Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘preschool’

Organization: Rainbow Drawers

Today: Rainbow Drawers.

This is one of the simplest, as well as one of the most marvelous, tools of organization we have for our school area.  They are beneficial because it is something useful for both my kids and myself.  How we use them is pretty simple, yet very effective for us.  (To read about some of my other favorite organization tools, click here.)

For Me

The rainbow drawers serve two purposes for me.  The first helps me keep clutter off my desk (very much needed).  The second is that the drawers give me an easy, organized, presentable way to deliver those papers to my children.

Photo Aug 08, 11 41 27 AM

The top two drawers are for Builder to keep essentials such as notepads, slate board, spirals, etc.  Princess has the next two drawers.  The proceeding drawers are labeled by subject areas, with some drawers sharing similar subjects.  Since I use Sunday afternoon as my prep time for the week, I make sure to print and gather everything needed for each lesson/activity.  If those items were to stay on my desk, it would be a nightmare.  So, after printing and gathering, I place the materials in their designated drawer.

photo-sep-06-3-12-50-pm

For Them

Princess’s work is still very theme based, so it is difficult to split her items into subjects.  Because of this, I have been placing all her materials in the second of her pink drawers.  This has been working well, and many times she will dig into whatever sheet is next in her drawer.

photo-sep-06-3-13-23-pm

For Builder, his daily list will have an asterik beside any subject that has something printed or gathered for the lesson/activity.  As he is working through his list, he knows when to look in a drawer to complete an assignment.

For a while after we purchased the drawers, they sat empty and unused.  I tried this and that, until we found this system that is working for now.  I know this will shift and change as Princess progresses and our needs change.  As for now, this is our system, and we’re sticking to it!

Your Turn to Play – How do you organize all those pesky papers for upcoming lessons?

Rainy Day

Why do I continue to look for the perfect curriculum?  To me it is like the brass ring on a merry-go-round.  I can’t seem to stop reaching for it!  I know that each curriculum has its pros and cons.  Even in my philosophy of education, I believe that no one curriculum is right for everyone.

So why am I still looking!?!?

Recently, we have found the free home curriculum Easy Peasy over at http://www.allinonehomeschool.com.  And you know, I really like it.  We have been using it for three weeks now and it seems to fit really well into what we are doing.

But…

Now, as we go, Builder needs to move on in math.  Princess needs to skip a whole week!  Yeesh.  And I find myself doing the eclectic thing by bringing in the science, spelling, and handwriting that I want and feel is right for Builder.

Yes…

I need to remind myself that truly, I know what is right for my kids.  Deep down, I know if they are challenged, bored, or struggling.  I know if they need to move on, slow down, or speed up.  Or even, just take a break.  It is ok, to pull in this, push out that, and start over again if need be.  It’s ok to jump full force into a sunny day and play outside or go to the park instead of getting all tasks done.  And vice versa, it’s ok on a sunny day to get done what we need to.

In point, this schooling at home thing is far more fluid than what I am used to and comfortable with.  The lessons I learn each and everyday, match or far exceed what my kiddos are learning.  Or maybe, just maybe, they are learning with me and from my mistakes and successes.

Lord, lead me, lead them, lead us.


On a lighter note, springtime is on us in full force.  So, to go along with that oh so sweet sound of rain, we are giving our hands a try at making our own raindrop display.  I’m thinking this may spin off into a full blown water cycle unit.  We shall see.

Here is the project I found over at www.pre-kpages.com:

raindrop suncatchers fine motor for preschool

For full instructions and pictures to boot, click here or on the link above.  What follows are my abbreviated instructions:

  1.  Find a handful of blue crayons.  They can be all the same blue, or different shades of blue.
  2. Peel the papers (great fine-motor skill).
  3. Sharpen crayons over a medium to large piece of wax paper.  Until the wax paper has a good sprinkling of wax shavings.
  4. Place an equal size piece of wax paper on top and iron on the lowest setting.  It only takes a quick moment to melt wax.  Let cool.
  5. Draw raindrop shapes on the wax paper and cut.
  6. Use a hole punch and string to tie onto your raindrops and display.

I will update with pictures once our raindrops are proudly displayed.  I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

Soap and Shaving Cream

It is so nice when those days come that things actually work!

This, for me, is a lovely thing mainly in the realm of science and crafts.  I am learning that most of the time, simpler is better.  The simpler the experiment the more chance it will work as it should.  The simpler the craft the more chance it will actually look like the example!

I must say, I am also learning that those two things don’t matter as much as I thought they did.  So we have to modify a craft to make it work…ok.  So the science experiment doesn’t work as it should, or not at all…ok, we can still learn from it.

In this homeschool process, I am being molded and stretched as much if not more than my kiddos.

With M2 (my youngest, 3-year-old daughter), we have started doing an “unofficial” letter of the week focus.  Lately, she is getting “bored” more and more, so we needed to do a few more “structured” learning activities to help challenge her.  One of the success projects comes from this letter focus.

Some time back, I happened upon a free preschool letter of the week curriculum – Look What I Can Do! Preschool Curriculum.  It is in e-book format and in my opinion it is nothing fancy.  Personally, I wouldn’t pay $20 for it, but if you can nab it for free or at a discount, it is worth it.  It helps me to have a letter schedule to follow for each week.  I have learned that it is easier to change a curriculum than to start from scratch and come up with my own.  So, I have been following their letter schedule, but skipping some activities and adding others.

The first successful activity for the day involved soap “exploding” in the microwave.  The letter focus of the week was ‘S’ so we called it Soap Science.  This is one of the activities listed in the curriculum mentioned above.

Successful Activity #1:  Soap Science

materials needed: medium or large glass bowl, knife, bar of IVORY soap, microwave, sensory bin (optional)

Step 1:  take all paper off the bar of IVORY soap

Step 2:  cut bar of soap into 3 or 4 pieces and place in glass bowl

Photo May 05, 5 23 17 PM

Step 3:  place in microwave and heat for 1.5 – 2 minutes

Photo May 05, 5 23 36 PM

Step 4:  let your kids watch and be amazed

Photo May 05, 5 26 47 PM - Copy

The soap will be too hot to handle at first.  After the soap cools, it has a really neat crumbly texture so we added it to our sensory bin for the kids to explore.  We ended up doing three bars of soap and had a decent amount to play with in the bin.

Photo May 05, 6 07 12 PM

You can find this experiment on YouTube here.  Note:  On the YouTube video she uses a paper plate.  I found a glass bowl does much better at containing the expanding soap.

I will say that the only thing I would warn about is the strong smell of the soap in the sensory bin.  If you or your kiddos are smell sensitive, be ready for a strong aroma.

A great extension for this activity would be to use other brands of soap and observe/compare how much or how little the different soaps expand.  (Evidently, the soap expands due to the content of air in the bar.  The air heats up and expands, causing the soap to “grow”.)

Our other successful activity comes from M1’s (my oldest, 5-year-old son) science unit.  He is studying Jupiter and over at It’s A Boy’s Life,they made a fun paper Jupiter using liquid starch and food coloring.  I didn’t have any liquid starch on hand, so I used food coloring, shaving cream, and white cardstock.

Successful Activity #2:  Shaving Cream Jupiter

Materials needed:  pie pan (or something to contain the shaving cream), shaving cream, food color (we used brown, red, yellow, for Jupiter colors), white cardstock cut into a circle, ruler, parchment paper or cookie sheet (something to scrape shaving cream onto), pencil or something to stir with

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materials needeed

Step 1:  fill pie pan with shaving cream and level off

Step 2:  put a few drops of each food coloring onto shaving cream

Photo May 05, 5 50 46 PM

shaving cream with food color

Step 3:  stir the colors to make a fun pattern (we use this time to talk about how Jupiter is a windy planet, and they can pretend to be the wind)

Photo May 05, 6 00 33 PM

a windy planet

Step 4:  press firmly (but not too hard) the cardstock circle onto the colored shaving cream.  I like to rub my fingers over the paper to make sure the color is adhering to every part of the paper.

Photo May 05, 6 03 51 PM

forgot to take a picture of the circle being pressed into the shaving cream, we used the scrap pieces as well

Step 5:  lift cardstock circle off the shaving cream

Step 6:  place the cardstock circle on the parchment paper and use ruler to scrape off shaving cream

Photo May 05, 6 09 46 PM

scrape off shaving cream

And now you have your Jupiter!

Photo May 05, 6 10 00 PM

M1’s Jupiter

Photo May 05, 6 10 06 PM

M2’s Jupiter

The color adheres immediately and will not smudge or smear.  Here is a YouTube video that can also help…click here.

These were really great activities that captured the kids (and my) imagination and creativity.  Not everyday is like this in our little homeschool, however, when it happens it is a marvelous thing.

 

 

Freezing Fun

Thanksgiving was a wonderful time of family and fun.  We took a break from “formal” activities and focused more on preparing to be with family.

A few days before Thanksgiving, we had a bout of cold weather.  Since seasons are a hot topic with us right now, I thought it would be fun to add to our weather knowledge.  So, we did a science experiment.

Icicles

One morning I checked the outside temperature and it read 31 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mason loves to check the temperature outside so he knew this was on the cold side.  I then asked the baiting question…

Do you know what happens to water below 32 degrees Fahrenheit?

This, as planned, sparked his curiosity.  I put roughly an inch of water in a plastic bowl and set it outside on our porch.  I told Mason that water turns to ice when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  (In hindsight I would have let him discover this on his own rather than telling him.)  His eyes grew wide and a huge smile crossed his face.  He wanted me to put the bowl where he could see it and keep an eye on it.  After two hours I brought the bowl inside and the top had frozen, but there was still liquid underneath.  He thought that was neat.  We put it outside for another hour and brought it in to observe it once again.  This time all of the water was frozen.

This brought on more curiosities, and he asked if he could take it out.  He spent a good deal of time feeling it, turning it over, and yes, even licking it!  We talked about why it was beginning to melt since we brought it inside and he was touching it.  He decided he wanted to wrap it in some towels to see what would happen.  Once we did, it took a longer time to melt since it was now insulated.

All in all, this was a great teachable science moment

– both for seasonal changes and for a liquid turning to a solid.  I had such fun watching him observe and experiment and investigate.  He was soaking up knowledge and I was soaking in the moment.  (of course I was so into this, I didn’t even think to take pictures)

Here are a few activities we did over the last two weeks…

Week-in-Review

Handwriting:

Assess Writing Uppercase Letters

  • I was curious to know where Mason was in free writing his uppercase letters A-Z.  I knew he was improving on tracing dashed letters, but I wanted to know if he could produce them correctly without the aid of tracing.  To assess this, I had him write the letters on a chalkboard as I named them.  I was looking for if he knew how to form the letters as opposed to neatness, so the chalkboard and large chalk did just fine for us.  > He did great. =)

Reading:

Sight Word Sundaes

  • This is a cute printable that gives another fun way to practice sight words.  This week, Madison (2 yrs) would build the sundae and Mason would read the words as we put the pieces away.

Word Sundae pic

(click here for Sight Word Sundae download)

Geography:

Identify Oklahoma

  • I found a very nice printable map of the United States at mrprintables.com (click here).  I had been looking for a map that I could print on cardstock to keep around as a reference, and/or cut apart as a puzzle – though we haven’t gotten to that stage yet.
  • I wanted to assess if Mason could recognize the state of Oklahoma (our home state).  He did and was also able to identify two other states.  A+ for that assessment!

map image

Science:

Season Recognition

  • We did the water experiment as described above.
  • We also found an activity that consisted of 12 pictures representing all four seasons and Mason had to sort the pictures into the correct season.  (I would give recognition of where I found this activity, but I cannot remember where I found it!)

Season sorting

Icicle image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Moving On

This week was much better for us.  

I started the week with a freshly organized desk and some work prepared for the week.  I thought out those things I would like Mason to accomplish and had them ready Sunday evening.  This worked out well for me, so I may begin to try Sunday evenings as my planning time.

As a part of math this week, we worked on identifying and naming 3-dimensional objects.  I found a good set of printable 3-D flashcards at mrprintables.com.  I introduced these cards a few weeks back.  This week Mason took each card and went around the house to find objects to match the shape.

3d hunt copy

We fudged a little on the pyramid item (pizza slice).  It turned out really difficult to find a true pyramid!

After collecting all the different objects, Mason then went on to build a “sculpture”.  This was great because after completing his creation, he told me about it by identifying the names of each of the elements.  For example, instead of saying here is the paint bottle, he said – here is the cylinder, cube, etc.  This was a very fun way to practice naming 3-dimensional objects.  It was also challenging to find items from around the house.  I had fun helping with this.

Week-in-Review

Math:

3-Dimensional Shape Naming & Identifying

  • This is the activity described above.  Review 3-D flashcards and then find objects in the house that are those 3-D shapes.
  • Add some fun by then taking the 3-D items and make a “sculpture” from them.  Then name each item in the sculpture using the 3-D shape name.

Handwriting:

Fall Tracing

  • Page 11 & 18, in the All About Fall pack from servingjoyfully.com, are two cute trace and color sheets.  Madison enjoyed the sheets as well!

Fall Tracing copy

Calendar Tracing

  • The preschool calendar notebook pages from RoyalBaloo.com are a great set of printables.  We are not good at tracing the date each day.  Mason tends to enjoy doing them more than one at a time.  He went back to them this week, finishing the numbers for all of September and most of October.

August calendar

(September, October, and November are currently available here.)

Reading:

Story Sequencing

  • Using a set of Blue’s Clues story sequencing cards, four cards are given and must be placed in correct story sequence by looking at the scene on the card.  This is helpful not only to see if a child can recognize a storytelling sequence, but also to see if left to right reading is occurring.

sequencing

CVC Jump

  • For this activity, letters are written in chalk on the driveway.  I chose letters that pertained to three or four word families we had been working on, as well as letters for Mason’s name and a few other sight words.
  • Then I give a word and Mason jumps on the letters to spell that word.  After a while, Mason likes to choose the words and spell them.

CVC jump

Sight Word Sundaes

  • This is a cute printable that gives another fun way to practice sight words.  Normally, Mason would build his own Sight Word Sundae and say the words as we take it apart.  Lately Mason hasn’t wanted to build a sundae, but if I build one he will read the words from mine.  Works for me!

Word Sundae pic

(click here for Sight Word Sundae download)

Organization

It has become blatantly obvious to me that I need to make a conscious effort in the area of organization.  We are 5 months into our learning at home journey and I can begin to feel a shift from “something we are trying out” to “let’s do this thing”!

Our learning year is from June to June, and I can feel that when Mason turns 5 years old (in June) that we will begin to move things to a new/next level.  A few more structured activities, a few more activities during the week, as well as a few more activities that Mason does more independently.  All of these things are wonderful and I am whole-heartedly looking forward to them.  What I am seeing now is the need to find our path of organization.

To be honest, it’s a little overwhelming.

When teaching public school, I had a whole classroom in which to organize work, manipulatives, supplies, etc.  Granted, I had many more students, but still.  We do not have any extra rooms, or much extra space in our home to use as a “school room”, not that I would be likely to do that anyway.  I know it will work.  I know there is a way.  I need to remember that I am creative, and that this can be done.  I also want to do this without spending an outrageous amount of funding on organizational items.  I will keep you posted (quite literally!) on how we obtain our organizational haven.

If you have walked this path and have ideas to offer – please feel free to comment below!

Week-in-Review

Math:

Lego Take Away

  • Several weeks ago, the concept of “take away” was introduced through Freddy the Front Loader, a learning activity found in the Lego Pack from walkingbytheway.com.  This introduced the concept of subtraction, so this week I decided to move into connecting the symbolic numbers with the concept.
  • I wrote a subtraction problem and we did the first two or three together.  Toward the end, Mason starting making his own problems.  This, as it always does, leads to the discussion of what happens when a larger number is taken away from a smaller number.
  • I refuse to tell students “this can’t be done”.  We had a conversation that if we take a larger number from a smaller number we don’t have enough!  In the coming years, this gives a foundation on which to build the concept of negative numbers.

Lego Take Away copy

Graphing:

  • While sitting at my desk, Mason found one of the die from the Fourth of July pack at 3 Dinosaurs.  He asked if he could do it.  I didn’t feel like finding it on my computer, printing it out, etc.  So, I quickly sketched pictures at the bottom to match the pics on the die and Mason set to rolling and graphing.  Gotta’ love the impromptu practice!

impromptu graph copy

Science:

Season Characteristics – Fall – Informal Assessment

  • Page 9, in the All About Fall pack from servingjoyfully.com, is a cut-and-paste Fall tree.  My plan was to use this activity as an informal assessment on what Mason knew about the Fall season characteristics.  While he was creating his tree, I asked him what he knew about the season of Fall.  I made sure to not give him any prompts besides, “What else?”.  I wanted to know what he had truly internalized about Autumn, not what I could trigger in his memory.

Fall Tree copy

  • After creating the tree, we used Page 10 in the pack to graph the different color of leaves that had fallen from the tree.  A great activity to blend science, informal assessment, math, arts-and-crafts, and cut-and-paste for fine motor skills.  Another big thumbs up on this 20 minute activity!

Extras:

Canvas Painting

  • We did a little acrylic paints on canvas boards and threw in some extra tools such as forks to experiment with texture.  Mason put tape on his canvas before painting so that it would create a fun design after the paint dried and we peeled off the tape.  Madison was simply more interested in getting as much color on her canvas as possible.  She also decided that playing with the bottles of paint was just as fun!

Canvas painting copy

Under Construction


under construction

Warning: Under Construction

As I sit to write this post, life is swirling around me.  After all, life happens doesn’t it.  I have many pictures in my head of what things should look like and how they should all shake out.  Then, at the end of the day or week, I look back and it’s just not what I thought it would be.  Sometimes this is fine, after awhile I start to wonder…is there something I need to change?

In regards to the past two weeks, I look back and reflect on activities I have done with Mason and wonder…have I done enough?  I don’t want to cheat him.  I don’t want to overwork him.  I don’t want to get caught up in the striving of planning four lessons a day, making sure to cover all standards for the week, etc.  I came from there, I don’t want to go back.

I have wondered this past week, if I should begin to get a lesson planner and go to setting plans down for the week.  After all, I am familiar with this, maybe it would work?  Then, I think to myself…Mason is four.  I’m really not ready to push the whole, let’s do a pre-scheduled school week structure.

Life is swirling.

I do have a feeling that there will come a day when I am more planned out in a process and procedure for learning.  I know the Lord will lead us into that which is right for us.  However, right now, I just don’t know what that looks like.  I don’t want to neglect, and I don’t want to push.  I want to foster Mason’s natural love for learning and foster new experiences.  There are times I am overwhelmed and wonder just what have I gotten myself into!  I know this is the path for us, and the path I desire to take.  I must also say that at times, I feel completely ill equipped for the journey that is ahead.  Yet I know, all is not lost and we are doing ok.  I think.

Week-in-Review

Handwriting:

Fall Tracing Sheet

all about fall image

Numbers

  • I noticed this week that Mason was having some trouble writing numbers, which he had been doing well with.  So, we used a writing workbook from the store that has pages to trace and write numbers.

Reading: 

Fall Word Search

  • Again we used the All About Fall pack mentioned above.  We used page 15, which is a fall word search.  I wasn’t exactly sure how he would do with this, since it was a little more involved than other word searches we have done.  He did great, and we were able to talk about each word and how it pertained to Autumn.  Score!

Science:

Season Characteristics – Fall Trees

  • Page 8, in the All About Fall pack, is a tree color-by-number sheet.  I was doing this more as an arts-and-crafts type project, but while coloring we ended up talking about two types of trees – those that lose their leaves and evergreens that  stay green through the winter.  A wonderful blend of art and science!

Image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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