Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Library Day

I usually try to get any library books that I want to incorporate in our weekly studies a week in advance, but this week I was behind schedule. So after breakfast and Bible story, we headed to our local library.

Time for fun!

.Little Bear enjoyed listening to a story on the computer in the children’s area, while Baby Bear and I collected our books for this week and next. Little Bear’s story ended about the time I finished gathering books, so we took time to read The Growing Story, a delightful book that follows a boy, a dog, a garden, and a family of chicks through the year. Little Bear wasn’t ready to leave, so she pulled a couple of board books from the reading area and asked me to read to Baby Bear as well.

After our hour-long library visit, we took advantage of a kids eat free deal for lunch, then went to the grocery store where Little Bear helped choose produce and count jars of baby food. Both girls were troopers, even though Baby Bear had missed her morning nap and Little Bear isn’t fond of the grocery store. It was 76 degrees outside, so I decided to postpone our planned snow and Arctic animal study and reward them with a trip to the park.

Today’s lesson? Be it schoolwork, housework, or paid work there’s always work to be done … but warm, sunny days in January should be savored outdoors

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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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Arctic Animals, Snow, and the Letter Gg

As January ends and February begins, we’re going to take this week to wrap up our January themes and get back on track with our neglected letter of the week. This week, we’ll be reviewing what we learned about snow (even though winter seems to have taken a pre-mature leave of absence here in West Texas), reading a little more about Arctic animals, and enjoying a variety of activities that relate to the letter Gg.

Our Bible verse for the week is James 1:17a: Every good and perfect gift is from God. (NIrV)

Our Bible song for the week is “God Is So Good.”

Our character quality is gratitude.

Both Little Bear and Baby Bear are fighting respiratory infections, and Mama Bear isn’t feeling much better. It remains to be seen how much actual work we get done this week.

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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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Our Curriculum … Of Sorts



My goals for our first year of preschool at home are, quite simply, to …

  • lay a solid foundation for learning
  • foster a love of learning
  • build character and confidence
  • encourage good listening habits
  • develop fine motor skills

The books posted above are simply a few of the tools we’re using to reach those goals.

We begin each day with a Bible story and memory work, the Pledge of Allegiance, and calendar time (incorporating informal math and phonics). From there, we move on to our literature-based weekly theme or letter of the week and read, read, read! Both Little Bear and Baby Bear like to cuddle with Mommy in the morning, so we use daily read-alouds in the recliner to help lay a foundation for learning. We take time to discuss illustrations and stories, hunt for our letter of the week in the text, let Little Bear sound out simple words, sing related songs, and occasionally watch related video clips on YouTube (especially during our animal/nature units!).

If time permits, we’ll do math or science activity, a craft, a game, or a puzzle related to our morning’s theme or letter. If there’s laundry or some other chore calling, Little Bear moves on to her handiwork while Mommy tends to the house. I’ll freely admit that I am not a fan of workbooks, especially during the early years. Both my prep time and my creativity are limited these days, however; and Little Bear loves to complete tasks successfully and independently. So Kumon First Steps workbooks have offered a simple, cost-effective way to develop fine motor skills, to encourage listening and following directions, and to foster a “can-do” attitude. We have cutting, pasting, coloring, paper-folding, and tracing books and try to do a page from each at least 3-4 days per week.

After lunch, Baby Bear is usually ready to nurse down; so we all pile into the recliner for another round of read-alouds. Inevitably, Mommy’s voice gets tired, and Little Bear takes over and reads to me. Most of the time, she reads sight word readers that she’s simply memorized, but she’s building confidence with each page.

Often, Little Bear will want to do yet more bookwork during the afternoon. We’ll usually do 2-3 activities out of Let’s Get Ready (Gakken Workbooks), then move on to School Zone’s Big Preschool Workbook if she’s still eager for more. I generally limit her to no more than half an hour of bookwork at a time. She enjoys it, but there are plenty of other ways for a preschooler to learn — and we want to have plenty of time for making music, playing with Play-Doh, building Duplo castles, and running around outside.

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An eager-to-learn preschooler, an almost-toddler, and one tired Mommy

Once upon a time in a land far away, I taught preschool. My eighteen young charges arrived at precisely 9:25 each morning, freshly dressed, fully scrubbed, well-fed, and ready to start the school day. In the ensuing 3 1/2 hours, we sang, danced, painted, played, and laughed our way through all the regular early childhood subjects. Amid the happy chaos, we followed a carefully crafted schedule. Language lessons began at 9:50 and ended and 10:30 on the dot. Math filled the time between 10:30-10:55. A five-minute bathroom break later, we paused for a short rest and video break. Art, social studies or science followed, then lunch. I wrapped up the day with stories and songs, while my assistant made sure that each little face was again well-scrubbed, each little body fed, and each little person ready to return home.

During my classroom years, I dreamed of one day having my children and enjoying their precious early years at home. Instead of 3 1/2 hours a day, we’d have at least 11 or 12 waking hours to spend together, all of which (in my dream world) could be filled with delightful, hands-on learning unrestricted by schedules or imposed curriculum.

With the birth of my first precious girl, affectionately known as Little Bear, I noticed that rigid scheduling became a bit more difficult. But we generally accomplished everything I’d planned for the day with little difficulty.

Then our second daughter, Baby Bear, arrived on the scene. …

The first few weeks after her arrival, I didn’t fret over what didn’t get done. After all, we had a newborn in the house, and she took priority over everything else. But as weeks turned to months, I began to wonder if we’d ever get back on track. I soon discovered that the 3 1/2 hours a day of uninterrupted teaching time I’d had as a classroom teacher was a luxury not afforded to stay-at-home moms with nursing babies, who neither eat nor sleep nor poop on schedule.

Nine months into our two-child adventure, I’ve abandoned — at least for the time being — the carefully-organized schedule of my classroom days. These days, we have a loose curriculum comprised primarily of weekly theme studies, with a bit of fine motor work, math, and phonics added in for good measure. The television admittedly comes on more than I’d like. The art supplies, not as frequently.

I sometimes second-guess myself and wonder whether home truly is the best place for my older daughter to learn, with a sleep-deprived mom and an into-everything, teething almost-toddler in the mix. Then, we have one of those “WOW” moments where she shows just how much she is learning amidst our (generally) happy chaos, and I know that the educational path we’ve chosen is the best for us.

As a perfectionist, I tend to focus on what we’re *not* getting done. It is my hope that this blog will become a place to celebrate all that we are accomplishing …

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