Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

15 Weeks and Counting …

When we moved in late January, I expected my posts to be sparse to non-existent for a few weeks as we got settled into a new home and new routine. I had not anticipated, however, that they would be sparse to non-existent for a few months.

About the time we got the basics unpacked, though, I was practically knocked off my feet my a vaguely familiar wave of exhaustion. Then, the mood swings hit. And the violent food aversions. Fifteen days after moving into a two-bedroom apartment with a lease stipulation of no more than four residents, we discovered that our family of four was in the process of expanding. …

I’ve had numerous losses in the past, so we were initially reluctant to break the news to the girls … until 24/7 “morning sickness” hit with a vengeance, and Little Bear broke down in tears because Mommy was “so sick” that she thought something must be “seriously wrong.” At that point, we shared our little secret with them, along with our hopes, our fears, and our prayers that Baby-Makes-Three would be joining our family in late October.

In the weeks since then, we’ve gradually moved back toward some semblance of a school schedule. There are still days that I’m really grateful for, and PBS Kids, but overall, we’ve plodded on with formal math and reading, regular fine motor work, and plenty of daily read alouds. We’ve participated in weekly library activities, monthly art classes at our local museum, and various church-based children’s programs. We’ve played games, done crafts, built stuff, explored topics of interest to one or both girls, and followed plenty of rabbit trails along the way. I just haven’t done a very good job of photographing or blogging about our journey because I’ve been napping during their rest time and going to bed shortly after they do each evening. Now that we’re firmly into the second trimester, though, I’m starting to feel human again. And I’m making a concerted effort to get back into a groove before the New Addition derails us again.

Today’s schedule went something like this:

  • Breakfast “date” with Mommy, followed by an hour of active play
  • An hour of shared reading, complete with a dozen read-alouds that ranged from There’s a Cow in the Cabbage Patch (one of Baby Bear’s long-time favorites) to selections from Mary Engelbreit’s Fairy Tales (Mommy’s choice) to several pages of Eye Wonder: Bugs (feeding one of Little Bear’s current interests).
  • Observation of our ladybug larvae/pupas (some of which we’re hoping are actually still alive since we haven’t observed any visible changes in three days …)
  • Sesame Street/Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood (to divert attention away from the ladybug experiment and give Mommy a chance to fix lunch)
  • More shared reading and free play time
  • Little Bear tackled an Orb Factory fairy sticker mosaic (fun and non-threatening fine motor practice), while Baby Bear and Mommy played with puzzles and pattern blocks.
  • Baby Bear played a game on the iPad while Little Bear and Mommy did a couple of pages in The Reading Lesson, reviewed the -at word family, and practiced the -ow- sound. Little Bear chose to wrap up today’s reading lesson by reading a Scholastic Sight Word Reader aloud without assistance.
  • I pried the iPad out of Baby Bear’s hand and took care of laundry while the ensuing tears subsided. Sigh. The child loves her electronics (says the mother who once said her young children would most certainly *not* be allowed to play with an electronic brain until their own brains had time to develop …).
  • We pulled 1-2-3 Farmyard! off the shelf. The first round, we traded cards until we each had 10 animals in our barnyard (putting Little Bear’s addition, subtraction, and reasoning skills to the test). The second round, we traded cards until we had one of each kind of animal in our barnyard (visual discrimination and critical thinking for both girls, though Baby Bear still needed quite a bit of help). Then, we pulled out eeBoo’s Preschool Lotto Game which even Baby Bear could play with little assistance and combined sorting, classifying, memory, and matching practice with wholesome family fun and good sportsmanship.
  • Little Bear completed mazes, coloring, and cutting pages from her Kumon workbooks while Baby Bear and I played with her Busy Poppin’ Pals, shape sorter, and Stacking Tree.
  • Baby Bear dumped Little Bear’s TRIO blocks, and all three of us sat down to build for awhile.
  • I looked at the clock, saw that it was almost dinner time, and wanted to call it a day. Little Bear, however, wanted to do a lesson in her math book. … The puppy dog eyes won out. We used the MagnaDoodle to review correct formation of numerals 7, 8, and 9. Then, she headed off to do a couple of pages in her Singapore Earlybird math book, while Baby Bear challenged me to draw Dora on the Magnadoodle.
  • Both girls ran wild and pestered Daddy Bear while I fixed dinner. Little Bear apparently spent dinnertime planning/plotting a long list of things she hoped to do next, but both girls were visibly tired. Mama Bear insisted on bath, bedtime stories, and BED.
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Two Years Old!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!

Our sweet Baby Bear turned TWO today! It seems like it was just yesterday that we welcomed her into the world. Now, she’s suddenly running circles around us and speaking in complete sentences. I can’t believe how quickly my “baby” is growing up!

Last year, she tasted cake for the very first time as we celebrated her first birthday. She touched the icing gingerly, drew back in surprise when it stuck to her finger, cautiously tasted the sticky residue, then dove in with both hands — getting more on herself than in herself in the process. This year, she sat down to a plate of cake and ice cream, picked up a spoon, and dove in like an old pro. She had a bit on her face and hands by the time she finished, but a washcloth eliminated the mess in a matter of seconds. (Last year’s birthday cake feast required a bath AND a thorough carpet cleaning!)

Good to the last bite!

Good to the last bite!

With a birthday celebration topping today’s agenda, no formal schoolwork took place. Little Bear spent part of the afternoon making a card for her little sister, complete with a painstakingly-written birthday message, and both girls got a little too much (semi-educational) screen time as I prepped for tonight’s party. Beyond that, the girls played, argued, helped clean house, counted down hours (and later, minutes) until guests were scheduled to arrive, and generally bounced all over the place in eager anticipation of the evening’s fun. Somewhere over the course of the afternoon, Baby Bear did grasp that she was now two, that two was more than one, and that she would be three next year. (Really? My just-turned-two-year-old is already anticipating her next birthday???)

Happy Birthday, sweet Baby Bear! You’ve made our lives richer and fuller than you’ll ever know. We count it a joy to be your Mommy and Daddy.


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C-Rod Man

We got a set of Cuisenaire Rods in the mail yesterday, and Little Bear couldn’t wait to experiment with them. So I dumped them out on the rug this morning, helped her sequence them from smallest to largest, then showed her how to build “fact families” with them. I worked with her up through the number 5 and watched as she quite correctly showed that 1+4, 2+3, 3+2, and 4+1 all equaled five. Then, I walked away and left her to work on her own.

A few minutes later, she ran into the bedroom begging, “Mommy, Mommy! Come see what I made!”

I walked back into the living room expecting to see more fact families. Instead I found this:

C-Rod Man

C-Rod Man

Bless the child’s heart. I love her rabid creativity, her wild imagination, her passion and enthusiasm. I am regularly amazed, inspired, and driven to the brink of madness by her “indigo child” tendencies. She can quite literally get lost between the car and the front door, yet she looks at a tub full of small wooden sticks and immediately envisions a robot. … These are the moments that remind me why we choose to educate at home. I want to preserve that inner fire. I don’t want her forced to create fact families when her heart is challenging her to create art. But somewhere along the way, I realize that she does need to learn the basics of math and reading, and I’m hoping/praying/choosing to believe that a bit of structure and a whole lot of unschooling will eventually get her there.

For today, we bypassed the rest of the fact families and, instead, grouped, counted, and compared numbers of Cuisenaire Rods as we cleaned up.

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Monster Madness

Since moving to a larger town, we’ve been taking full advantage of the local offerings — preschool art classes at the local museum, weekly activities at the local library, ample opportunity to observe nature at the local zoo, and more. Up until today, though, we’d consistently missed “Super Story Time” at the library, a monthly chance for preschool kids to explore a topic through songs, stories, and crafts. This time around, I stuck the flyer on the refrigerator, made sure Little Bear was well aware of the date, and actually made it to the library for Monster Madness.

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about the topic. Little Bear does NOT do well with scary … as in I’ve learned to preview episodes of Dora before letting her watch them. Both cubs love “monsters” in the vein of Tedd Arnold’s Huggly Books and Ed Emberly’s Go Away, Big Green Monster!, though, so I decided to chance the event and hope for the best.

Thankfully, our children’s library chose a superb collection of imaginative, yet gentle tales for the preschool crowd. (In fact, both of the girls’ favorite monsters appeared in the line-up, much to Baby Bear’s delight!) The craft, however, proved the highlight of the morning for both of them. The librarian provided them with prepainted puzzle pieces, popsicle stickers, googly eyes, stickers, and glue. The girls then used the materials to fashion a monster stick puppet of their very own.

Baby Bear seized on the lone pink puzzle piece and delighted in covering it with tiny stickers, but vehemently insisted that all creatures — monsters included — should have exactly two eyes.

Baby Bear's Monster

Baby Bear’s Monster

Little Bear waxed more creative with facial features and decided that her monster should have three eyes … probably because there were three googly eyes in her baggie of craft components, and she does not believe in wasting googly eyes:

Little Bear's Monster

“Little Monster”

Of course, monster fun at the library whetted the girls’ appetites for yet MORE monster play at home. So we checked out a stack of monster-themed books, then came home to color monster pictures, dance to the tune of “Purple People Eater“, and lead the girls’ monster puppets in a rousing game of “The Monster Pokey.”

We wrapped up the day with a reading lesson, several logic puzzles from our Critical Thinking Co. books, Kumon workbook fine motor activities (cutting, mazes, and coloring), and three games of Hi Ho Cherry-O. All in all, a lot of fun and a bit of learning — just what this Mommy Teacher hopes for each day.

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