Category Archives: Homeschool Resources
I know there are many homeschool families that hold off on any kind of formal math until the children are around 2nd or 3rd grade, instead using various math games and activities to lay a foundation. At first I considered going this route, but over the last few months something “clicked” in Ian’s brain and he started becoming fascinated by numbers and counting. It felt like a waste not to take advantage of his interest, so I’ve been slowly starting to spend more time on math concepts.
As I started this new venture, there were two things I wanted to keep in mind:
- There are many facets of math, so I decided to use a curriculum to make sure I was hitting them all in a logical order.
- I want to be sure to lay a strong foundation of “number sense,” so that Ian is really grasping the concepts behind the symbols we use in math. One of my favorite tools for this is a set of Cuisenaire rods.
My mom was a teacher, and growing up I used to spend every afternoon in her classroom waiting for her to finish getting things ready for the next day. One of my favorite ways to entertain myself was playing with Cuisenaire rods. There was something so satisfying to me about the way they were designed. When I first became a teacher myself I was blessed with 2 sets of rods, and though I never used them with a large class, I knew they would be a valuable tool in homeschooling. Over the last year I’ve gotten them out several times for the boys to play with, just to build familiarity. As I started looking for a curriculum, I wanted to find one that would incorporate the rods in the early stages.
Okay, I have to make a confession. Ian is only 4, but I think I’ve been looking at curricula for at least 2 years. I just like to know what’s out there, to read reviews, talk to other people about what they use, and have a decent idea of what’s available before I need to make a decision. Early on in my search I came across the Miquon Math Lab series. Because I didn’t need them right away, I put them all on my PaperBack Swap wishlist, and within a few months I had collected all 6 workbooks (in order: Orange, Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Purple) and the “Lab Sheet Annotations,” which is basically the teacher’s manual. They’ve been sitting on my shelf waiting to get put to use, but I was a little hesitant to start an actual curriculum when Ian is still a few months shy of turning 5. (Most of the books are available very inexpensively at Amazon. You can also get the whole set from Rainbow Resource.)
I decided to look online for activities I could do that were more structured than just playing with the blocks, but not quite as formal as a curriculum. My favorite resource was the “Cuisenaire Activity and Exploration Book for Pre-Miqon Kids ” by Miranda Hughes, full of activities and games designed for her daughter to use before beginning the Miquon series and generously shared as a free pdf file. I also liked Marcia Miller’s ideas at Unschooling Conversations. There are a number of books available with more ideas, but these free resources will take you a long way (and get you started thinking of your ideas about how to use the rods).
I love the “lab” nature of Miquon and these Cuisenaire rod activities, but to me they feel more like a supplement than a core math program (though I know some people have gone that route). So even though I had been hesitant to start a curriculum, I changed my mind and decided to ease into one VERY slowly. There are a number of good math curricula out there, and I think we’d be fine going with pretty much any of them. However, I am all about cheap and convenient, and it’s hard to get cheaper than free or more convenient than having everything you need available online to print whenever you want. That’s why I was drawn to the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) from the Center for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching in the UK. It’s designed for classroom use but has been used by many homeschool families as well. (There’s even a Yahoo group where you can connect with others using MEP at home.) Incidentally, I know of many families who would chose MEP over other programs even if it weren’t free, so I’m not worried at all about compromising quality just to save some money.
From what I understand, the ”Reception” year is geared toward preschool-age children, and “Year 1″ would be for Kindergarteners. I kept considering starting Reception with Ian, but I was turned off by the format, which is different from the rest of the years. It’s very conversational, which would be okay except that I found so much of the material to be too easy for Ian. I didn’t want to bore him with things he already knew; nor did I want to spend the time picking through everything to find the things he really did need to learn. So I decided to skip Reception and just dive into Year 1. It’s a spiral curriculum so I figure any gaps will be filled in eventually as we move through the program. So far Ian is doing fine with the material. We use “Little People” when activities call for using children in the class (they also make great “counters”), and a set of “Thomas & Friends” number cards I found at the 99-Cent Store a while back (though you could easily make your own cards). If you’re interested in using MEP, I highly recommend reading through this post by a mom who’s been using it for a while. Reading this really simplified everything floating around in my mind and encouraged me to give it a shot.
Because I spend a lot of time in Charlotte Mason circles, I have to say I feel almost guilty beginning any sort of curriculum with a child so young. However, I am not a slave to any particular method, and Ian seems ready to begin some more structured learning, so here we are. I’m not pushing him to keep up a quick pace. My goal is to get through 2 MEP lessons a week. In the month we’ve been doing this, we’ve sometimes done more, sometimes less, and I’m fine with that. If a concept seems a little challenging for Ian, we spend a little extra time on it before moving on. We’re also taking at least 1 day a week to do some “Math Lab” work. Right now I’m using the pre-Miquon book I mentioned above, but after that we’ll start slowly working our way through The Miquon “Orange Book.” (I’ve torn out the perforated pages and put them in page protectors. Ian can work on them with dry-erase markers and then we can save them to use with the other kids. Yes, the books are cheap, but I just can’t stand the waste of having him write in the book!)
There’s one last thing I want to make note of, and that is Elijah’s reaction to all this. He has watched Ian and I doing “Math,” and is eager to have his turn. I try to adapt the lab activities and take a few minutes each session to have some one-on-one time with Elijah. His brain is much more naturally geared toward order and numbers, so his eyes just sparkle with excitement as he does “work.” I have a feeling we’ll be diving into those Cuisenaire activities with him before too long!
One of the subjects I’d like to be a part of our children’s education is music appreciation. Ian’s already learning to play piano and enjoy making music through a Yamaha course, but I also want to help them all become familiar with some of the beautiful music that has been enjoyed for centuries through a little composer study à la Charlotte Mason. Our children are still so young, but my plan for the next few years until we are “officially” homeschooling is to gradually add in the subjects that I want to be a part of our curriculum. Otherwise it would be pretty overwhelming when Ian turns six if I suddenly try to jump into everything at once. So since I have a fairly extensive background in music (not to mention an absurdly large collection of classical music CDs), I’ve decided now is a good time to start being a little more intentional in this area. (I tend to think in terms of the schoolyear starting in August, even though I intend to homeschool year round, taking breaks as we need them rather than a big summer holiday)
Last year I shared about some of the music we started listening to when they were quite little in the post “Music My Preschoolers Love.” They still enjoy all those pieces, but now they’re also ready for a few more mature findings. Yes, they’re SO mature now that the oldest is 4 1/2. Seriously though, having been exposed to it early has made them more open to hearing things not necessarily meant for children so young. I especially like finding CDs or other audio files that explain a bit about the music and give the kids something specific to be listening for. For example, after hearing the composer tell about using tubas to portray the big boats in Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, Elijah started asking, “Mommy, is that the big tubas?” every time they played.
That CD is the first one we bought from the Maestro Classics series. It was such a hit, both with the boys and with me, that I also decided to get Peter and the Wolf, even though we already have another recording of this piece. I just really like all the extras that come on their albums–(plus the Peter and the Wolf (MP3) was just $5 thanks to a coupon from HomeschoolShare–they’re also sponsoring a giveaway until the end of July so check it out!) And we just got The Soldier’s Tale to include in the last week of our July composer study on Stravinsky (post coming soon). I’ve put the rest on the kids’ wishlists for gift ideas and I hope we can eventually collect the whole set. Here are all the titles available:
- Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel
- Peter and the Wolf
- The Soldier’s Tale
- The Tale of Swan Lake
- My Name is Handel
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
- Casey at the Bat
- The Tortoise and the Hare (which I’m definitely getting when we study fables!)
- Juanita the Spanish Lobster (available in English or Spanish)
- Carnival of the Animals is set to be released September 1
The Maestro Classics website also has homeschool curriculum guides with lots of great suggestions for integrating different subjects with the music from each CD.
Another great resource for exposing your children to the works of the great composers is the Classical Kids series. A fellow homeschooler shared these with us, and while I haven’t yet listened to all of them yet, they get great reviews. They tell a story about the composers’ lives, using various pieces of their music throughout the CD. What a great way to help your kids become familiar with the unique musical “voice” of different composers! Over the next school year I’ll be using these as the framework for our composer study, choosing one CD a month and supplementing with podcasts from Classics for Kids (lots of great resources there!), music from my own collection and kid-friendly biographies from the library.
- Beethoven Lives Upstairs(DVD also available)
- Mozart’s Magic Fantasy
- Mr. Bach Comes to Call (DVD also available)
- Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery
- Tchaikovsky Discovers America
- Hallelujah Handel
- Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage
- Song of the Unicorn (Medieval music)
There are two additional Classical Kids CDs that are thematic rather than being about a particular composer.
And just in case you needed any more ideas, I’ve recently added to our music library a couple other albums combining classical music (or classical style) with engaging stories. We’ll be listening to Ferdinand the Bull and Friends when we “row” The Story of Ferdinand. And although our listening schedule looks pretty packed this year, I’m really looking forward to queezing in some time for the award-winning Baroque Adventure: The Quest for Arundo Donax.
Wow! That’s a lot of music! I hope you’ll try out some of our suggestions and share some of your family’s favorites in the comments.
(If you’re interested in implementing Charlotte Mason-style composer study in your home, check out Ultimate Guide to Composer Study over at Homegrown Learners for lots of great information and ideas!)
As we head towards 4th of July, I went searching for some kid-friendly versions of the patriotic songs that every American child should know. I wasn’t thrilled with what I had in my own music collection (either they were on old worn out cassettes, or the versions just weren’t great for younger kids to sing along with), so I went to Amazon, as I do pretty much every day when I need something, whether it be a book, baby product, shampoo… I’m kind of addicted to having the exact item I want delivered to my door without dragging the kids around to various stores. But I digress.
I had a vague recollection of a Wee Sing album along those lines, and sure enough, there was Wee Sing America. I looked at some other options, but nothing seemed to compare. Since I didn’t want to wait for a CD, I just bought the mp3s, downloaded it, and we were listening on my iPod within minutes.
I’ve always liked the Wee Sing series, and this one was no exception. The songs are mostly sung by kids, so it appeals to my children, who readily join in to sing along. Two things about this collection stood out for me to make it stand out:
1. The quotes. Interspersed throughout the album are short quotes from various Presidents as well as important things like the Pledge of Allegiance, the preamble to the Constitution, etc. I LOVE this. I know some homeschools say the Pledge every day, but that’s just not our style (the formality, I mean; we’re all for patriotism). Still, I do think it’s important to know, and I want my children to be able to say it when the opportunity arises. So thumbs up! If I had been assembling a “Listening Lesson” the way I usually do each week, it would have looked a lot like this album. Only this time all the work was done for me!
2. The verses. So often we only hear the first verses of songs like “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “Yankee Doodle,” or “God Bless America.” I was surprised (and very pleased) to discover that this album included multiple verses of most of the songs that have them. The lyrics of these later verses are often so rich in language and content, and even though it will be years before my kids can understand them all, I’m so glad they can learn the whole songs!
This is a great collection of patriotic songs, and if you’re looking for an easy way to teach your kids these American standards, I highly recommend Wee Sing America!
So earlier this week I was skimming through my email, and I happened to notice an article about a website called ReadingEggs.com. Normally, I probably would have just skipped it (I get tons of mail about homeschooling), but the subject line read, “Teach your child to read in 5 weeks.” Ian had expressed some interest in reading a while back, and we’d tried the first few books from Progessive Phonics. It wasn’t a good match for Ian (too easy in that he already knew the letters, too hard in that he wasn’t ready to blend sounds or write). So I dropped it and never brought it up again. Lately, however, he’s been showing lots of signs of reading readiness (trying to read his books himself, asking what signs say everywhere we go), so the email caught my eye and I thought we’d give it a try.
I was AMAZED by Reading Eggs! I signed up for their free trial period (14 days), and Ian got started right away. I think he did 3 “lessons” that first day, and by the end of it he was recognizing his first couple sight words (“I,” “am,” and “Sam”). The second day he was back at it and finished the day being able to read, ” at,” “cat,” “bat,” “rat,” and “fat”. I was blown away, and he was SO proud of himself!
I am so impressed with this program. It teaches both phonics and sight words. It shows children how to form letters properly while not requiring them to write. (Ian’s fine motor skills aren’t quite ready for that.) Ian knew all his letters going in, but it wouldn’t have been a problem if he didn’t. The only skill required is being able to use a mouse. Recognizing numerals is also helpful. There is enough repetition that Ian feels confident and is able to play on his own, yet enough variety in the many different activities that it keeps his interest. Elijah’s not ready for the program, but he’s learning a lot too just by hanging over Ian’s shoulder as he plays. (We’ve gone WAY beyond our normal “screentime” allowance for the last couple days, but I find this a worthy exception!)
There are also rewards for all the hard work in the “lessons.” Ian loves the activities in the “playroom,” and he’s enjoyed spending the golden eggs he earns during the lessons on fun games in the arcade. (Users can also “buy” things for their “houses” with the eggs.)
I cannot speak highly enough about the website. We used some promo codes to extend our trial period, but if Ian’s still enjoying it and learning when that’s over, I won’t hesitate to pay for a subscription.
Want to try it? Head on over to ReadingEggs.com and sign up for your FREE 14-day trial.
Enter promo code USC27LAU to extend that another 21 days. That’s 5 WEEKS of free reading lessons! I hope you love them as much as we do! [I've been told that this code has expired.]
Yesterday as I was driving Ian home from his music lesson, he requested the same music we’d listened to on the way over. It made me smile that he enjoyed it so much, and it got me thinking about some of the classical music that has really “clicked” with him over the last year or two. So I thought I’d share some of our favorites.
When Ian was two, I decided to start being intentional about providing him with classical music to listen to and enjoy. The first thing I thought of was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. There are many different recordings available, but I chose the one from the CD Bernstein’s Favorites: Children’s Classics because it also contained some other pieces I liked. To introduce the story I read it to him from a couple different books. I bought the first one because it was a nice stand-alone story even without referencing the music. Then I ran across another version at the library bookstore and figured it was worth 50 cents for another one that talked a little about the instruments that play the themes for each character. (It’s an older copy and I couldn’t find it on Amazon, but it’s similar in idea to this one, which comes with a CD.) Ian also loved the old Disney video of the story. (I saw a number of VHS copies on Amazon, but as far as DVD, I could only find it on Make Mine Music, a collection of different musical vignettes). Ian was enchanted by this story right from the start, and it continues to be one of his favorite things to listen to in the car. (His enthusiasm is contagious, because now Elijah is really getting into it as well.)
The second piece I thought Ian would like was the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens. This one took a little longer to grow on him, but we’ve listened to it a lot, and there are certain parts he really likes (the “Royal March of the Lion” and the “Fossils” are his favorites). We have two recordings of this. It is also on the Bernstein’s Favorites: Children’s Classics I mentioned above. In this recording, Bernstein provides some explanation for the music that goes with each animal, which can be helpful at first, but I find it a little tiresome after a while. I prefer listening to the straight music on the CD that came with a book that helps kids know what they’re listening to with each piece. The book is better for older children, but I just summarize the information for Ian, and he loves looking at the pictures.
The latest addition to our children’s classical library was Hansel and Gretel. I wanted to introduce Ian to the music from Humperdinck’s opera without overwhelming him with the entire thing. I was hoping to find a CD version of the Disney vinyl record I listened to growing up, but it doesn’t seem to exist. So then I searched for something with just highlights in English, preferrably with some narration. The only album I found that met those criteria was this one that also included a telling of Alice in Wonderland set to music. (However, Ian’s been so thrilled with Hansel and Gretel, we keep going back to listen to it again and haven’t made it to the second half of the CD, so I can’t comment on that yet!)
If your preschooler has become attached to a particular piece of classical music, please add a comment–we’d love suggestions!
If you’ve read any of my posts about our Bible lessons, you know how much I value music for helping us memorize Scripture. When possible I love to find a CD with our verse on it so I can include it in our iPod playlist. If I can’t find one, I’ll try to set the verse to a familiar tune. Here are the CDs we have in our personal library right now:
- Hide ‘em in Your Heart Vols. 1 and 2 by Steve Green
- Sing the Word: A New Commandment and Sing the Word from A to Z by the Harrow Family
- Scripture Rock (Vol. 1), Vol. 2 and Vol. 3
- Hidden In My Heart: a Lullaby Journey Through Scripture CD (These songs are beautiful, but they’re not really for memorization. I’m not sure what translation they’re based on, but they don’t seem to be word for word, and it seems like they sometimes combine several separate verses for a song. I still love it for background music and getting Scripture into my little ones’ hearts, if not necessarily their heads. It’s very soothing for Elijah, and I plan on playing it a lot once Arianna arrives.)
And I’m always looking for new ones. I’ve had my eye on the “Seeds Family Worship” CDs for a while, and today I found out about a giveaway of a couple other CDs that sound wonderful! So I thought I’d write about it, both so I can enter the giveaway and to share with you! Here’s a quick glimpse at what’s being offered:
“God’s Word From A to Z”
“Ascending”, “Pure Words” and “Songs From the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s”
Jamie Soles has produced three albums of Psalms set to music. Nearly all of the Psalms on these albums are word for word taken from the English Standard Version and each song is a full Psalm (Psalm 46 is divided into two songs).
Ascending - Psalms 120-134, The Psalms of Ascent
Pure Words – Psalms 1-16
Songs From the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s - A collection of Psalms from Psalm 42-69
For more details on the CDs and how to enter the giveaway, check out Raising Olives (one of my favorite blogs!)
“What do I do with the toddler/preschooler while I’m homeschooling an older child?” I know I’m not the only mom who has asked that, because when I started looking online for answers, I found lots of great suggestions. So I thought I’d share the list I compiled. Most of these are activities you can set the child up with and let them “work” independently, but there are a few “preschool-type” activities that are for you to do with them. I was too lazy to separate them out. (Just being honest!)
A few of these are original ideas, but the vast majority are copied from various other sites (which I’m afraid I can’t cite because I either forgot to note it down or else I found it in multiple places). I broke them down into categories because, well, that’s just the way my mind works best. I haven’t tried them all, especially the ones that would be better for an older preschooler, but I’ve found it very handy to have a list for when I’m not feeling very creative. (Activities in bold are favorites around our house.)
- New Coloring Books (in order to keep them new, just tear out unused pages and staple them together)
- Color with water paint books (where the color’s already on the page and you just run a wet brush over it)
- New Crayons (try to keep the crayons fresh by sharpening them or melting old crayons and making new ones in fun shapes)
- Color Wonder Paper and Paint/Markers
- Chalk or light colored crayons on dark construction paper.
- Sticky notes and pencil.
- envelopes, labels, paper, and stickers.
- Stickers & Wax Paper (they can reuse the stickers that way)
- glue stick and white glue, scissors, construction paper and paper scraps
- Easy-to-use paper punch and strips of paper.
- Scissors and paper (no other objective in mind!)
- Stencils, paper, colored pencils
- rubber stamps
- Put paper clips onto paper
- Tear paper (use for a mosaic-type art project later?)
- Matching shapes – cut out shapes, then draw around them on another sheet of paper. Let the kids match the shapes.
- homemade cards to play as a memory game or in any other creative way.
- Sort Duplos by color & size.
- Look through a button box.
- Magnet and paperclips, washers, a nail, etc.
- Magnets and a Small Cookie Sheet
- Ice trays/muffin tins/egg cartons and buttons, beads or marbles for sorting.
- Various colored pom-poms to sort out into colored cups with a small spoon/tweezers/tongs
Tactile Play/Small Motor Development
- Lacing Beads (colorful beads or cut up straws and a shoelace or pipecleaners.) Older child can do patterns
- Lacing cards (I bought some Melissa & Doug ones but you can make your own with just cardboard shapes with holes punched around them.) Attach yarn, wrap masking tape around the end.)
- plastic canvas and a large plastic needle with yarn
- Chalk & Small Chalkboard (you can get them at craft stores for about a dollar)
- Make a necklace or snack chain with yarn (masking tape on the ends) and any cereal with holes (like cheerios). If the toddler is old enough, they may be able to string them himself. Older child can do patterns
- Nuts and bolts to sort. Go to a hardware store and pick out several sets of large nuts, bolts, and washers that fit together. Buy several of different diameters. Use them as an assembly project. This builds eye-hand coordination and estimation skills.
- Writing tray; Put a layer of rice or cornmeal in a cookie sheet or baking pan. Good for spelling practice or picture-drawing or practicing A B C’s. (vacuums up!)
- Colored rice to pour through a colander or funnels.
- Rice/birdseed/lentil bin:This is a fun alternative to a sand box that can be used indoors or out by children who do not put things in their mouths. Fill a large, shallow plastic box ¼ of the way with rice or birdseed. If you’re using it inside, t’s a good idea to keep an old sheet underneath, or put the whole box inside an old wading pool to keep the spills under control. Add spoons, funnels, measuring cups, a two-liter bottle, a metal strainer, etc. for play. Play figures and toy cars work well, too. Activities: stand the two liter bottle upright. Try to fill it up using the measuring cups, and then the funnel. Compare/learn math: See that two halves equal one cup, etc. Add a container of salt to the mix. Have the children use the strainer and see if they can separate the two. Just playing with the rice/birdseed is soothing to children and will engage them for a long time.
- Pouring Beads: small tray and 3 different containers and a spoon used to pour small beads.
- Play-dough with a plastic knife, rolling pin, cookie cutters, small plastic toy, play dishes
- Refrigerated cookie dough and a cookie sheet. They can play with it and you can eat all the results.
- Using a spoon, tongs, or tweezers, pick up and sort objects such as blocks, spools, coins, beans, marbles, cotton balls, pins, buttons, straws, nails, nuts, bolts, popcorn, etc.. and place them into containers of varying sizes (i.e. egg cartons, cups, mugs, jars, etc.)
- Rice table: have a mixture of rice and several kinds of beans. Child uses a large slotted spoon and picks up a spoonful of rice mixture. They are to carefully shake the spoon back and forth until the rice falls through the slots and only the beans are left. Pour the beans into a small container. Goal is to continue until the container is filled.
- Put ping pong balls into a dish tub of water (or bathtub), then have the child tongs to transfer them to another bucket.
- “rainbow stones”: we have an ice cream bucket full of colored glass stones like you use for silk flower arrangements. Both boys LOVE playing with these (just running their fingers through them, spooning them into containers, sorting them by color, etc.)
Entertaining Household items
- Several cardboard boxes (cereal boxes, shoe boxes) to make a train or a town or just to stack and build with.
- Sticking crayons into an old parmesan cheese container
- Small cars or super-ball in a wrapping paper tube.
- A retractable measuring tape to measure with.
- Game pieces from lost games & cards. Find old games at garage sales if you don’t have lost pieces.
- Pringles can with a slit cut in the top to drop cardboard or plastic coins.
- Draw roads, houses, etc. on large paper or cardboard and have them use cars and trucks on it.
- A large box (that’s all they need – they’ll do the rest).
- Throw a blanket over a coffee table or card table. Give them clothes pins. They’ll figure it out.
- A plastic bottle (clean milk jug, well rinsed detergent bottle, etc.) and small items like clothespins, pennies to drop in and shake out again (this can be a little noisy during school).
- Damp washcloth and wall or window to “clean”. Paper towels and a spray bottle with a little water in it.
- Let them “wash” a few plastic dishes. Put an egg beater, measuring cup and baster in the water.
- Soft foam balls or daddy’s matched socks in a ball to pitch into the laundry basket.
- Poke holes in thick cardboard with a tack. (Just be sure you know where the tack ends up!)
- Mini-sandbox; Put a layer of sand in a box the size of a banana box. Add trucks, cars, popsicle sticks.
- Shallow bucket on a towel on the floor. Add water, boats. Plastic fish, measuring cups, etc.
- Make a tunnel of kitchen chairs.
- Give them a crochet hook and a length of yarn. Demonstrate chain stitch a few times. This is not for everyone, but if you refuse to do it for them, you’ll be surprised at what they figure out.
- Scrap wood, hammer, nails.
- Bucket of water and a paintbrush-for outside painting. Works best on wood or concrete.
- Chalk on sidewalk or steps.
- A cup with non-toxic soapy water and a straw to blow bubbles. You may put it on a sheet of paper and add food coloring to the water.
- Watch a bug ! At the table, at an anthill, wherever.
- Sort/Stack Poker chips
- Play-dough (roll out/cookie cutters, or stick small objects into play dough for him/her to pull out)
- Use sprayer bottles filled with water and sponges to have the child “clean” a desk or table, then squeeze the excess water into a dishpan.
- Wooden Puzzles (no more than 2 puzzles per activity box)
- Wooden Train Set
- Shape Sorter
- Peg Boards
- Lace & Link (made by Lauri)
- Fit-a-Space (made by Lauri)
- Blocks (my boys like making roads and tunnels out of them more than building up so far, but they’re still a hit!)
- Beanbags and a bucket.
- Tops- bought or made with ½ toothpick and cardboard disk.
- A marble maze – set it in a shallow cardboard box to cut down on the lost marbles.
- Ziploc bag of small plastic toys such as farm animals or little people.
- “Little People“- we have various sets (house, school, barn, etc.) from my childhood that entertain for HOURS
- Have a stuffed-animal tea party with real crackers.
- Dominoes (my boys especially like our colored set)
- Toy shopping cart to collect things around the room.
- Unifix cubes and numbers printed on cardstock. Helps with number recognition and 1:1 correspondence.
- Arrange blocks by size, color, or shape. (cuisenaire rods)
- Felt board play: Betty Lukens Felts makes beautiful, full-color felts for counting, telling stories, and so on, or you can make your own by using a black sharpie to outline or draw shapes, numbers, letters, animals, and so on onto heavy duty interfacing (find it at your local fabric store). Color with pastel crayons and cut out. You can also cut pictures out of magazines or discarded books and apply iron-on interfacingto the back. For the board itself, use a large piece of heavy cardboard, wrap in blue flannel, and secure with tape/hot glue.
- Nest/stack cups or containers of different sizes. Discovery Toys’ Measure Up Cups are similar, but are correct measurement-wise and are great to use with sand or water.
- pattern blocks
- Books (make sure to pick some out that are ONLY used for the box so that they always seem new)
- Small CD Player, Headphones, & Fun Music or stories to read along
I was too lazy to include links in this today, but if you want help finding anything let me know!
Just thought I’d take a minute to pass along a few of my favorite spots online for finding FREE ways to enrich our homeschool experience.
Freelyeducate.com is a wonderful blog that daily posts free resources for homeschoolers. If I see something that interests me, even if it’s too advanced for my children, I usually go ahead and download it to have available in the future.
Sometimes those freebies are from CurrClick.com, but I like to check that site out directly as well. I’ve found several fun ideas here, some for preschool, some for later on.
HomeschoolShare.com is probably the site I use most regularly at the stage we’re in (and I anticipate it remaining so for the next couple years as we continue using Five in a Row). It’s a great place for unit study resources, especially those that are literature based.
As far as curriculum, obviously we get tons of great preschool ideas from ABCJesusLovesMe.com, but I also love AmblesideOnline (as I’ve written about before). Most of it is geared toward kids older than mine (elementary on up), but the preschool/Kindergarten booklist and suggestions are a wonderful resource. Learning about the Charlotte Mason method has also really helped shape my vision for our homeschooling journey. I realize not everyone is as nuts about books as I am and AO is definitely not a “school at home” type of curriculum. Check out this post from freelyeducate.com that discusses several options available for free online.
I know there’s a lot more out there, but these are sites I access regularly for great free ideas, so I thought I’d pass them along
I recently realized that so much of our day could qualify as “school,” but I don’t necessarily think of it as such because it’s just life for us. I’m talking about the audiobooks and read-alouds that Ian listens to throughout his day. Yes, we listen to the iPod playlists I put together for our Bible lessons, and sometimes he requests other Bible stories too. But I realized I had the opportunity to introduce some quality children’s literature through my iPod as well.
It started when I stumbled upon some recordings of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. I have always loved the stories and thought I’d see if Ian would enjoy listening to them while he played as much as watching the movies. (He’d found my old VHS tapes and was asking to watch them far more than I wanted to have the TV on.) They were a big hit from the start. He started listening to them at bedtime. And in the car. And playtime. Everyday. I liked the initial recordings I’d found, but they were a dramatization, rather than a true reading of the book. Different actors (big names like Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, all fabulously talented!) read the parts of the different characters and they were so much fun to listen to, but I missed the full flavor of Milne’s writing. So I bought a complete set of A.A. Milne’s Pooh Classics recorded by Peter Dennis. They are everything I hoped they would be, and even now after a year of listening to both sets of recordings, I’m still not tired of Pooh.
I did want to expand Ian’s horizons a bit, however, so I started introducing him to other stories as well. I found some fun CDs at the library, such as Stellaluna, Thumbelina, and other classics like The Three Billy Goats Gruff (from a wonderful collection read by actors like Ben Kingsley and Holly Hunter). I knew there were tons of classic books out there that I wanted to share with my kids and I didn’t want to be limited by our library selection or my wallet, so I started looking at free recordings of books in the public domain. There are so many great books available at librivox.org! That’s where I downloaded Old Mother West Wind by Thornton Burgess. (I’d never read anything by Burgess, but some of his books are part of the Ambleside Online curriculum I’m planning to use later on, and someone had said their 3-year old enjoyed these stories, so I thought we’d give them shot. I was surprised at how even after one listening Ian recalled details of the stories and requested them for bedtime that night.) There are several books of “Mother West Wind” stories (all about the escapades of various little animals), so I downloaded some others as well. I tried Uncle Remus stories (remember Br’er Rabbit?), but the dialect was a little hard for Ian to follow and he didn’t get into them. I decided to save those until he’s older and his grammar is better established anyway. I’m going to try him on some of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy stories once we need a break from the animals in the Mother West Wind books.
The other free site I like for audiobooks is Lit2Go. They don’t have as wide a selection, but I like they way they put their info at the end of the book rather than the beginning. Sometimes Ian has lost interest before we even start a new story because he had to listen to the long promo for librivox. This is where I got a great collection of Beatrix Potter stories (like “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”). Podcasts are also a great source for children’s stories. I really like Tales from the Forest, but there are a number of good ones available on iTunes.
We rarely drive anywhere without listening to stories. As the boys play in the living room, Ian usually asks for stories. And every naptime and bedtime he likes to listen to stories before he falls asleep. Is he a little too addicted? Yes, probably. Especially since we also read picture books throughout the day. He (and Elijah, who is constantly bringing me books to read) is proving to be a lot like his mama when it comes to a love of books.
Still, I think all this listening has been SO good for Ian’s language development. I catch him using words and phrases he can only have picked up from the stories he’s heard. It gives us so many new things to discuss (though sometimes I have to clue Daddy and others into what on earth he’s talking about!) In addition to our audiobooks, I’ve started adding chapter books to our bedtime routine. We’ve always spent time reading a few picture books before bed, but now we read a chapter from whatever novel we’re going through as well. We started with Beverly Cleary’s Ralph Mouse books. I thought the first one The Mouse and the Motorcycle would capture Ian’s attention because of the subject matter, and boy was I right. As soon as we finished it, he wanted to keep going, so we moved on to Runaway Ralph the next night. Now we’re a little more than halfway through Ralph S. Mouse. I think we’ll try Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White for a change of author.
So now you know our secret. Our days are not just Ian, Elijah, and Mommy hanging out alone at home. We have lots of friends like Pooh, Peter, and Ralph who share life with us throughout each day!
As I shared in this earlier post, I really want to focus on the Bible as the center of our homeschool. Along those lines, I have been reading the Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach by Robin Sampson. I think I first stumbled across the Heart of Wisdom website looking for teaching ideas back when we started with Creation. Although much of what she has is geared toward older children, I find her site (and the book) very encouraging, and I know I’ll be spending lots of time gleaning from Robin’s years of experience.
I haven’t finished the book yet, so I can’t write a review (though I plan to eventually!), but I wanted to go ahead and share because she’s doing a giveaway on her blog! Check out the fabulous reviews on Amazon if you’re interested. You won’t be sorry! (You can also download an excerpt from the book to get started!)