Monday, August 31, 2015

Tot School: Transportation Theme

Miles is 16 months old.

On the Shelf

Cars.  I made a painter's tape road on the carpet for him to try to drive his cars along.  He wasn't too interested in the road, but the cars were played with constantly!

Spoon Transfer Vehicle Erasers. He loved these little erasers I picked up from the Dollar Tree.  Spooning was a little difficult for him, but it was great for him to practice.

Construction Vehicle Puzzle, Dump Truck with Blocks, and Vehicle Pop Beads.  No pictures, but he loved taking the puzzle pieces out of the puzzle - no real interest in putting them back in! The other toys were not so exciting because they had been out in our playroom for a while.

Activities With Sophie

Mosaic Traffic Lights.  I am really loving projects that they can do together, each on their own level. I'm definitely going to work to include more of these!

Stamp Painting Cars. They both sponge painted their cars using these templates. Miles was so proud to have something to hang up on the refrigerator next to Sophie's!

Next week I will start doing color themed weeks with Miles. Sophie's stuff will be getting less obviously "themey" as we start her Preschool stuff, and it will be difficult to keep their stuff coordinated.  I'm getting over the desire to have everything all matched to the theme...ain't nobody got time for that.  It's seriously hard for me to let go of that though. But if I don't, we would never actually do preschool and tot school, I would just plan for all of eternity.

So, next week - Red!

Linking up at 1+1+1=1 Tot School Gathering Place and Teaching Mama's Everything Early Childhood.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Our Preschool Plans (K3)

Well, I've given in.  The more I plan and organize for Sophie's learning activities in the fall, I realize that we have crossed from Tot School to Preschool.

Our transition started as an organizational need - I couldn't figure out how to leave her learning materials out in a way that she could make selections without having Miles get into them.  So I started holding back the materials and just giving her the next activity.  However, at the same time, I wanted her to know what to expect and be able to take some ownership of our activities.  Most of our learning is done together, not independently, so we weren't quite ready for true workboxes.  But, in reality, we are using a modified version of workboxes as a way to organize and structure our learning time.  I'll share more about this after I have a few weeks to perfect our system, but so far it has been working really well for us.

Beyond organization, our activities are looking more and more "preschoolish" as well.  Sophie is on the verge of starting to learn to read.  She knows all her letters and sounds, rhymes words constantly, and can recognize and spell her name.  As we finished up the Fruit of the Spirit curriculum and I searched for our next steps, I realized I really was looking for a preschool curriculum - one that would help us start our journey into learning to read (a process that totally overwhelms me!  I was mostly an upper elementary teacher and have very little experience with students just starting to read.)  I also realized that if she were going to "school" instead of staying home with me, she would be going to Preschool (K3).  Cue the emotional monologue about how my baby is growing up WAY too fast...

So, here we go, we are officially doing preschool at home this year!

Schedule and Routine

Sophie wants to do Tot School/Preschool every single day except Sunday - and then only because we are not home in the morning!  Some days she will keep wanting more activities for two hours.  Last week, we went through everything I had planned for the week by Wednesday at 9 am.  She will repeat some favorite activities, but really likes the surprise of something new (even if it is just a slight modification).

Even though I know needs for preschool do not require activities everyday, Sophie has come to expect them and loves them, so, following the lead of the child, I am planning activities for five days per week.  I will have lots of flexibility built in, and if opportunities come up that disrupt our plans, we will take them and push off our plans to another day.  However, I want to be prepared with enough material to feed her curious and willing mind all week long!  

We used to do our Tot School time when Miles took his morning nap.  This gave us perfect, uninterrupted one-on-one time.  However, with Miles trying to drop his morning nap, it is throwing a kink in our perfect schedule.  I'm trying to work out how to keep him safely occupied so that I can work with her, but I haven't quite figured it out yet.  Some of the items on his Tot School shelf require supervision, so I can't just let him explore those things.  I'm thinking some busy box/bags are in order.  I'm also working to include him in as many activities as I can, or a modified activity simultaneously. They both love doing the same things as each other!  It will fall in place.

Our Preschool Resources

I know this is a long list - we certainly will not do everything from all of these resources.  I have always really enjoyed the process of piecing lessons together from lots of great places, so these will be my main sources of ideas.

Before Five in a Row (BFIAR).  I have had my eyes on this guide for a long time.  I love the literature-based approach using these classic stories.  I cannot wait to share these great books with Sophie and there are so many fun resources online and in the guide.

Reading the Alphabet.  This FREE program looks PERFECT for Sophie.  It is described as a "PreK reading curriculum designed for those Pre Kinders who already know their letters and letter sounds, but who are not ready for a faster paced, full-blown Kindergarten curriculum."

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I plan to begin using this whenever Sophie is ready, even if that is several months down the road.

Teach Your 3 to 7 Year Old Math. This book had some great suggestions for hands-on math instruction using the Montessori approach.  It seems really helpful to me in providing a progression of sorts, helping me know where to start!

MathStart Level 1 Books.  I just discovered that our library has this entire set!  I'm really looking forward to reading these with Sophie to help introduce some math concepts.

My First Hands On BibleWe will be using this during our family devotions and occasionally doing some extra activities to go along with and reinforce during our preschool time.  We'll also continue our Scripture memory and catechism questions from My First Book of Questions and Answers.

I'm also looking for something good to use for teaching character.  I'm considering Playing with Purpose. Everything else seems a little too old for Sophie still.  I'm open to suggestions if anyone has a good one! :)

Lots of other ideas for science experiments, fun themes, art projects, and other activities from great websites and things I found on Pinterest, as well as lots of manipulatives, games and learning toys we have already.  

Right now I'm thinking we will do BFIAR every other week or so, with the in between weeks being used for themes Sophie is kind of obsessed with (think ballerinas and princesses), topics she has taken an interest in (musical instruments, doctors and human body), or seasonal/holiday activities.  Some of my favorite sites I'll be using for activities include:

Writing this all out makes it look so formal, but to Sophie, we will still be "playing preschool." The majority of our day is still spent in free play and simply living life at home and around town. My guess is that an average of an hour a day will be spent on preschool (even then, only because Sophie is asking for more!)  Even though my plans are more formal, her love of learning is still top priority.  If one of these things doesn't work, we will change our approach, and if the day comes that she needs a break from any formal learning, then we take a break!  (Though somehow, at this stage, I don't think that would fly!). We'll "officially" start in a few weeks after spending some time with family. I'm really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

BIG Tot School: Farm Theme

This week in our Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum we were talking about Gentleness and learning Psalm 23.  This one will take us a few weeks to learn, but Sophie is already doing a great job.  We also played "Follow the Shepherd" and talked about how we follow God like sheep follow a shepherd.

Literacy Actvities

Emergent Reader.  We used this super simple emergent reader from Measured Mom and Sophie loved it!  Her face after she read it all by herself is priceless! She was so proud. (The text says, "A chicken." with a picture of a chicken, for example - obviously she was not reading the animal words but was using the picture, but it was a perfect first step for her!)

Initial Sounds Farm Fences.  This idea from Stir the Wonder was a hit!  I had put the popsicle sticks together ahead of time, but Sophie helped me "build" the fences by making playdoh balls and standing them up.  (Playdoh is the way to my child's heart...).  Then she put a letter in front of each fence, and matched up the farm animals to their correct "home" using the initial sounds in their names. She played this multiple times independently after our first time together.  

Farm Poem. We wrote a farm poem together using the "I am" model from PreKinders. To draw the pig, I drew one with simple shapes one step at a time, and she tried to mimic my drawing.  I thought her pig turned out great!

Spelling Animal Names. From This Reading Mama's Farm Printable Pack.  This was one of the first times I really encouraged Sophie to match the letters from left to right (rather than just matching up letters as she found them).  It took several gentle reminders, but I think it is important I start guiding her that way as we move past just letter matching into forming words!

Math Activities

Measuring Sensory Bin. This was the world's simplest sensory bin, but Sophie spent HOURS playing in it this week.  No exaggeration.  It started as a tin full of popcorn kernels and some measuring cups, and eventually some Toob farm animals made it in there.  We talked about how the bigger cups could hold more than the little cups and how it took multiple little cups to fill a big cup. Easy peasy, but the favorite activity by far.  I gotta do this more often!

Feed the Pig Counting Activity. Sophie was so meticulous to get the correct number of kernels right in the bucket "so they didn't get a tummy ache."

Roll and Count Farm. From 3 Dinosaurs Farm Printable Pack

Other Activities

Animal Matching. We matched our Toob animals with the pictures, and on another day matched the mother animal to the baby animals using these cards from This Reading Mama's Farm Printable Pack.

Shadow Matching. From Gift of Curiosity. This was the most challenging shadow match she had done, as some of the animals had similar shapes and were in similar positions. I was pleased that it actually stretched her a little bit and gave us a chance to describe what we saw in the pictures.

The week wouldn't have been complete without a visit from our neighborhood ducks. These little guys were born this Spring and have made themselves at home on our street. They have obviously been fed a lot, because they are not scared of people at all.  They followed us up to our porch!  It was actually a little bit eerie, to tell the truth! But of course the kids love it! 

Linking up at 1+1+1=1 Tot School Gathering Place and Teaching Mama's Everything Early Childhood.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Tot School: Farm Theme

Miles is 15.5 months.

Honestly, Miles wasn't feeling his Tot School shelves this week, and neither was I.  I was establishing a new system for Sophie's preschool activities, so Miles' shelf was a bit of an afterthought. He still enjoyed playing, but the shelf mostly consisted of toys he already plays with regularly, so there was no really new excitement for him. 

Also, he's trying to drop his morning naps, so we just have a lot of the crabbies going on and not much interest in anything except for being held by Momma.

His favorite part was all the animal books (probably because it involved snuggles!).  He loves any books with flaps, and especially our Little Turkey finger puppet book. He is trying to mimic animal sounds, but everything comes out as a growl.  It's pretty adorable. :)

Farm Animal Sound Puzzle. He loves taking pieces off!  And he can usually get them matched up to the correct spot again, but isn't really able to get them back in without help.  But he enjoyed the animals noises on this one!

Farm Animal Puppets and Stuffed Animals. 

Melissa and Doug Hide-and-Seek Farm. This was one I had gotten for super cheap when our local teacher supply store went out of business, and I held it back for him. He loved opening and closing the doors.  Sophie also enjoyed this one, since it was a new toy she hadn't ever gotten to play with.

Farm Playset. This is a daily staple in our house.  The favorite game is dropping animals down the silo.

Sticky Sheep. The one activity we were both actually excited about was the Sticky Sheep idea I found at Two-Daloo.  This was a family affair, and it was so much fun to see them enjoying the same activity together.  I definitely need to work in some more activities that both of my sweeties can participate in together.

Linking up at 1+1+1=1 Tot School Gathering Place and Teaching Mama's Everything Early Childhood.