Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Mommy, Mommy, I can use fractions!

The long weekend bumped our usual Monday activities to Tuesday, and a doctor visit for a sick Buddy Bear pushed morning work into the afternoon. Nonetheless, both girls proved eager to work and learn today, despite the unusual schedule.

We began our late day’s work with chapter 7 of Wisdom and the Millers: Proverbs for Children and a look at Proverbs 11:13 — “A gossip tells everything, but a true friend will keep a secret..” … We have one child who loves to “tell all” and another child who resents having her every deed reported, so both girls took this particular story to heart. Little Bear even asked that I create posters of the questions the children in our story learned to ask themselves before speaking —

  • Is what I’m about to say really true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Will it hurt someone’s feelings?
  • Will it spoil someone’s surprise?

— so that we could have visual reminders to ask ourselves the same questions.

Moving on to language arts, Little Bear practiced writing the letter J, reviewed ending sounds and beginning digraphs, and worked with contractions. She also completed another 10 pages in Spectrum Reading Grade 1. I’ve never been a fan of reading textbooks or workbooks and had no interest in this Spectrum title when we first saw it. Little Bear spends hours a day reading “real” books and comfortably reads at a 3rd grade level. She begged to get the book, though; and I try to feed her interests — especially when feeding them costs me less than $2. So we got it. … And it’s proving to be a good investment. She can read the actual text with ease, so she’s reading loudly, clearly, and with excellent expression. She delights in answering all the “What do you think?” style questions in the book since she cannot possibly get them wrong. (She is indeed her mother’s daughter and hates to make mistakes.) Most importantly, she’s gaining confidence in spades as she easily works through a book that’s above her supposed grade level; and the confidence and oral fluency she’s gaining through this “easy” book is carrying over into more challenging reading.

Not to be left out, Bitty Bear began working on lowercase letter recognition today. I found a Lauri A to Z Lower Case Crepe Rubber Puzzle in a box yesterday, and she promptly seized it. She asked at least 20 times over the course of the morning if it was time to do her puzzle. And when I finally did have time to do it with her, she removed one row of letters at a time, repeating their names, lining them up in order, attempting to match them with their sounds, then carefully returning them to the puzzle and moving on. She practiced tracing uppercase and lowercase A’s on the Magnadoodle and hunted for A’s as we read through a couple of board books with Buddy Bear.

The highlight of the day, however, came when we sat down to do Little Bear’s math lesson, an introduction to fractions. The textbook showed a square piece of paper folded in halves, then in fourths. So I grabbed a pack of origami paper to demonstrate. We folded the first sheet once diagonally to form triangular halves, then in half again to form triangular quarters. We folded the second sheet horizontally to form rectangular halves, then in half again to form square quarters. We folded a third sheet horizontally to form rectangular halves, then folded each half in half again to form rectangular quarters. Both girls saw clearly that fractions translated into equal parts and that equal parts could be formed and shaped in different ways.

Origami paper isn’t cheap, though. I didn’t want to waste several sheets of paper, so I pulled up a digital copy of Follow-the-Directions Art: Easy Origami and quickly hunted for projects we could do with prefolded sheets of origami paper.

Fraction Origami Art

Fraction Origami Art

With a bit of assistance from Mom, one of the horizontally folded pieces morphed into a house. Little Bear used our prior fold to establish the center point so that she could fold the top corners down and form a roofline. The diagonally-folded piece was transformed into a cat. Again, we used the crease left behind from our prior quarter-fold to fashion (relatively) equal ears. Then, I pulled out a box of oil pastels (since crayons wouldn’t work on the glossy paper) and turned the girls loose to decorate their creations.

Now, origami may sound like a fun-but-trivial extension. But Little Bear lives and breathes art. Her art box is the first thing she pulls out every morning and the last thing she reluctantly puts away before dinner each night. Midway through coloring one of her projects, she ran back into the living room and yelled, “Mommy! Mommy! I can use fractions! I can use fractions to create ART!”

Boom. Math just gained new relevance.

She dutifully and cheerfully gives her best most days because she wants to please her Mommy. Today’s lesson, though, is one that she’ll remember for some time to come because it had immediate purpose for her. How I wish I could successfully create and fill a need with every lesson!

We rounded out the day with three more chapters of Uncle Wiggily’s Adventures (a FREE Kindle download), more adventures with the Bobbsey Twins, a slew of picture books, Little Bear’s first game of Blokus, and plenty of muddy outdoor play time. Bring on the rain!

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I Went to the Animal Fair …

Pyramid of Animals

Pyramid of Animals

We wrapped up the week with a Friday Fun Day. After an early morning nature walk, we came home and put on our very own animal fair.

We kicked off the morning’s fun by reading Animal Fair, a cutely-illustrated, slightly-extended, and sanitized version of the traditional folk song. (Monkeys falling out of bunks and consorting with skunks seemed a bit more age-appropriate than an intoxicated primate!) Next up was The Animal Fair, a Hoopla Kidz music video which the girls insisted on watching, singing along with, dancing to, and accompanying with their rhythm instruments several times over.

While the girls sang and danced, I dug out a forgotten bin of  animal finger puppets and Beanie Babies and our Twig Building Blocks. The girls brainstormed feats for their willing animal performers, then entertained Buddy Bear and myself with their performance.


Chameleon skillfully navigates the balance beam.


Crab balances perfectly atop Bitty Bear’s head.

Once the girls tired of their creative play, we all piled into the recliner for a couple of chapters of Uncle Wiggily’s Adventures, From Head to Toe, and Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing. Little Bear also squeezed in some grammar practice as she identified nouns and action verbs in From Head to Toe.

Then, the girls were ready to move some more. Drawing inspiration from Bitty Bear’s crab-balancing act, we had a contest to see who could walk the farthest with first the crab, then a hedgehog balanced on her head. Of course, victory celebration called for more dancing, so we cranked up Eric Herman favorite Dance Like an Animal for more rowdy fun.

With noon approaching, Little Bear and I sat down for a bit of formal work. She completed two pages of subtraction strategies review in her Intensive Practice workbook (not the most exciting aspect of Singagpore math …), and I “rewarded” her with a series of animal fair-themed word problems such as …

  • Tiger ate four boxes of popcorn. Elephant ate twice as many boxes of popcorn as tiger. How many boxes did they eat altogether?
  • Sixteen animals stood in line to ride the merry-go-round. Bear was 5th in line. Hyena was 7th from the end of the line. How many animals stood between Bear and Hyena?
  • Puppy had 30 game tokens. Then, he gave some to Duck. Now, puppy has 18 tokens. How many did he give to Duck?

Some kids complain about word problems, but my child begs for them. They’re the “reward” that gets her through the more mundane parts of each lesson. Her passion for stories run deep.

We wrapped up the day’s fun with a game of Spot It Junior Animals, followed by a game of Baby Animals Mix and Match— painless visual discrimination and memory practice coupled with competitive fun.

It wasn’t our most traditional day of school or our most academic, but it was a fun and welcome break from routine … just what Little Bear needed to distract her from her anxiety and excitement over this weekend’s main event, her first dance recital:

Ready to dance!

Ready to dance!

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And so it goes …

In the four months since I last posted, we’ve bought a house, spent a month getting it ready to live in, moved, and somehow nearly finished first grade. Yes, Little Bear is just five and is officially a kindergartner. But when I sat down to plan our “first grade” curriculum, I realized I was buying second grade texts for everything except writing. In the midst of the moving process, we ventured into the world of homeschool co-ops, devoting one morning a week to craft, art, and dance classes in a more traditional classroom setting. Then, late last month, we celebrated Bitty Bear’s third birthday. The day after her third birthday, Bitty Bear solemnly informed me that she was now old enough for school and that she wanted some school books of her very own. Last but not least, Buddy Bear has progressed from a sweet-but-helpless newborn to a still-sweet-but-ever-on-the-move crawler … with an affinity for eating paper, crayons, and markers.

So what exactly are doing these days? Whatever we can squeeze into the day.

Today, we began the day with some just-for-fun reading in the girls’ room, while Buddy Bear played happily with their maracas, tambourine, and bells. When I tired of reading Mr. Men and Little Miss books, the girls introduced their brother to a few more instruments and some of their favorite songs.

At last Buddy Bear tired of playing and wanted his morning nap. I read today’s Bible story followed by a chapter of In Grandma’s Attic; then, we practiced this week’s Bible verse and sang a couple of songs as I rocked Buddy Bear to sleep. We also took time to squeeze in a chapter of Uncle Wiggily’s Adventures before moving on to academics.

Today’s memory verse was John 8:12 — “I am the light of the world.” We used this verse as a springboard to delve into a bit of the science of light. Closing ourselves in a dark room, we turned on one flashlight, then another, then finally the overhead light to observe how light dispels darkness. The girls observed that the greater the light, the more darkness it dispelled. The girls also observed how quickly light dispelled darkness and learned that light moves faster than any other known substance in the universe.

Moving on to math, Little Bear started her lesson with a timed subtraction flashcard drill and answered 52 problems in just over three minutes with only two errors (both times she added instead of subtracted) — not as fast as I’d like, but definite progress! We completed a couple of addition with regrouping review pages orally in Primary Mathematics Intensive Practice 1B, then moved on to some fun probability and estimation activities in Mathematical Reasoning Level B. Little Bear then completed one more addition review page on her own while I worked with Bitty Bear.

Bitty Bear had tackled a number train floor puzzle during Little Bear’s math lesson and had gotten stuck after number 12. I helped her finish, then spent some time reviewing numbers with her. We counted together; she counted alone; then, she jumped on numbers as I called them out. (Good thing Melissa & Doug puzzles are durable!)

Next, we worked through a few pages of Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 1, the math book I purchased for her at her request. Today’s lesson reviewed shapes, lines, and corners, then required her to find shapes that best fit descriptions. We also reviewed the concepts of more, less, and equal.

Math finished, we sat down to read and discuss the next couple of chapters in The Adventures of Laura & Jack, Little Bear’s current “reading book.” Both girls had questions about the story, so with the Internet at our fingertips we took time to view images of covered wagons, learn a bit more about life along the trail, and see how wagons  ford a creek or river. We also reviewed distinctions between pilgrims and pioneers and discussed why a good watch dog (Jack in this case) was so important to a pioneer family. By the time our reading-turned-social studies lesson ended, it was nearly lunch time. I sent the girls outside for some fresh air and sunshine while I fixed lunch.

Just before lunch was ready, Little Bear came running in with Bitty Bear following close behind. “Mommy, Mommy!” she cried, “{Bitty Bear} put a BEAD up her nose, and she can’t get it out.

I could neither see nor feel a bead, but Bitty Bear insisted it was still there. After several unsuccessful attempts to get her to blow the bead out, we headed to the urgent care clinic. Much poking and prodding later, the nurse practitioner concluded the bead had either come out or gone down somewhere along the way, but that there was nothing still obstructing Bitty Bear’s left nostril.  Add in one impromptu health and safety lesson about NOT inserting foreign objects into bodily orifices, and we were on our way home for a late lunch and the rest of our work.

After lunch, the girls spent some time drawing, coloring, and reading. (Little Bear read while Bitty Bear listened.) When they tired of playing together, I called Little Bear over for a quick phonics lesson since we hadn’t gotten phonics in this morning. We reviewed the /th/ diphthong, then tackled the /sh/ diphthong. Little Bear brainstormed a list of words that began with sh-, a list of words that ended with -sh, and a list of words that had -sh- somewhere in the middle. (The last list was idea because “sushi,” her current favorite food, included an -sh- but didn’t fit on either of the two previous lists.) We wrapped up today’s lesson with her listening to t-, s-, th-, and sh- words, identifying the beginning sound, and writing it on the Magnadoodle.

Bitty Bear then wanted to do her lesson, so we read an alphabet book, sang the alphabet song, and practiced letter recognition with alphabet flash cards.

We wrapped up today’s planned work by reading about skin in National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why. I drew 1-inch squares on the girls arms, and we learned that every square inch of skin includes approximately 9 feet of blood vessels, 12 feet of nerve fibers, 3 million cells, and 32 million bacteria. (No wonder Mommy tells them to wash their hands before they eat!) We also learned how melanin creates skin color and sebum makes our bodies almost entirely waterproof. At the girls’ pleading, we took time to do a few puzzle cards from the The World Almanac for Kids Puzzler Deck: Life Science.

Then, with them still begging for more, I banished them to the great outdoors and ordered them to run, jump on the trampoline, swing, and play in the sand. We never got around to today’s planned art activity, but sandcastles adorned with custom-made flags sufficed.

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