Alphabet Cards: A Preschool Project

Did anyone else hoard stickers from their childhood? I got stickers in stockings and birthday cards and then always just wanted to save them for a special time.  Well, turns out it’s a good thing I did, because that special time turned out to be 25 or 30 years later.  I have now amassed- what with childhood, my teaching career, and now with children (and my grandma sending me her hoard of stickers she’s accumulated in her 90 years)-quite a collection of stickers. Just in time for it to be very helpful in the education of my children.

My sticker collection

My sticker collection

Preschool is a simple affair around here.  Lots of free play.  Plenty of time outside.  Nature walks. Good books. Puzzles. Free form arts & crafts.

We also do a little bit of alphabet learning.  Leapfrog videos on Netflix are a wonderful resource.  We read alphabet books sometimes (Doodling Dragons from Logic of English is one of our favorites). We create alphabet books. One project we started last year and finished this year was Alphabet Cards. It was a simple and easy project which was very important for the goal of ever finishing it.

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It was Z-urchin’s project (and Shortstop will do it next year), so anytime that he asked, “Can we do the next letter?” I would respond, “Yes!” Then I would pull out an index card and a marker and write the next letter on the card. We’d pull out the big box of stickers and look through them to find stickers of things that started with the letter on the card. Simple and fun. That’s my kind of preschool project!

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Alphabet Card Wall

Alphabet Card Wall

 

 

 

Babies Don’t Keep

DSCN1565My fifth child is 2 months old now. How can that be?   She likes to cuddle and snuggle and rock. So that’s what we do.  As I look around my house- the floors covered with crumbs, dishes piled in the sink from the weekend- I think about a few poetic lines about dust, cobwebs, and rocking babies my mom had embroidered in a frame on the wall when I was growing up.

My mom actually told me recently that these lines were actually part of a longer poem called “Song for a Fifth Child.”  How appropriate!  I hunted down the poem and what do you know?  The whole poem was written for me!  A mother with her new fifth child- a baby girl.

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Song for a Fifth Child

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,

Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,

Hang out the washing and butter the bread,

Sew on a button and make up a bed.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?

She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

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Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue

(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due

(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).

The shoppings not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo

But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.

Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?

(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

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The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,

For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep

I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

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So I’m not worrying about the fact that my dishes don’t get done every day or that the floor gets swept only when company’s arrival is imminent. Instead, I am enjoying my baby’s soft skin and sweet breath and squishy, cuddly body as I hold her close and rock her.

And I think, as I rock her in the dark stillness of night, of my mom’s words of wisdom that she bestowed upon me when my first was born, “Make friends with the night.”  I enjoy the peace and quiet that rarely reigns in my home and think that these moments are fleeting and this season will pass far too quickly.  So I am content.  To sit and rock my baby, for babies don’t keep.

 

How to Keep on Keeping On: Ideas for Motivating Struggling Students and Tired Teachers

It's a beautiful day & I can't stop myself from smiling

The Day is nice. The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Summer is coming!  I am reminded of a poem by Richard Le Gallienne-

I meant to do my work today—
   But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
   And all the leaves were calling me. 

And the wind went sighing over the land,
   Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
   So what could I do but laugh and go?

Homeschooling is a marathon.  And while it is wonderfully flexible, able to bend and bow with life’s ebbs and flows and seasons, you also do have to actually do it.  Mostly every day.  Whether you (or your kids) feel like it or not.

I’ve been faced lately with many temptations to forget about school.  A couple of weeks ago, it was Easter and we had company.  The six weeks preceeding that, I was recovering from a C-section and caring for a newborn.  The few weeks before that I was dealing with preeclampsia and being nearly nine months pregnant.  And before that it was Christmas.  Now I have a 2 month old and with all the activity of the last few months, I am tired out.

With summer break just around the corner, it can be hard to be faithful to finish well.  It has been many months since the enthusiasm of beginning a new year has worn off.  With the end of the year in sight, it is a challenge to keep the motivation for doing school every day alive.

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So, how do we keep on keeping on when faced with chaos and fatigue and students who’d rather have full days of free time all of the time?

First of all, I pray.  I beg the Lord for strength and the motivation to keep going.  The Lord says in Isaiah, Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

After that it comes down to two principles:  change and choice.  Here are a few ways this plays out in my house:

  1.  A Little Scheduling Autonomy– My (schooled) kids are in 2nd and 3rd grades, young enough that I need to be involved in much of their schooling.  Most of the time, I order the day’s lessons.  This ensures that we are following Charlotte Mason’s very wise principle of short and varied lessons. However, when I just don’t have it in me to drag the kids from their own pursuits to do their lessons, I will list the children’s tasks and lessons for the day on a card or white board and put them in charge of fulfilling their tasks.  Some tasks are independent and some require me (to read to them), so with the latter, they must confer together and decide when they want to ask me to read the lesson.  I have found that when given the power of choice, their attitude and willingness is much improved. And then I am not in charge of initiating school and I have found that to be a very nice break.DSCN1753
  2. A Project- The other day for math, instead of doing workbook pages of review, I assigned X-man a project.  He was to look through the grocery store ads that came in the mail, cut out pictures of things he wanted to purchase and paste them on a piece of construction paper.  He had $100 and he needed to use it mostly up without going over.  I gave him a scrap paper to work out his sums, the ads, scissors, construction paper, and glue and he went at it enthusiastically.  He barely recognized that he was doing math.  In January, we did a flower dissection project.  The evening before, my husband had come home with flowers.  My kids asked what they were for and my response, “A project for tomorrow,” engendered much anticipation and cries to know what it was!  They were so excited. A project is a change of pace that fosters interest and therefore, motivation. So when I have the energy for it, it is a good thing for getting my kids excited.
    Math Project

    Math Project

    Flower Dissection & Pollen on the Nose

  3. A Craft or Creative Endeavor– Today when I was listing the day’s tasks, X-man sighed in discouragement.  The last task I listed said, “Craft or Something Creative.” Instantly he perked up- you could see it bodily and in his face.  He was intrigued as much by the idea of a project as by the fact that he could choose what to do.  We discussed options- building a lego creation, inventing something outside, making a game or a book of mazes for his siblings.  He ended up being intrigued during our history reading about the introduction of new numbers to Europe during the Middle Ages that made math easier to do (these were the Arabic numerals we still use today) that he decided to create his own set of numbers.

    Math in a Bucket

    Math in a Bucket

  4. A Change of Scenery- History reading on the trampoline, math on the back porch or in a bucket.  Reading while all snuggled up in bed.  A nature walk around the neighborhood.  A trip to the local park- maybe bring bikes or a ball and call it P.E., or just enjoy all enjoy the fresh air together.  A change of scenery- especially when it is outside- can be fun and refreshing and invigorating.

    Math Outside

    Math Outside

  5. A Change of Method- Similar to the idea of a project, using different methods than usual for your daily lessons can help add interest and motivation.  Using new manipulatives for math, an art print for history, a visual aid for science, or a movie, a puzzle or a board game in place of regular lessons can be very exciting for students.  Lately, we have been using new math manipulatives and we’ve been watching the Acts Visual Bible for our daily Bible lessons.  The kids have been really into Bible especially, begging to watch more every day.
    Pretty Math Manipulatives

    Pretty Math Manipulatives

    So change things up or give the kids some extra choices and see if that helps inject a little enthusiasm to keep on keeping on so you can finish out this school year strong. What other things do you do when your motivation is running low?

Delightful Chapter Books for Read Aloud Time

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Read Aloud Time!

It is good to read aloud to your children.  It is good for their vocabulary and reading skills.  It is entertaining and it develops relationships and creates beautiful memories.  I have wonderful childhood memories of my mom reading us tales of adventure and excitement to us every night before bed.

I started reading to my children when they were babies.  I read all of those counting books and word books and started hating reading to my kids.  There were a few good board books- as opposed to ‘bored’ books (thank you, I’m here all week)- but so many made my eyes glaze and just put me right to sleep. I did get rid of a lot of the really boring books and kept the good ones (you can read about those here), but I also rejoiced when my kids got old enough for chapter books!  Books with interesting characters and actual plots!  I was so excited.

Listening to Five Children and It

Listening to Five Children and It

So here is a list of chapter books I’ve read aloud to my children that we all loved:

  1.  Five Children and It This story is our current read-aloud.  I saved it for just after I had my fifth baby- I figured the kids would really identify with the children in the story and thus really get into it.  I was right.  It is about four siblings (and their baby brother) who find a Sand-Fairy and get wishes.  So far, their wishes haven’t turned out so good.  And their adventures are quite amusing.  X-man and Princess K wish that this was all we did for school and they never want me to stop reading, even though the chapters are quite long.  I highly recommend it!
  2. Detectives in Togas–  This one (and its sequel, below) is one of the favorites of my oldest son.  He and Princess K both always objected when the chapter ended and I put down the book.  They couldn’t handle the suspense!  It is a great story- a mystery set in Roman times- with all kinds of surprising twists.
  3. Mystery of the Roman Ransom– The sequel of Detectives in Togas and its equal in fun and twisty mystery.
  4. Mr. Popper’s Penguins– A delightful and very funny tale about a man who dreams about the poles and gets penguins sent to him by post.  It is an outrageously ridiculous story and all of my children absolutely loved it.
  5.  Trumpet of the Swan– My five year old’s favorite story was this one.  He even has a little stuffed swan he named Louis.  It is a story about the adventures of Louis, a trumpeter swan who learns to use a musical instrument to win the affection of his love, Serena.

    Z-urchin & his swan Louis

    Z-urchin & his swan Louis

  6. Ginger Pye– We like funny stories around here and this is another one.  The kids were drawn in by the story of Jerry and Rachel and their intellectual dog, Ginger, who gets dognapped and how they find him again.
  7. Pinky Pye– The sequel to Ginger Pye sends the Pye family on an island vacation where a cat joins the family and learns to typewrite and discovers a secret in the attic.
  8. Charlotte’s Web– This one was one of my daughter’s favorites.  The story of the pig who doesn’t want to end up as Christmas dinner and the spider who helps him is well-known.  We also watched the modern movie with Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte and we really enjoyed it.
  9. Little House in the Big Woods (and others of this series)- Another well-known story about the life of the Ingalls, a pioneer family who lived in the midwest United States, as recounted by the second oldest daughter, Laura.  It is charming and sweet and has great detail about life in that era.
  10. The Boxcar Children– This is a tale about the adventures of four children who end up living for awhile in a boxcar in the woods.  We only read aloud the first & second stories of the famous series, the subsquent books can be read by my children themselves for independent reading.
  11. Happy Little Family (and the rest of the series)- The Fairchild Family Series is a charming series of four books about the Fairchild family who have five chidren- four girls and a boy.  They live in the mountains of Kentucky in the early 1900s.  The adventures revolve mainly around the youngest daughter, Bonnie, who goes ice skating, raises ducks, feeds lambs, visits far-off neighbors and goes to school in a one-room schoolhouse.
  12. Betsy-Tacy– I read this book to my daughter last summer and she loved it.  This is her favorite book I have ever read aloud to her.  She enjoyed it so much that she recieved this and the three following books of the series for Christmas and has devoured them all- on her own.  It is the story of the friendship of imaginative Betsy and shy Tacy and the fun they have in their little town of Deep Valley (also in the late 1800s to early 1900s).

*The Chronicles of Narnia -the Focus on the Family Radio Theater version of these books is amazing (as is The Christmas Carol done by them). We listened to this series a couple of years ago and plan to revisit the series again when the kids who were too young to remember get a little older.  We really enjoyed their dramatization of this excellent, classic series.

Getting the Betsy-Tacy series for Christmas

Welcoming a New Baby Sister!

My hands and heart are full.

My hands are full of blessings. My heart is full of love and joy.  God has been very gracious to me.  Children are truly a precious gift from the Lord.

Baby #5 has arrived!

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Dimple!

She did not exactly arrive as I had planned.  With her breech presentation and my preeclampsia, and after an unsuccessful version attempt, she was delivered 2 weeks early via c-section- my first baby to arrive in this way.  It was a completely different experience than my other births and honestly, it was a little scary.  However, I rested in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and love.  He was not taken by surprise.  This was the way He had ordained for her to enter the world.  Furthermore, He is faithful and never leaves me nor forsakes me.

However it happened, we ended up with a healthy baby and a healthy mama.  That is all that is really important.  Then, while my husband, the wonderful man that he is, took care of me and the four older children, I spent the next week resting and recovering and snuggling her.  Baby snuggles!  The best thing for recovery after a birth of any kind!

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My older children are over the moon with excitement about their new baby sister.  They are also really enjoying the break from school they are getting as I recover and we adjust to life with the new baby.

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Redheads Unite!

She is beautiful and cuddly and sleeps like a baby!  (That is to say, she sleeps in short intervals of 2 or maybe 3 hours- if I’m lucky- at a time.)

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One Week Old- Time Flies when you are snuggling a newborn!

 

Our Curriculum This Year

The students at Terrace Hill Academy are crazy!

The students at Terrace Hill Academy are crazy!

School has been in session in our household for almost 3 months now.  We are tending to start a little later in the morning than I would generally like due to my early morning fatigue (thank you, pregnancy).  However, we are learning a lot and having lots of great discussions, and I am really enjoying seeing the academic growth of my children.  The difference between this year at this time and last year at this time is vast.

This year, Terrace Hill Academy has 2 students enrolled:  one in 2nd, one in 3rd.  There are also 2 preschoolers present in the household, making things fun and a bit crazy. One is 3 and is full of life and passion and energy.  The other recently turned 5 and the day he did so, he developped a sudden and avid interest in school.  This child is a fascinating combination of easy-going and totally persistent.  He’ll say, “I’m hungry mommy, can I have a treat?”  I will reply, “No, it is not time for a treat.”  He’ll say, “Ok, mommy.”  A few minutes pass.  He’ll say, “I’m hungry, mommy.  Can I have crackers?”  I’ll answer, “No, honey, it is not time for crackers.”  He’ll reply, “Ok, mommy.”  A few minutes pass.  He’ll say, “I’m hungry mommy.  Can I have a cheese stick?”  Then, unless dinner is minutes away, I finally offer him an apple or a carrot.

So he has been doing this with school.  “I want to do school, mommy.  Is it time for my school yet?” (Repeat this according to his pattern, as described above.)  I can’t resist him for two reasons:  1.  He’s interested!  Let’s not let all that great enthusiasm go to waste!  2.  He will drive me completely mad if I don’t do something to get him to STOP ASKING.

So, these are curriculum choices and academic plans for a 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and a “Transitional Kindergartner” (whose occasional school buddy is the 3 year old preschooler).

Elementary School (2nd & 3rd grades):

Bible– We are reading through the New Testament and will learn 10-12 new hymns  (Transitional Kindergartners and Preschoolers are required to be present at this time)

Phonics and MathLanguage Arts includes phonics, copywork, reading, and literature

      Phonics– We complete one lesson per week in Logic of English D, spending 5-10 minutes to complete one section of the lesson each day  (We finished Logic of English C a few weeks ago).

      Copywork– My 2nd grader and my 3rd grader each select a sentence or passage from our literature, history, or science book, a verse from a poem or hymn, or a passage from the Bible. They may not repeat the genre in the same week, so they are exposed to a variety of different types of works and sentences.  I plan to find some proverbs, quotes, and wise sayings to include in their options.

       Reading– My 2nd and 3rd graders each have an Independent Reading Notebook where they keep a log of the books they read.  We also chart the types of genres they are reading, keep  track of their reading goals and have a place for recording their responses to their reading.  I assign only a very few books for them to read themselves (at this time), and for the most part let them choose what they will read.  We visit our local library weekly and I try to assist or guide their choices a little bit, hoping to whet their appetite for good, living books that are at their reading level.

Reading Notebook

       Literature– I read aloud living chapter books that either correspond to the history we are studying currently or that I think my children would love.

History– We are finishing The Story of the Romans and then will move on after Christmas to The Story of the Middle Ages.  Both of these books are from Nothing New Press and are very interesting and enjoyable to read.  We also supplement with a number of living history biographies and books about specific topics in history.

Science– We finished Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy and have just begun Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Botany.  We will take many (hopefully weekly) nature walks to observe and explore creation firsthand and take special note of the plants that are all around us.  We will also read Seed Babies and Little Wanderers as they correspond with my Boatany lessons.

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Math– My 2nd grader is working her way through Singapore Math 2A and will begin 2B this year.  My 3rd grader completed 2B a couple of weeks ago and is now working his way through 3A.  Playing AnimaLogic is a fun math class reward or enrichment and both my 2nd and 3rd graders enjoy the logic puzzles this game provides.  We are also participating in a monthly Math Group with other homeschoolers in our area who use Singapore Math.  It is a great opportunity for my kids to work with other kids to solve problems and gives them plenty of concrete, hands-on practice with mathematical concepts appropriate for their level since the mom who leads it has SO MANY awesome math manipulatives.

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Extras– The plan is to do Art Study, Composer Study, Poetry, Geography, and Nature Study each weekly.  We are also working our way through Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François and watching our Whistlefritz Spanish videos.  We also try to spend some time drawing and doing handicrafts.  I’m sporadic at best at arts and craftiness, but I am trying to get better.

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Transitional Kindergarten & Preschool

Letter of the Week– We are focusing on a letter each week, reading quality picture books that highlight that letter and completing a page for a personal alphabet book.  Both Z-urchin (5 year old) and Shortstop (3 year old) participate in this and LOVE it!

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Number Sense– We will be working on understanding number bonds in the numbers to 10 by focusing on a different number each week or two and spending a good amount of time on number bonds of 10.

They are also creating number cards

They are also creating number cards

Extras– Our kids have a blast during our weekly visit to the local children’s museum where we have a membership.  I purchased three games/resources to use with my Transitional Kindergartner: Penguins on Ice, Logik Streetand Miniluk.  Z-urchin absolutely loves these activities- in fact, we all find them fun and intriguing.  I highly recommend these resources!  I am hoping to do some fun sensory and science experiments and activities with my preschool boys this year.  They also watch Leap Frog and Reading Rainbow with our Netflix Streaming subscription.  I love these programs for they are engaging and educational and give me a solid- peaceful- half hour to focus on schooling my older two.

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First Day of School 2015

Today (on the first day of my fifth second trimester!) we started school.  Normally, I like to start earlier in August, but this year (due to being in my fifth first trimester) I just was not ready any earlier.  Thankfully, flexibility is the name of the game in homeschooling.  We roll with life’s seasons.

First Day of School

This year, we have a third grader, a second grader, and two preschoolers… with the new addition arriving in February to give us a little something to look forward to mid-year.

First Day of School Kids

The day started with Bible and singing (our modern hymn, Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery) where I had the two older kids help read the Bible passage.  It is exciting to have them in this reading stage!  There has been so much growth in that area over the last year; it has been exhilerating to witness it.

After the “First Day of School Photos” we all sat down on the couch and I read the first chapter of Winnie the Pooh as our preschool readaloud.  The older kids were not required to be a part of this, but they were drawn by the tale and so we enjoyed some time together.  Princess K was seriously anxious to start school, but the pregnant mommy needed 10 minutes to doze on the couch while all the kids played with blocks and legos on the floor.

Funny First Day of School

When I woke up, Princess K eagerly ran to the schoolroom and I followed her in, letting X-man continue his fun with his little brothers.  K took inventory of her new school supplies and found a letter in her little mailbox.  This letter was written by mommy last night because the Princess could not stop talking about how excited she was to get a letter in her mailbox again, after such a long time of not getting one.  She got the idea that she would get a letter on the first day of school because she got one last year and she is just like her mommy: one single occurence of an activity that is liked is enough to make a tradition.

Anyway, then she and I worked on her math and when X-man wandered in to figure out what we were doing, I sat him down and started him on math as well.  The preschool boys were happily building large constructions out of blocks.

Preschooler's Block Construction

After math, it was snack time.  While their mouths were happily occupied, I read their history lesson (out of Story of the Romans) and we had a truly excellent conversation about plebians and patricians.  They completed a notebooking page and gave wonderful narrations and then it was time for phonics.

X-man's notebook page

 

We had a great time with phonics- we discovered a pattern with the sounds of the letter C.  It is always a delightful part of my day when the kids discover a pattern or idea on their own.  They cried all the way through 7 minutes of cursive handwriting practice since it has been 2  months since their last practice.

K's notebook page

During lunch, I read Mystery of the Roman Ransom, our current literature selection and they loved it.  They begged and begged me to read another chapter.  I resisted and so they will be very motivated for handwriting tomorrow!

Lunchtime at the counter

After quiet time (and another nap for the pregnant woman), we pulled out our chalk pastels and Hodgepodge’s A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels and had a wonderful time exploring the chalk pastel medium.  Princess K had specifically requested “more crafts” when asked what she wanted out of her second grade year (X-man specifically requested “no school”) and I’m so glad I went to effort to make sure we did something craft/artsy on our first day of school.  It was relaxing and fun, a time to be together while working independently.  It was a perfect homeschool moment.

Chalk Pastel Fun

Our Masterpieces

Our Masterpieces

And this was a few weeks ago, when we told the kids the gender of the new baby (blood test to determine gender- among other things- at 11 weeks? Wow!)- X-man was so incredibly happy for his sister getting herself her first and very longed for sister.  And I love the love.

True Sibling Love- shared joy over K finding out she will finally get the sister she's been wanting

True Sibling Love- shared joy over K finding out she will finally get the sister she’s been wanting