Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Ballet and Oobleck

Little Bear had her first ballet lesson today — or at least, the first lesson that she remembers. She has some minor gross motor issues, and last night, she started voicing some apprehension about the upcoming class. We’d already committed to the first month, so I suggested that we go today and see how she liked it.

I’d hoped that after a good night’s sleep, she’d wake up eager to embark on this new learning adventure. By midnight, though, it became apparent that a good night’s sleep wasn’t in store for any of us. Little Bear was plagued with a dry, hacking cough that woke her up at least a dozen times over the course of the night. Baby Bear was teething and miserable. So when the alarm sounded at this morning, I found myself questioning whether ballet was such a good idea.


Despite the rough night, though, Little Bear did indeed awake with renewed energy and enthusiasm, ready for her first lesson. She had a few moments of apprehension in the car, but when we got to our destination and she realized that she knew most of the girls in her class, she could hardly contain her excitement long enough for me to put her shoes on. By the time class was over, she didn’t want to leave. Only the promise of another lesson next week got her outside without tears.

Since we’re incorporating a ballet theme into our studies on class days for the next month, she counted out the date in pliés after we got home. She also listened to music, twirling and dancing around the living room for 29 seconds. (Her instructor wants the girls to listen to classical music and practice moving when the music moves and freezing when the music stops.) She found the date on the calendar, counted out the days until next week’s lesson, and bid good-bye to February.

Just a taste ... of dry-erase marker

Practice makes perfect

Next, I pulled out a stack of ballet-themed printable activities from 1+1+1=1. We used ballerina picture cards to make patterns and hunted for initial sounds on ballerina-themed alphabet pages. Then, Little Bear sat down with her new Crayola Dry Erase Activity Center and completed a ballerina-themed tracing page. While Little Bear was working with one marker, Baby Bear swiped another one, proceeded to remove the cap just like her big sister and take it for a test taste-drive. … Oops!

By mid-afternoon, both girls were ready for snuggles and story time, so we sat down with a stack of Dr. Seuss books. We re-read Bartholomew and the Oobleck, and today we took time to make oobleck. I’d originally planned for this to be an outside project, and in retrospect, it probably should have been. We managed to have plenty of fun inside, though, without causing any permanent damage to the living room.









The oobleck ended up being a more time-consuming project than I’d anticipated. It took awhile to get the mixture just right; then, once Little Bear started playing with it, she was in no hurry to stop. (Not that I blame her! Even Mommy and Daddy got in on the messy fun!)

We ended our day on an ooey-gooey green note. By the time Little Bear tired of the stuff, it was time to clean up and head to AWANA. And so ended another day of hands-on home learning.


Just Another Tuesday

Little Bear rolled out of bed ready to work this morning and made a beeline for the bookshelf. Before I could even turn on the coffee pot, she’d pulled a stack of Jj books off the shelf and was hunting for alphabet beads to spell her name. I love her enthusiasm and passion for learning. I hope it lasts a lifetime. But I really could stand for it to start a little later in the day … say, after breakfast? Or at least after coffee?

I handed her our beadwork baggy from yesterday and sent her off to the table to work on her own, while I fixed breakfast. She spelled her name with the beads, this time with no help; then, she strung them with a little assistance from Daddy.

After breakfast, we headed into the living room where we officially started the day with our planned Bible story and another. Little Bear allowed that since Jesus’ name began with our letter of the week, we should read at least two stories out of The Jesus Storybook Bible, and I couldn’t fault her logic. We also reviewed our verse for the week and sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Ones Like Me.”

Next, we did an abbreviated version of calendar time. Little Bear found today’s date on the calendar, along with yesterday’s and tomorrow’s. She noted that there was only one day left in February, and we listened to our February song from Scholastic’s Calendar Time Flip Chart And CD. I say “listened,” because this particular song moves far too fast for Little Bear to actually sing all the words. She enjoys having a song of the month for each month, though, and the others in this collection are more kid-friendly. Little Bear also looked outside and noted that today was warm and sunny — nearly 20 degrees warmer than yesterday, in fact.

In the limited time we had left before taking Daddy to school and running errands, we read Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books. I’d planned for us to make a footprint moose with handprint antlers, but we ran out of time. We’ll have to squeeze that project in later in the week.

After we got home and had lunch, I was ready to focus on bookwork, but Little Bear wanted to play a game. So we pulled Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It off the shelf instead and called it applied math. (Hey, the game includes counting, logic, and visual discrimination!)

Then, we headed outside to read Bartholomew and the Oobleck and make some Oobleck of our own. The cubs were no sooner out the door than they met and made friends with a couple of new neighbors, though; so planned fun gave way to spontaneous letter-of-the-week fun:

J is for Juice

J is for Joy

J is for Jump

Rounding out the day’s activities, Little Bear did her cutting, tracing, and coloring handiwork after we came back inside. Then, we sat down and read Bartholomew and the Oobleck and Fox in Socks. Our actual Oobleck-making will have to wait until tomorrow — provided Little Bear doesn’t veto the project. After reading about the stuff, she isn’t sure Mommy should be re-creating it!

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Jumping into Jj

In an ongoing effort to resolve some possible allergy issues with Little Bear, we spent 2 1/2 hours this morning sitting in a doctor’s office. Long waits are the norm at this particular practice, so I packed a bag of letter Jj activities to take along. Despite being away from her usual workspace, Little Bear …

  • reviewed the days of the week in the car, identifying today as Monday, yesterday as Sunday, and tomorrow as Tuesday and singing the Days of the Week song
  • described the weather and sang The Weather Song
  • counted up to the date, divided it into 2 groups of ten and 7 ones, clapped out the date in tens and ones (giving me ten two times and tapping index fingers with me 7 times), then wrote 27
  • brainstormed words that started with Jj
  • jumped around in the shape of a Jj
  • practiced writing Jj in the air
  • practiced writing uppercase J on paper
  • completed a Lauri crepe foam jet puzzle; sounded out and wrote the word “jet”
  • reviewed the concepts of bigger and smaller; completed relate worksheet
  • listened as I read Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme; counted animals and other objects on each page; identified all animals on review page at end of book
  • listened as I read Touch and Feel: Jungle Animals to Baby Bear and later retold story in her own words
  • completed /j/ beginning sound worksheet
  • spelled her name (a J word) with alphabet beads, then strung beads in order to make a name necklace (jewelry)
  • jumped and counted to 27 (She needed to get some wiggles out!)

Yes, it was a bit worksheet heavy (worksheets are more portable than projects), but overall, not a bad start to the week!

This afternoon, we read The Cat in the Hat, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, and The Foot Book. Playing off The Foot Book, Little Bear counted the feet in our family, ranked them from smallest to largest and newest to oldest. She concluded that Daddy Bear had the largest feet, the oldest feet, and the stinkiest.

Wrapping up the day’s work, Little Bear completed her first assessment, as well as another reading lesson. In keeping with our Seussian theme, she also watched an episode of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That.

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Dr. Seuss, Ballet, and the Letter Jj

As we move into a new week, we’re taking time to celebrate one of our favorite authors, Dr. Seuss. We’ll be reading Dr. Seuss books each day this week. We’ll also be cooking up some green eggs, decorating hats, making red and blue fish mosaics, stacking apples, matching objects to their shapes and engaging in any other Seuss-tastic activities we can squeeze into the schedule.

We’ll also be resuming our usual letter of the week activities this week with the letter Jj and doing the letter Jj activities I had planned for last week.

Finally, Little Bear will be starting ballet lessons this week. Technically, she’ll be resuming them, as she had about four months worth of lessons while we were in Korea. That was a year and half ago, though — half a life-time for a preschooler. I’m not expecting her to remember much, but was happy to discover that the too-big leotard she used then (the smallest we could find) now fits her perfectly. Little Bear loves dressing up, twirling around, and pretending to dance; so she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in “real” dance classes. She wanted to know if we had a ballet theme on our school calendar. I told her that it wasn’t, but that we could adjust the calendar to fit her interests. She didn’t want to skip any of our planned themes, so we’ll be turning lesson days (Wednesdays) into ballet theme days for the next month. Flexibility … it’s one of the many advantages of learning at home.

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Bits and Pieces

Always learning ... not always using books

Amid the hustle and bustle of the past couple of days, book work has not been at the top of our agenda. We’ve still squeezed plenty of learning into the schedule, though. Over the past day and a half, we’ve covered the following …

Art: Drew pictures; colored; cut and glued to heart’s content

Bible: Read the story of Esther and watched related DVD; reviewed Letter Ii verse.

Sometimes we just learn about science; other times, we experience it!

Gross Motor Skills: Ran and jumped; kicked ball around yard; rode PlasmaCar (dubbed the “Wiggle Mobile”)

Fine Motor Skills: Strung wooden beads to make a necklace; completed tracing activity; worked with putty

Language Arts: Reviewed CVC words on; completed set of 12 CVC word-building puzzles; played rhyming word game; read together.

Math: Counted out yesterday’s date by 1’s and 2’s; constructed a 24-block Duplo tower using an AB pattern; separated tower into two color groups and discovered that there are two sets of 12 in 24; counted out today’s date by 1’s and 5’s; kicked ball around yard 25 times while counting kicks in ordinal numbers; broke today’s date down into two groups of 10 and five ones; practiced writing date both days.

Signs of spring

Science: Hunted for signs of spring; watched animal science program; completed African wildlife puzzle and identified animals in picture.

Other: Played two games of Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It (math, strategy, visual discrimination, problem solving, cooperation), one game of Ravensburger Teddy Mix & Match (visual recall; attention to detail), and the traditional Memory game. Built with wooden blocks and MagnaTiles. Participated in preschool play group and in large group activity.

All in all, not too shabby for a couple of “off” days!

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Friday Freebie

Tonight, I was enjoying some quiet “Mommy Time” on the computer and browsing other blogs, when I found a link to a free e-book full of activities and ideas for observing the Lenten season with children. The book titled Jesus Loves Me This I Know is the work of two homeschooling moms and was written with 2- to 6-year-olds in mind. It is divided into seven lessons or units, with summaries, teaching points, and craft projects for each. Topics covered include the following:

  1. The Triumphal Entry
  2. The Lord’s Supper
  3. Praying at Gethsemane
  4. Jesus Appears Before Pilate
  5. The Crucifixion
  6. The Empty Tomb
  7. The Resurrection

The book is a guide for parents, not a text for children. Users will need to supplement lessons using relevant Bible passages, excerpts from a story Bible, and/or Bible story books. We’ll be supplementing with the excerpts from the child-friendly NIrV, The Jesus Storybook Bible, The Child’s Story Bible, some Easter-themed Arch Books that I purchased last year, and these printable Holy Week sequencing cards created by one of the book’s authors.

The related art projects would work for children of varying ages. Every lesson contains at least one activity simple enough for my preschooler (age 3 1/2), but equally appropriate for kindergarten or early elementary students. I can’t wait to incorporate these hands-on activities into our Bible study time and will be posting pictures of Little Bear’s completed work.

Thanks to Erin and Nicole for creating and sharing this great resource!

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Swinging into Thursday

Swinging into Thursday ...

Today was our weekly speech therapy/supermarket/park/library day, so academics were limited. We did take time to read a Bible story and a couple of other stories before we left home this morning, and we did much of our calendar time routine in the car.

Winds picked up about the time we got out of the car with our picnic lunch at the park. Little Bear got an unplanned lesson on the power of wind as she tried to both hold onto her lunch and eat it — all the while trying to keep her flying hair out of her food. She also discovered that napkins propelled by the wind can move much faster than Little Bears.

Little Bear counted out the date today by swinging around in circles on the tire swing 23 times over. Just as she finished, two school bus loads of elementary school students descended on the playground, and we made our way to the Tot Park, supposedly reserved for 2- to 5-year-olds. It too was soon overrun, and Little Bear asked to leave. Despite the chaos, no one had bothered the girls or been unkind, so I asked her why she wanted to leave.

“There are just too many people here,” she replied. “It’s too noisy and too crazy. I’m glad I don’t have to go to school with all these kids!”

Getting in on the action!

Always learning ...

We ran an errand, then stopped by our local playground, where just a handful of kids were playing. There, both girls quickly made friends and played happily until it was time go. Little Bear tackled the monkey bars and balance beams, while Baby Bear proved she could climb almost anywhere the bigger kids climbed. Mama Bear instinct kicked in as Baby Bear approached an 8-foot slide, and I made her save that adventure for another day. There are some things that I’m not ready for my 9-month-old to do just yet!

Wrapping up out out-and-about day, we stopped by the library to return this week’s books and to check out books for next week. Letter Jj, here we come!

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Some days, you just need to stop …

Stop ...

... and taste the dandelions ...



Some days, you just need to stop and taste the dandelions.

Or better yet, share them with a friend.



Or share them with a friend ...

Today was one of those days. With sunny skies, singing birds, blossoming trees, and temperatures in the high 70s, we left the books inside this morning and headed outside for the first part of our school day.

My little tree hugger ...

Just like sister!

Little Bear danced around the trees, singing happily and welcoming signs of spring, and Baby Bear tried to imitate big sister — when she wasn’t preoccupied with tasting nature’s wonders. (We must have the best-tasting twigs and weeds in West Texas!)

Little Bear reviewed days, months, and seasons as she twirled and sang. She counted out the date with jumps, claps, and twirls before collapsing on the ground in a giggly heap. Unorthodox? Perhaps. But I keep her home in part so that she can twirl and giggle her way along the path learning.

Little Bear also practiced writing her letters in the dirt, collected 22 acorns, matched dried magnolia leaves with magnolia trees, and tried to follow a bee buzzing amid the cherry blossoms. By late morning, she was hot, and Baby Bear was tired, so we headed indoors for more traditional work.

Little Bear completed her cutting, tracing, coloring, and paper-folding activities of the day while I nursed Baby Bear and fixed lunch. Afterward, with half the week behind us and two full days ahead of us, we chose to spend one more day on the Letter Ii and have some inchworm fun today rather than start a new theme or letter midway through the week.

Ii is for Inchworm

Little Bear had searched in vain for inchworms — or any other worms — while we were outside. Finding none, we turned instead to Youtube and watched the video clips Inchworms and Incredible Inchworm. We also visited this page to see some images of mature Geometrid Moths. We then read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and traced the stages of the caterpillar’s life, from egg to butterfly. Finally, Little Bear made her own inchworm from construction paper. Once again, the finished product didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisioned, but she was pleased with it.

I’d planned to break out the ruler and expand on the concept of inches. But we were all tired and somewhat grumpy, so we put the books away and tuned into Super Why and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. After an hour of snuggles, rest, and somewhat educational entertainment, Little Bear asked to do a little more school work.

We wrapped up the day with a couple more lessons on We’re just 10 lessons into the program, but I’m already noticing that Little Bear is sounding out short vowel words with increasing speed and accuracy. She’s still challenged by the mechanics of the site when an activity requires her to click and drag, and there are  rare arcade-style activities that require more mouse/touchpad speed than her 3 1/2-year-old hands are capable of. She’s capable of doing 80-85 percent of the average lesson without assistance, though; so she’s developing computer skills, independence, and confidence along with reading skills.


Ice Capades

Ice in the shade

Ice in the sun

We wrapped up our Letter I activities this morning with a series of ice-related activities. We began be reading about water and ice, then discussing how temperature can change water (a liquid) into ice (solid) or steam (gas). Little Bear stuck her hand under the kitchen tap and confirmed that the water coming out of it was indeed liquid. Next, she reached into the freezer and confirmed that the ice cubes were solid.

We then borrowed an idea I saw on another blog last week to create an icy Valentine for Little Bear’s squirrel friends. She poured one cup of birdseed into a heart mold, but quickly discovered that the birdseed did not hold its shape. Next, she covered the birdseed with water. Still, it didn’t hold its shape. So, we stuck the mold in the freezer, grabbed a tray of ice cubes, and headed outside.

Ice in water

There, Little Bear put blocks of ice in different environments to see how quickly they would melt. She put ice cubes …

  • in the shade
  • in direct sunlight
  • in Little Bear’s water bottle (filled with room temperature water)
  • in Mommy’s insulated water bottle (filled with cold water)
  • in a bowl of salt
  • in a plastic zipper bag.

Ice in a bowl of salt

She also left two cubes behind, one in the freezer and on in the refrigerator.

Feeding the birds ...

After distributing her ice cubes, she played for a bit, threw a few handfuls of birdseed out for the birds, then sat down at a picnic table with me to read, while our ice cubes transformed from solids to liquids.

Checking progress ...

Little Bear soon found that the ice cube in her water bottle melted first, followed by the ice in the salt, the ice in the bag, the ice in the sun, the ice in the shade, the ice in Mommy’s insulated water bottle, and the ice in the refrigerator. She noted that while most of the ice cubes melted quickly (10-25 minutes), the ice cube in Mommy’s insulated water bottle lasted a couple of hours and the ice in the refrigerator survived for nearly eight hours. The ice cube in the freezer, of course, remained unchanged.

"Did you call my name?"

Following our ice adventures, Little Bear once again practiced writing the letter Ii, the completed cutting, coloring, and pasting activities. She watched WordWorld while I fixed lunch and surprised me by correctly sounding out several of the words. She enjoyed more story time with Daddy while I took Baby Bear in for a well child check.

An Icy Squirrel Valentine

Then it was time to check the state of our squirrel Valentine project. I opened the freezer, and she discovered that five hours in the freezer had transformed birdseed and water into a cohesive solid. She was outside yelling, “Squirrels! Squirrels! Come here! I have a Valentine for you!” before  I even got the heart out of the mold, and I assumed that any squirrels in the neighborhood would have taken flight. When I got outside, though, I found that one brave critter (who’d apparently been feasting on the birdseed she scattered earlier in the day) stuck around.

Mr. Squirrel soon came to see what the Loud Human Child had left near his tree, and he apparently liked what he saw. He made a valiant effort to drag the 6-inch chunk of ice and seeds off to his lair, much to Little Bear’s delight. (Of course, the camera battery was dead by that time …) He succeeded in dragging it only a couple of inches before giving up and returning to the easier meal of loose seeds scattered earlier in the day. This being Texas, though, I have no doubt the icy Valentine will melt quickly, and I suspect our neighborhood rodents will go to bed with full tummies tonight.


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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