Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rainforest Favorites: Snakes!

Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum has turned out to be an excellent choice for our family! It has saved me time, given us a flexibility we didn't have before, helped foster an early love of learning in our girls, and made learning fun for everyone.

We have agreed to share our journey with Mother Goose Time in exchange for free curriculum packages each month. Rest assured, the stories and opinions shared here are completely our own.  Lately, we haven't been "sharing" as much as we normally do. That's because we are still adjusting to life with a newborn. Lately, Mother Goose Time has been responsible for less time spent planning lessons and stressing about curriculum on my part and I'm utterly grateful.

A few weeks ago we were studying the Rainforest and although a little time has passed, I couldn't help sharing one of our favorite lessons from the unit: snakes!

We began our snake lesson with the Community Challenge called "Big Anaconda." The girls had fun learning to say the word "anaconda" and they all enjoyed lining up 30 strips of paper to represent a giant anaconda snake. I love watching them work together!

Next, we moved to the table for creative art. This lesson's Invitation to Create involved using bubble wrap to make snakeskin paintings. Even Noah, usually opposed to arts & crafts, enjoyed pretending to make his own snakeskin. 

Then we practiced some math skills by building snakes with the "Build-A-Snake Game" activity. I have to admit that it wasn't a favorite for everyone. Noah adopted the snakes and truly enjoyed building snakes by matching the patterns. The girls were mostly disinterested, but they had fun exploring how snakes move with the rubber bands I set out.

Next we practiced letter recognition by matching capital and lowercase letters in "Snake Letters," at literacy game.  Finally, we finished our day by playing "Slithery Snake" from the Rainforest CD and letting the kids "slither" on the floor like snakes. It was so fun to watch!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Rain Forest Favorites: Sloths!

It has been a few weeks since I've had a chance to update the blog. We welcomed our third blessing from the Lord, John Langdon, on November 25th and it has been a whirling dervish around here since then!

I wanted to take some time to recap. Although I haven't been able to update our readers as often as I might like, we have certainly still been doing lessons as much as possible. Last month, we finished our study about the rainforest with Mother Goose Time and I discovered a whole new love for this fun and engaging curriculum!

I'd like to remind you that while we do receive our monthly curriculum from Mother Goose Time free of charge in exchange for sharing our journey with our readers, the journey is truly ours and that means my opinions are completely my own.

So how are we still doing homeschool with a brand new baby at our house? We did slow down some, but having a curriculum like Mother Goose Time is most of the reason. Those lovely organized packets for every single day that are largely just "open and learn" have saved our homeschool! I've even been able to give lessons to my mom & my husband to do with the kids - it's that easy!

With all that in mind, I'd like to share one of our favorite rainforest lessons that you didn't get to see...

Lesson 11: Sloths

We started this lesson with a Community Challenge called "Upside Down" where the children took turns laying upside down on the couch to look around the room. They tried to do things like roll a ball back and forth with comical difficulty.
Then we did upside down puzzles as our Little Goose "Tray Play" activity. For this activity, I did have to do some prep work. I hand made the puzzles by cutting pictures from magazines the night before, but you could use a store bought puzzle just as easily.

Next, we explored the I Can Read books with sight word pointers and picture cards. The children really have fun memorizing these books and reading them to each other.

Their favorite book was Eric Carle's "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth. I can't count how many times they asked me to read it!

I had a doctor's appointment that day, so we took the "Sloth Snacks" math activity with us to keep them occupied in the waiting room. They had fun matching their fruit to the pattern cards. I was glad for an easy activity to stash in my bag on a busy day!
When we got home from the doctor, Daddy got to finish up lessons with the children because this day's Invitation to Create involved exploring Michelangelo's masterpiece on the Sistine Chapel and creating "Upside-Down Art." At the time, I was 39 weeks pregnant and completely incapable of laying flat on my back in the floor. They had fun coloring upside down with Daddy though and again I found myself grateful for a curriculum that allows us to do things like "switch teachers" in the middle of the day.

Stay tuned for another rainforest favorite next week... snakes!!!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Family Pumpkin Fun!

Is it too late to talk about pumpkins? 
We love this time of year! This time before Advent but after Summer when the weather is nearly perfect and the days are just long enough... it has always felt to me like the focus is really on family from late September to early November. Maybe it's because celebrating Halloween is such a big event in my family, maybe it's because we homeschool and by the end of September we've really hit our stride, maybe it's just the smell of pumpkin spice in the air.

Whatever it is, Mother Goose Time wiggled it's way into our family fun at the pumpkin patch this year! As most of you know, we have been blogging with Mother Goose Time in exchange for receiving their school bus box of fun each month. Opening our October box revealed a surprise: Mother Goose Time provides special holiday activity plans & supplies for celebrating & educating at the same time.

Every year, we take our children to a local farm, Bush-n-Vine in York, and let them participate in all things pumpkin for the day (including choosing their own "perfect pumpkins" from the patch).  
This year, Noah trekked all over the patch hunting down a small, perfectly round, dark orange pumpkin (that's how he described the perfect pumpkin). 

The kids also had fun playing in the tunnel slide, bouncing in the inflatables, and swinging. Their favorite part, as always, was the hay ride out to the patch! Although, this year's new addition: a sand-box style corn crib with buckets and shovels was a big hit too!

This year, we followed up our pumpkin hunting festivities with a game & a craft from Mother Goose Time.  As the kids shredded orange construction paper to fill their paper bag "pumpkins," we discussed what they thought was inside our real pumpkins. 
[Later, as we carved our largest pumpkin, the kids got to explore real pumpkin insides.]
In this way, Noah and Ada Grace got a touch of science mixed with art & family fun together. In the end, they were so proud of their paper pumpkins that each earned a spot on the porch steps!

It can be hard to find games to play as a family that entertain our almost five year old without being too challenging for our two year old to participate. Thankfully, Mother Goose time to the rescue again with Pin the Patch on the Scarecrow game. We played three times! We all laughed as we took turns covering our eyes and attempting to "pin" patch cutouts to our scarecrow poster. Even Noah, my perfectionist child, laughed out loud after he mistakenly pinned a patch to the scarecrow's nose!

Finally, we ended the night by carving a giant pumpkin together with grandparents and baking the seeds with our favorite seasoning (we like season salt or old bay on our pumpkin seeds).  Noah chose the design (can you guess what it is?) and Ada Grace got totally grossed out by the pumpkin "guts," but she cheered us on as we cleaned out our pumpkin. Finally, both kids proudly watched from the porch as we lit our Jack-o-lantern for the first time. 

It was a wonderful family celebration! All three generations: the kids, my husband and I, and "MeMaw" and "PapPap" had fun together learning and celebrating. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Learning about Lily Pads with Little Goose

This morning, while the kids were finishing their breakfast, I started setting up a fun math activity from Mother Goose Time. By the time they were done with their eggs, I was ready to teach them about lily pads, logic, and scientific reasoning. 
We receive our Mother Goose Time curriculum and the Little Goose teacher guide supplement for free in exchange for sharing our journey on the blog. Today I'd love to share our adapted Little Goose lesson about lily pads.

I got creative with our first activity and decided to put them in the bath tub. The children immediately jumped in for Floating Lily Pads, an activity that promises to build scientific reasoning skills and listening comprehension.
I gave each child a paper plate "lily pad" to float in the water. Then, I gave them water beads, small rocks, and plastic blocks. Here's a picture of our "supplies."

The children were encouraged to explore using the different items to sink their lily pads. We talked about which objects are heavy (rocks) and which are light (water beads). They also explored numbers as we discussed how many blocks or rocks were needed to sink a lily pad. The answer is 4 rocks just in case you were wondering.
[I wish I had more pictures of this fun activity, but it so happens that when you show my children a bath tub... they immediately take off all their clothes and hop in!]

Next, we dried off and went to the table for a fun visual art Make & Play activity where we practiced fine motor skills by making our own lotus flowers.  I explained to the children that lily pads are actually lotus flower leaves and asked them to use the tools they had been given (paper plates, cupcake liners, markers, crayons, and glue sticks) to make their own lotus flowers resting on lily pads.
Ada Grace did a great job manipulating the glue and crayons. She kept repeating "Green! Green!" as she colored. Noah thought carefully about how he wanted to stack and glue his cupcake liners and the result was really cute.

Then, I showed the children their new My Little Journals for November. The Little Goose guide suggested the children draw lily pads on the cover and focus on making circles and counting them. Instead, my kids insisted on drawing their own versions of a rainforest with lots of shades of green.
I brought back the focus by having them count out loud with me while they worked.
Finally, we finished our little goose day with Wiggle & Giggle (a song about the layers of the rainforest) and Cuddle & Snuggle. My kids always have a great time dancing to the Mother Goose Time songs. Today, they especially enjoyed snuggling with me to say the letters of their name and get extra cuddles. With a new baby on the way, these little moments cuddled together are precious to me and my babies.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Jaguars in the Rainforest

The kids were really excited to start another month of homeschooling. Noah was most excited about our new calendar. The kids get to glue a new number to the calendar each day and it's a favorite for Noah. Our calendar, like many of our new great manipulative tools and crafts come from Mother Goose Time.
We are receiving Mother Goose Time curriculum free in exchange for sharing our journey here on the blog. Having a completely organized curriculum that is "ready to go" has been a life saver for me while I navigate my first year teaching different ages & being pregnant.
The Mother Goose theme for November is Rainforest Adventure.  The first day's lesson focuses on an animal from the forest floor layer of the rainforest: the jaguar. My kiddos love all things animals, so it was a great place for them to start. 
Here's what we learned about jaguars...

1. Community Challenge with a focus in Life Sceince & Social Relationships:

Where would you sleep if your home was destroyed? That certainly gave the kids pause. After a moment Noah said "outside!" and the girls immediately copied him. We talked about where jaguars sleep and how they have become endangered as a result of deforestation. 
The kids had fun showing me how they thing jaguars move, sound, and sleep!

2. Make & Play with a focus in Creative Art, Gross Motor Skills, and Literacy:

This was definitely Ada Grace's favorite activity of the day! She loves learning about the alphabet and quickly committed J is for Jaguar to memory. 

We spent extra time talking about the shape and colors of jaguar spots. 

These were so cute that I quickly decided to add them to the children's portfolios when they finished "playing" with their new art.

3. Wiggle & Giggle:

We all listened to the Jaguar Crawl song on our Dance n Beats cd while the children crawled around the yard pretending to be growling jaguars before dissolving into giggles. 

It was adorable to watch and a great way to burn off any extra energy before nap time for the little girls.

4. Small Group Literacy with a focus in Emergent Writing:

I admit, I tweaked this activity a bit. While the children were participating in the Wiggle & Giggle song, I hid their name tags in our bushes (a pretend rainforest!) and they got to explore the rainforest searching for their names. 
It was a bit like hide and seek. My kids love hide and seek!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What's In the School Bus Box?

School Bus Box

I've been told I possess a lot of patience. When it comes to opening our monthly curriculum box from Mother Goose Time, it's certainly true!
We receive Mother Goose Time curriculum and the Little Goose adapted companion free each month in exchange for our thoughts about the lessons here on the blog. The box, affectionately referred to as "the school bus box" by my children & husband, arrives about a week before each new month begins.
From the moment we get our box, my kids are ready to open it.  I'm usually forced to hide it. [I prefer that we finish the previous month before they get too excited about the next theme.]

This November, I decided to let everyone peek into the new box with us and see first hand some of the great things Mother Goose Time includes in our monthly curriculum subscription.  Here we go! ...

Teacher Tool Bag, Thanksgiving Kit, and Free Gift
Mother Goose Time really knows the way to a homeschool mama's heart: organization! All the components of our curriculum are organized and split into clear plastic bags.
[I know, I know... not exactly the most Earth friendly solution, but we do reuse our bags as much as possible to cut down on waste.]
The Teacher Tool Bag contains a separate teacher guide book/planner for each week.

Each month we also receive a free gift. November's Free Gift is a wooden goose stamper.

November (like our October box) contains an extra bag for a special holiday celebration of Thanksgiving complete with a teacher guide, games, themed snack suggestions, songs, and finger plays.

Up next is the Mother Goose Time Theme Web.  This nifty poster goes on our wall to help the children (and me!) keep track of all the things we're learning this month. With each day focusing on a different subtopic, it's easy to lose track of how everything is related. This poster helps the kids see how all the things we learn are related in a way that's easy for them to understand.
November Theme Web
November Activity Calendar
Mother Goose Time also includes an activity calendar that I was initially very excited about, but I've found we don't use it much in our home based setting. It is a nice way for me to check that we are covering each skill area on a regular basis though. I also think part of the reason I get less use of the activity calendar is because we mostly focus on the adapted activities in our Little Goose Teacher Guide which aren't always listed on this calendar.
However, I think in a more formal classroom setting this calendar would be a great informational poster for parents to see in advance just what their children are learning on any given day.

Finally, I unpacked one of the daily lesson bags so you can see just what's included in each day with Mother Goose Time.  Lesson 1 of November's rain forest theme includes tactile letters, a letter poster, Make & Play craft, a themed "create-your-own" classroom calendar, letter poster, name tags for each student, a family newsletter for the month, and My Creative Mind parent hand outs about the daily craft & lesson for children to take home. Since we homeschool, our family newsletters & My Creative Mind papers are included in our portfolios.

The last image shows the Mother Goose Time teacher guide pages for Lesson 1.  This guide helps me set up for the day, teach the lesson, and track our children's progress along the way. Like everything else with Mother Goose Time, it's well organized and easy to use.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Learning about Migration with Mother Goose Time

Last week, we continued our monthly theme Weather by learning about how animals react to different kinds of weather. We studied hibernation and migration.  The kids found these lessons really interesting, especially the activities from our Mother Goose Time curriculum.
We are blessed to receive Mother Goose Time and the Little Goose adaptation for free in exchange for sharing our journey here on our blog. We are really enjoying telling our readers all about the things we are learning, what we like best, and how we use the curriculum with three very different kiddos.

Thursday, we focused on migration with literacy activities like Moving Animals where the kids had fun with the pocket cube (one of their favorite Mother Goose Time manipulatives). They took turns tossing the pocket cube and pretending to migrate like the animal pictured on the cube. Ada Grace loved swimming like a fish and Noah's favorite was flying like a butterfly.
Ada Grace waiting to see which animal she can pretend to be next

Next, each child created their own Butterfly Wand with an activity that gave them the opportunity to practice fine motor skills and fly around the yard like butterflies. The wands were similar to the hand kites my children love, so they were a big hit!
Noah's butterfly wand "migrating" around our yard

Since everyone was really enjoying "flying" around the yard together, I decided to let them Wiggle & Giggle  outside too. We listened to Migrate from the Dancing in Every Weather CD while pretending to migrate like the birds in the song.
Elly sharing her pattern links with her mom & baby sister

Finally, we finished up the day by practicing patterns with the links from an earlier lesson and the pattern guide from the Table Top Math activity. Ada Grace loved copying the suggested patterns but Elly had lots of fun creating her own versions.
I really love the way our Mother Goose Time curriculum plays to each child's strengths and always finds a way to get them all engaged and learning, no matter how different their personalities.

Stay tuned to see what's in our November box from Mother Goose Time next week.

Learning about Hibernation with Mother Goose Time

Last week, we continued our monthly theme Weather by learning about how animals react to different kinds of weather. We studied hibernation and migration.  The kids found these lessons really interesting, especially the activities from our Mother Goose Time curriculum.
We are blessed to receive Mother Goose Time and the Little Goose adaptation for free in exchange for sharing our journey here on our blog. We are really enjoying telling our readers all about the things we are learning, what we like best, and how we use the curriculum with three very different kiddos.

On Wednesday, we studied hibernation with a focus on bears. We started our lesson by reading Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead. Since Nana was visiting, I let her participate in story time. The children loved all her character voices and fun facial expressions.

Next, we went outside to participate in some dramatic play with the daily STEAM Station activity. We didn't have a big enough box to make our animal home, so we used Noah's pop up tent. The children all decided to be bears! They had great fun pretending to be sleeping bears in their "cave" and then "waking up" when I announced the arrival of warm weather.

Then, everyone got a chance to make their very own Bear Den in an outdoor activity that focused on communication skills and pretend play. The children enjoyed choosing items like acorns, twigs, and leaves to complete their "dens."

When we got back inside, everyone gathered together to Wiggle & Giggle with Frere Jacques from the Circle Time CD. The kids had fun pretending to go to sleep and wake one another up.
After a few dances, we all gathered at the table to make "bear tracks" in our Tray Play activity. Noah wanted to discuss different animal tracks, so he retrieved several different animal figures from his room to "stomp" through his play dough leaving tracks.

Finally, we finished the day by playing Race to the Cave together. We played the Table Top Literacy version from the regular teacher guide rather than the adapted Little Goose version. I was worried that they wouldn't enjoy this board game as much as they had enjoyed our earlier activities, but I was wrong! Noah and Ada Grace took turns playing Race to the Cave until we had to clear the table for dinner that night.

Click here to read about how we used Mother Goose Time to study migration the next day.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Historic Brattonsville's Spirits & Stories Event

This past week we started a new unit in our history studies. We are focusing on the way people lived long ago. To kick off our lessons, I introduced Noah to Laura Ingalls Wilder with a special sticker book .  Then we planned a fun field trip where we could all take a step back in time.

With Halloween just around the corner, our local historic site, Brattonsville, planned a special event called "Spirits & Stories" where people of all ages could experience life in colonial America.  We attended as a family and everyone enjoyed learning a lot about life on a colonial plantation together.

Noah's favorite activities were apple bobbing, the old fashioned magic show, and the bonfire set up outside the historic tavern.
The girls had a blast exploring the vegetable garden and watching the blacksmith work. Elly also had great fun picking cotton.

Learning about the different "chores" and jobs on the plantation, the dangers of every day life (lanterns get hot!), and the simple pleasures of a colonial lifestyle was a lot of fun for everyone and a great way to start our lessons on the lives of colonial children.

This week, we plan to focus on...
(be sure to check out the links to learn about how you can involve your children in similar activities)

  • Play - games like marbles and Jacob's ladder 
  • Chores - helping to make candles and churn butter
  • Clothing - learning what children wore and basic sewing skills
  • Food - traditional baking with a taste testing of course!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"I Can Read" Books Make Reading Exciting!

Our Mother Goose Time preschool journey hasn't always been what I expected.  We are enjoying participating in the monthly themes and lessons we receive in our school bus box free of charge (in exchange for our reviews here on the blog). However, there have been some surprises along the way!

One wonderful surprise has been the "I Can Read" Books and the effect they're having on my older son.  When I jumped on the Mother Goose Time bandwagon, I expected that it would be an excellent fit for the girls (both age 2) and that Noah (nearly 5) would enjoy joining in from time to time with some of the activities and games.

Noah is learning to read this year. The "I Can Read" books from Mother Goose Time are very simple books that encourage emergent reading. I've always believed that to keep a child interested in learning, they need to meet with success early on in order to be encouraged to keep learning and assured that they can achieve their educational goals. The "I Can Read" books are helping to provide that for Noah.

Last week, in our Autumn themed lesson, we started a new "I Can Read" book with different objectives for the girls and for Noah. The girls spent time listening to me read as they flipped through their books and excitedly identifying the things pictured.

For his part, Noah used the sight word arrows to help him identify and point to different words in the book as he did his best to help me read the story. He was so proud of himself! That evening, when his dad got home, Noah insisted on showing him all the words he had learned in the "I Can Read" book.

We are loving practicing reading comprehension with Mother Goose Time's "I Can Read" books and we're learning that one of the best things about Mother Goose Time curriculum is the way it fits a variety of ages simultaneously.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Shadow Fun with Little Goose

We are all having such fun coming together for the activities Mother Goose Time sends us with their curriculum. Our family does receive our packages free of charge in exchange for blogging about how we use the curriculum. However, the opinions are our own and the memories will last forever!

Last week, we had a lesson about the sun. However, the focus inadvertently became shadows. The community challenge in our Mother Goose Time teacher guide as well as the Little Goose companion Tray Play activity both focused on shadows. From the 4 activities I chose that day, the children all seemed to love the shadow lessons and games the best!

Our Little Goose companion breaks down the traditional activities in the older preschool Mother Goose Time guide for younger children like Elly and Ada Grace. Little Goose is intended for infants and toddlers, so it includes activities like Tray Plays, Cuddle & Snuggle, and Wiggle & Giggle to better meet their unique developmental needs and fit their attention spans and abilities in a way that some of the preschool activities don't.

The Tray Play activity from our Sun lesson was all about shadows! Called Shadow Match, this activity helped the girls practice shapes and problem solving skills while learning about shadows and exploring nature.
Instead of using crayons & trays for this "tray" activity, we took the lesson outside and worked on the sidewalk with chalk and various leaves, acorns, and sticks the children gathered. While they had fun dashing around the yard finding treasures for our activity, I traced the shape outlines and filled them in with chalk.

After the children spent some time matching their items to my "shadows," I let them try their hand at making their own "shadow" outlines.

Then we combined Little Goose's Wiggle & Giggle (moving like the sun to music) with the Community Challenge: Shadow Stomp from the older children's teacher guide. Community Challenges are meant to bring everyone together to work cooperatively and I can definitely say that happened! Noah, my older child, really enjoyed helping the little girls find shadows to stomp. The girls followed him around the yard giggling, stomping, and watching their shadows move to the music.

It was a great day.  I'm so glad we decided to combine our lessons and take them all outside. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and I think it was a successful introduction to learning about the sun and the shadows it creates.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Kindergarten Math: Patterns

How does an writer end up with a math kid? I'm not sure yet, but I've got one. My son loves math!
This year for his math curriculum we chose Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 1 from Master Books.

At first it was too easy for him. We had huge battles over writing numbers and counting sets of pictures., but I was convinced that I had chosen the right curriculum for him. The placement test from Master Books helped me decide to start him at Level 1 (even if it was too easy at first).

These days we are in Chapter 6 and the pace is picking up. Also, as I knew he would, he appreciates the format of the book which is set up like a story book and not just a traditional textbook. This appeals to his love of stories, his need for every activity to have a purpose, and helps break up the work so he doesn't get overwhelmed.

Math Lessons for a Living Education weaves geometry through the book instead of having a separate, unconnected chapter. Our recent introductions to geometry are helping point out some gaps in his understanding of basic math and giving me the chance to address the issues before they truly become "issues."

Today, I discovered some holes in his understanding of patterns. Noah thinks patterns are great fun and he enjoys completing patterns like the ones in this printable packet, but he does need extra practice.

However, he struggles with creating his own patterns so I also included a page in the printable packet where he could experiment with creating his own patterns instead of just filling in the blanks. I've included a link to the "creating your own patterns" portion for my readers:

Click here to get cute seasonal images to use in creating your own patterns for extra practice.
A special thanks to My Cute Graphics for providing the free images used in creating the printables shared above.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Portfolios with Mother Goose Time

Our state requires us to keep a portfolio for each child that we teach in the home starting at age five (compulsory age for our state).  
I like to start early. Why? Partly because I am a proud mama who wants to just keep everything their little hands touch. 

I start keeping a portfolio and tracking the work our children do at such an early age because it helps to get in the habit and work out all the kinks before it's "mandatory." 

I started a portfolio of sorts with my son when he was 2.5, long before we discovered Mother Goose Time. What does that first portfolio look like? It's kind of a mess and I missed a lot of great opportunities to save data that could have helped me in the future. 

Mother Goose Time certainly makes things a lot easier in my opinion. We started with their preschool curriculum & a modified companion for toddlers this September. As I've mentioned before, we do receive Mother Goose Time for free in exchange for our opinions here on the blog. 

Mother Goose Time's methods for keeping a child portfolio have simplified my life.  I can definitively say that Ada Grace & Elly's portfolios are much more organized, sensible, and detailed than Noah's first portfolio back in 2014.

What do I save and where do I save it? 

Mother Goose Time has a great "star system" in place that helps me determine what I really need to save. If I follow their system, I won't end up saving every scrap (a real problem for sentimental moms like me), but I'll have enough in 3 months to show work samples and photos from every goal covered in the complete curriculum. 
Since our school year is about 9 months long, that means by the end of the "year," I will have amassed enough data & samples to present a comprehensive picture of where Ada Grace and Elly are at on their learning journey as well as where they excel or struggle.

At the end of a day, I upload any photos to a special file on my computer, store work samples in a folder labeled with the child's name, and make notes in my lesson planner about the activity outcomes. Then, at the end of the month, I transfer the weekly lesson planners, work samples, and photos (printed) to a larger "long-term" folder that we keep for the entire school year. 

So far this month, we have samples from...

  • math activities focusing on measurement and listening comprehension
  • creative arts focusing on shapes and spatial awareness
  • creative arts focusing on fine motor skills and the visual arts
Creative Arts work sample for Ada Grace's portfolio

  • literacy activities focusing on print concepts and vocabulary
  • literacy activities focusing on emergent writing and concepts of print
Literacy Activity photo sample for Noah's portfolio

  • music and movement activities focusing on communication and dance

Monday, October 9, 2017

Good Citizens & Local Landmarks: A Field Trip

We started our history/social studies lessons this year with a focus on good citizenship. My son quickly latched on to the idea of being a good citizen and he eagerly made connections between citizenship and practicing our faith.
First we read a book by Virginia L. Kroll called Good Citizen Sarah. It was a big hit! Noah was convinced that the book was really about his friend Sarah and the fact that the main character also had a friend named Noah was further proof. This line of thought made it very real to him. He began looking for ways to be a good citizen just like the children in the book.
However, I needed him to understand that there's more to being a good citizen than just doing nice things for others in our community. He needed to really understand the word citizen and how it applies to us. So, next we read Being a Good Citizen: A Kids' Guide to Community Involvement by Rachelle Kreisman. In chapter 3, Kreisman suggests children should visit museums and town landmarks as a way to increase their involvement in their local community (part of being a good citizen is being involved).
With this in mind, we set out to visit two local landmarks in our city. First we visited The Freedom Walkway, a memorial to our local heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

We learned about the Friendship 9 and the sacrifices they made to ensure everyone could be truly free. It was a big eye opener for my almost 5 year old. He had never before considered that there was a time when not everyone was truly free. [It also tied in nicely with our bible lessons for the week about Moses & the exodus from Egypt.] We finished our journey with the Friendship 9 with drinks at the local lunch counter where they staged their protest.

Next, we visited a local historic home open to the public: The White Home.
Since the children were becoming a bit unruly we opted not to set them free inside this lovingly restored home. Instead, we settled for exploring the grounds.

We talked about how the White family is responsible for establishing our local library and how grateful we are to have such a large and well-kept library system to visit and make use of each week. Noah even got to practice his new citizenship skills by fixing a fallen sign telling visitors of the gift shop. The sign was nearly as big as he was, but he was determined to be a good citizen, so I watched and smiled. I'm so glad I get to have a part in not only teaching these lessons but watching as he puts them into practice as well.

Each "field trip" lasted 30 minutes or less, but the impact is still being felt days later as we prepare for new lessons and learn more about our community and what it means to be a good citizen. If you haven't taken your children to tour some of the small local landmarks in your community, I encourage you to try. You'll be surprised by all they will learn in the process.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Celebrating St. Francis

This week the Catholic church celebrated the life, faith, and works of St. Francis during his feast day on October 4th. He is certainly one of the most widely known saints and a favorite of my children so we took a break from our Bible lessons about Moses and Exodus to focus on one of the great saints of the Church.

Making the saints come alive for my children is something that's very important to me and I try to get creative about it without going too over-the-top. My children already know and love St. Francis, but after Wednesday, I think they'll remember his feast day and the lessons they learned too.

If your kids aren't familiar with St. Francis, Francis Woke Up Early by Josephine Nobisso is a favorite picture book of my children about this special saint. The book is a retelling of the classic St. Francis and the Wolf story told with wonderful pictures from the point of view of a child. You can find it here.

We started our celebration by talking about St. Francis and his mission. Then we all went outside to make bird feeders with pine cones, peanut butter, and stale bread. We discussed how providing food for the birds is one way we can show love for God's creatures by helping to care for them.

Since we have pets, we also spent some time praying for our dogs and giving them a little extra love too. We planned to give them both a good bath, but my husband couldn't be home in time and, as he lovingly pointed out, bathing two 90 pound dogs with two young children was a foolish endeavor at 33 weeks pregnant.

Animal Blessing Prayer to use if you're interested in praying over your pets too:

The animals of God's creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea. They share in the ways of human beings. They have a part in our lives. Francis of Assisi recognized this when he called the animals, wild and tame, his brothers and sisters. Remembering Francis' love for these brothers and sisters of ours, we invoke God's blessing on these animals, and we thank God for letting us share the earth with all the creatures.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Combining Curricula with Snow!

Moms that homeschool multiple children have lots of different ways of making it work. Some moms combine curriculum, some moms do different "levels" at different times of the day.... there are hundreds of ways to get it done without losing your mind.
As an added challenge this year, we havebeen figuring out which method works best for us.  My son, five, my niece who is two, and my daughter (also 2 but a sensitive child with a speech delay) all have lessons to squeeze into each day.

I've mentioned before that we joined the Mother Goose Time community and agreed to blog about our experiences in exchange for their complete preschool curriculum which is awesome! Every month, Mother Goose Time has a new theme. This month all the lessons are weather related.
It doesn't always work out that our Mother Goose Time curriculum matches up with my son's curriculum, but when it does... it's magical! Check out what happened  this week when Mother Goose Time's Snow Lesson met my son's science lesson on how snow and ice crystals are formed.

First, we read about how ice crystals form and learned that snowflakes are one-of-a-kind in Usborne's book, Weather by Catriona Clarke.
Then we started having fun Rolling Snowballs, a math activity from Mother Goose Time.

Little Goose, the infant & toddler companion for Mother Goose Time, suggested that children attempt to roll snowballs from play dough and stack them to form snowmen. The pocket cube (quickly becoming one of our favorite tools!) was used to determine how many "snowballs" each child needed to form.
I adapted the activity for my five year old by having him practice adding and subtracting "snowballs" in order to reach the number he rolled on the cube.
The little girls loved smashing their snowmen after counting "1,2,3!" It was such a fun way to practice number concepts together in a way that benefited all the children despite their varying ages and abilities.

Next, we had fun making our own one-of-a-kind snowflakes together. We used Mother Goose Time's Make & Play activity, Tie-Dye Snowflake to get creative and sneak in some scientific reasoning skills at the same time.
In this activity, the kids had fun sharing the markers (Everyone wanted the same colors!) and the best part: watching the coffee filters soak up the water in their cups. Ada Grace hugged her cup to her chest and stared into it for several minutes. That's a lot of focus for a two year old!

Finally, we made the suggested paper snowflakes from Noah's curriculum using paper & scissors. I remember making the same snowflakes as a child, so it was a lot of fun for me. However, the kids needed lots of help from me to manipulate the scissors safely and achieve the desired patterns. The Mother Goose Time snowflakes were much easier to create and more reflective of their individual skills and personalities.

At the end of the day, the kids chose to fold their snowflakes and put them in envelopes to mail to their great grandparents. They might not make it into the portfolio, but they made lasting memories and brought joy to their loved ones with their sweet handmade gifts. The best part? they won't forget all the things they learned about snow & ice after a day like that!