issues (with no functioning kitchen drain for a day and a half and no hot water for another day), sickness, and doctor’s appointments, though, we’re going to spend today playing catch-up.

We opened our school day by reading and discussing the story of Namaan, our Bible story for today in The Jesus Storybook Bible. We also began memorizing James 1:17a (“Every good and perfect gift is from God.”), listed a few of the good gifts God has given us, and talked about gratitude, our character quality of the week.

During calendar time, we reviewed the months of the year using the movements from the Macarena, grouped months according to season, and matched picture cards with seasons. Then, we completed the final spread of Skip Through the Seasons, a sort of I Spy book with rhymes and pictures to hunt for each month. Little Bear was greatly disappointed to reach the end and insisted the book had to be a permanent part of our morning calendar time activities. I suggested that we begin working our way through a different hunt-and-find book, and with a great sigh of reluctant compromise, she agreed.

Before beginning our morning read-alouds, we located the polar regions on a globe and differentiated between the Arctic and Antarctica. We then read Who Lives in the Arctic?; The Magic School Bus Arctic Adventure; Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Wind Blows; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; and Three Snow Bears.

Mama Bear wasn’t feeling very creative, so for our math activity, we simply counted animals as we read through our read-alouds and made more/less comparisons.


Little Bear completed her handiwork (cutting, pasting, tracing, coloring) while I fixed lunch.

After lunch, we talked about the letter Gg, practiced articulating the /g/ sound, read our Gg word alphabet reader, and identified words that started with Gg. We drew Gg’s in the air, then Little Bear practiced tracing and writing uppercase G on her own. We ended our formal school time by reading a chapter from Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World and the completing the next spread in our Sticker Encyclopedia: Words.

Of course, at 3 1/2. virtually everything is a learning activity. Little Bear chose to fill the rest of the afternoon with a cutting and pasting activity, followed by an episode of Diego, some fresh air and sunshine, and some Play-Doh time. We ended the day with a couple of games of Don’t Break the Ice, then tried to stack the ice blocks in the form of an igloo which Baby Bear thoroughly enjoyed demolishing.

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Our Monthly Themes

The one thing that has not changed in the six months we’ve been on our semi-formal preschool-at-home venture is our monthly theme calendar. We focus on one theme each week, occasionally using the end of the month to review or play catch-up. Each study is literature-based, with a blend of fiction and non-fiction books. We also try to include at least two related math activities in our week’s activities, an art project, a science experiment, and a puzzle or game.

January

  • Our Calendar
  • Our Community
  • Arctic Animals
  • Snow

February

  • Friends
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Manners
  • Dinosaurs

March

  • Spring
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Seeds and Plants
  • St. Patrick’s Day

April

  • Easter
  • Poetry
  • Farm Animals
  • Earth, Our Home

May

  • Weather and Seasons
  • Families
  • Pets
  • Mother’s Day

June

  • Summer Fun
  • Insects
  • Our Solar System
  • Flag Day, Father’s Day

July

  • Our Country
  • The Beach
  • Water Animals
  • Independence Day

August

  • Around the World
  • Legends
  • Transportation
  • Zoo Animals

September

  • Fall
  • Occupations
  • Apples & Pumpkins
  • Labor Day

October

  • Human Body
  • Safety
  • Spiders
  • Halloween

November

  • Food
  • Fairy Tales
  • Forest Animals
  • Thanksgiving

December

  • Winter
  • Hibernation
  • Gingerbread
  • Christmas
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