Thursday, August 30, 2007

Keep those prescoolers busy!

How do you occupy a preschooler during homeschooling? Well, I found that the preschooler usually wanted to be a schooler, so I started her a year earlier. Now the toddler... she's a little trickier.

I usually have math and writing worksheets sitting out the night before so that they can be done before breakfast. I just add something for Rose.

  1. A toddler worksheet. Fisher Price makes some cute ones that can be found at dollar stores (particularly the Dollar Tree). Disney does as well. Rose doesn't do many of the instructions yet, but she does love to circle things. Older preschoolers will enjoy simple dot to dot, writing or prewriting activities, etc.
  2. Plain old coloring pages. Coloring books work fine, but you can score extra points for finding coloring pages that feature a favorite character online and printing those.
  3. Mix it up by offering washable markers and plain copy or construction paper.
  4. Try dry erase boards. We have several boards with the alphabet or math problems, but the littler ones seem to prefer the small board books with dry erase activities. Rose not only enjoys writing in them, but she can spend a fair amount of time meticulously cleaning it with a damp paper towel when she's done too. I usually find these at the Dollar General.
  5. True mischievousness can be checked with any kind of unneeded paper or magazines and a pair of scissors. Older kids will especially love cutting up old magazines and making collages on construction paper with a glue stick. Only problem with that idea is that your schoolers might want in on the fun too. But that could work to your advantage if they have to get their math done first...

Reading time is the hardest for me. Rose loves to read, but not the same books that I need to read for the kids. Sometimes I read her a few books first, then hand her a stack to look at. I also often have the older two take turns doing their reading aloud and playing with Rose doing puzzles or legos downstairs. Rose loves to sing and dance, though. So I often put on a music video for her in the playroom. (I should note here that "downstairs" is the name my kids gave our playroom which is through the doorway between our kitchen and living room where we do most schooling and is two steps down.)

Favorite videos that you don't have to feel guilty about because they're just real kids singing songs that your child is going to also learn and sing all day:

  1. Cedarmont Kids
  2. Miss Pattycake ( a little more than just kids singing)
  3. Hide 'Em In Your Heart
  4. Baby Genius
  5. Kidsongs (you can find these in the dollar DVDs at Walmart or dollar stores)
I really try to include Rose (2) as much as possible. Anna (at 3) really enjoyed almost all of Ethan's activities last year.

  1. Bible time. We've been reading a Proverb before the kids leave the breakfast table and often turn one into a song. Rose sings the Proverbs songs right along with us.
  2. Crafts can be adapted or they can do the same one. We have Tuesday as our designated craft day.
  3. Online learning games. Kids like to watch each other play. I give my kids appropriate games from our own game collection, library CDs, or online games. My favorite toddler game is Reader Rabbit Toddler, because you don't have to be able to use the mouse. The child just hits any (or many) keyboard key(s) for results. The Fisher Price website also has really cute preschool games, as does Between the Lions for the older preschooler.
  4. Field trips. Lots of them. The zoo, children's museums, nature centers. Very toddler and preschooler friendly ways to educate your children.
  5. Playsets that go along with the study. This is a new idea I've been playing with. why not let the kids play with a cowboy and Indian playset while you read to them about pioneers and the West. Or with toy horses while you read Misty of Chincoteague? I've found that kids are often less distracted when their hands are busy.
  6. Finding simple storybooks or non fiction books on the topic we're studying means that Rose will sit through the majority of our instruction time loving every minute.
  7. Little Touch Leappad has been a great asset to us. This is another activity that the kids can take turns playing with Rose while the other is reading without it being a distraction. It has a great volume control.

Here are some great websites with activities that will save the day by happily occupying your preschooler.

  1. Wondertime magazine's website has lots of great ideas, but best of all are their cutting pages.
  2. Nick Jr. has zillions of kid-friendly activities.
  3. PBS Kids
  4. A list of preschool activities.
  5. Boobah Zone
  6. Disney Magic Artist Online

I think that the bottom line is to plan for the toddler/preschooler rather than work around them. I think I've inspired myself to be even more proactive by writing Rose into my lesson plans, not necessarily on subject, but just with more of a plan for her activities at each point in the day. Of course, if she's happily occupying herself, I certainly won't interfere! unless, of course, it involves the toilet, the contents of her diaper, the contents of my make-up drawer...

Wendy was working on day-of-the week boxes for her preschooler.

Here's a link with a list of more articles on toddlers and homeschooling. This one really caught my attention - sounds fun!

Please leave your ideas and/or links to your own or others articles on this topic. What works for you?

The "close to home" vacation, Part 2

Figured I'd better finish what I started for any of you who might have cared. :^)

Wednesday - Day 4
I'd planned this as a rest and regroup day and it sort of worked that way. Brian and the kids hung out at his mom's and went swimming. I spent a good part of the day at the doctors and lab. ( I'd appreciate your prayers that the cause of my discomfort could be identified quickly and without much ado. I rarely have health issues, but I've had this lingering problem off and on for about a year now and it got very uncomfortable over our trip so I felt the need to deal with it. I'll be having bloodwork done and some other tests in a couple of weeks. Right now it's in "off" mode anyway.) I hadn't slept much the night before because I was very uncomfortable and combined with my utter distaste for doctors, I was in a rather bad mood that day. Oh, and instead of taking in the van for repairs as planned, we had to drop off the car instead beacuse it starting having some serious problems. (We just got it back today after trading an arm and two legs). However, the day ended on a high note when I taught my kids how to play UNO. They loved it!

Thursday - Day 5
We had a blast spending the morning at Jump!Zone. It was our first trip there, and if you have one near you, you should sign up for their club and get your 2 for 1 coupon. Rose was free, so we paid only $7 for all of us to play for two hours. And Brian was having a good day - hooray!
I was able to make an ice cream pie that I've been wanting to try for a very long time. It didn't last long!Chocolate Ice Cream Pie
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
2 cups cocoa pebbles
1/4 cup sour cream
1 quart chocolate ice cream, softened

1. Butter an 8" pie plate
2. Microwave the syrup and chips on high for about 45 seconds until hot. Stir until smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup.
3. Combine remaining chocolate mixture with the cereal to coat it, then press the mixture over the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
4. Combine reserved chocolate mixture and the sour cream and mix well. Spread hal the ice cream on the crust, then drizzle half the sour cream mixture. Repeat the layers, then freeze, covered, until firm, about 1 hour.

Friday - Day 6
The Carl Sandburg House - Ethan and Anna Kate earned their junior ranger badges too. Lots of fun - at least until Brian got sick and we had to rush home for me to go to another doctor's appointment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stocking the minivan.

I like to be prepared for life's curve balls as much as possible. What mother doesn't? So I keep my minivan stocked with handy items.

If you have small children that throw up when they get carsick, then you will understand why I keep a portable carseat in my van. We were blessed to find one at a Walmart four hours from our house after our toddler (#1) had covered his entire carseat, it reeked, and there was no way to clean it or survive six plus hours of driving with it. We've used it more than once. It is easy to store and far better than having to buy a full size carseat. It also is easy to put in a friends car. Paper towels and a large plastic garbage bag are tucked under a seat for such times as well. We keep empty five gallon ice cream buckets stacked and at the ready too.

The potty. Anyone who's had to take a toddler into a gas station bathroom will understand this one too. There are plenty of portable potties on the market. I had purchased a folding potty adapter and really wasn't crazy about how it worked on full size toilets (if you ever get one avoid those that fold into quarters, they can pinch!), but it balances well on top of a five gallon bucket and we keep the bucket lid handy too. It's easy to take inside and dump that way. A packet of flushable wipes is stashed in the back with it on trips.

I keep a small diaper bag with a change of clothes for each child. This comes in handy for all manner of accidents as well as impromptu sleepovers or water play. It also contains small snacks that won't melt in the heat of the car.

The doorwell on the passenger side is stocked with extra diapers, diaper disposal bags, a changing pad, and a spray bottle of sunscreen. When I only had two, I could also tuck the spare outfits into a ziploc bag and stash it with them. I keep one of those round wet wipe containers in a spot in the console. I've found that they don't dry out in the car like the boxes do.

The glove compartment holds the boo boo box (one of those small bandaid boxes) stocked with child friendly bandaids (especially knee bandaids, am I the only one that finds regular bandaids to be too small for most serious scrapes?) I also keep a couple of claritin, Anna Kate's prescription, travel pills, and sting kill swabs. The latter is the absolute best treatment for stings. My grandfather and mother used them on me when I was a kid and I search high and low to keep them stocked at home and in the car. They numb the skin instantly.

We like picnics. I don't like germs and dirty picnic tables. In order to be prepared for a picnic in little time, I try to keep a picnic pack in the van consisting of a fabric tablecloth, tablecloth weights, napkins, plates, disinfectant wipes, and utensils. I keep straws and cups in the van too. They come in handy when the need for a drink strikes. I can use the drink cooler I often bring along, or buy a larger (cheaper) beverage and share it. Paper cups are also great for distributing snacks like trail mix, crackers, or, yes, m&ms.

In the winter a small blanket for each child stays in the car, and in the summer I often keep the beach bag stocked in there with suits and towels and a few dollars cash.

And for fun, we keep the car dogs, stuffed dogs that can used as friends or pillows, and if they get carted into the store, I can take them home and wash them without them being missed at bedtime. We also keep a frisbee and sidewalk chalk in the back, and kites tucked under the bench seats.

Of course we also have the usual maps, tissues (I do keep a packet of tissues in the backseat too to avoid the joy of trying to throw a tissue to the child in the back while driving), jumper cables, etc. But it's amazing how a little tucking and stashing can save a load of trouble later. And that works for me!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Free Printable Pilgrim's Progress Game

You can find it here.

The Torchlighters DVD series: Heroes of the Faith comes highly recommended and produced in association with The Voice of the Martyrs . I haven't seen any of them yet. They are recommended for kids age 8-12, so I think that I'll be checking out one from our library system and watching it first. You can watch the trailers here.

Vision Forum Special

For the next four days (Aug. 28-31), you will receive a $50 gift certificate for every $95 that you spend at Vision Forum. So if you've been waiting to buy somethingg, this might be your opportunity.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Preschool DVDs

For her Opinion Saturday this week Mary at Owlhaven asked what DVD’s and children’s shows you feel are worthwhile for preschoolers. Here is my response. You can add yours here. Let me know if you leave her a response so that I can read it too!

My children LOVE Miss Pattycake DVDs from Integrity Music. She is a perky lady with a bright green jumper and funky hats that loves to sing songs and share the gospel in a way that toddlers adore and understand. When my firstborn was just 27 months old he could explain the true meaning of Easter thanks to this lady's explanation of it in "Egg-Strava-Ganza!" Anyone who can accomplish that in such an engaging way has my thanks. We got to see her live last September and my 5, 3, and 1 year old were all thrilled. My fourteen month old refused to leave her lap during picture time! She woke up every morning asking for "Pat." Check out her website

We also enjoy Praise Baby for young toddlers and Cedarmont Kids music videos for older toddlers and preschoolers, as well as the Beginners Bible video series. no list would be complete without Steve Green's Hide 'Em In Your Heart and my kids also love the Donut Man. There you have it. My list of preschool gems.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The "close to home" vacation

When our beach plans became postponed until spring, we decided to spend a few days in the North Carolina high country, then do fun things near home this week.

Sunday, Day 1:

Monday, Day 2
the Blowing Rock, Daniel Boone Gardens, 2 playgrounds

Tuesday, Day 3:
the village of Blowing Rock (a.k.a. "Mitford"), including the Bass Pond, and the Blue Ridge Parkway to Linville Caverns

yes that's a bat!

Ethan is now totally in to rock climbing (as if a boy needs encouragment there!), Anna Kate was thrilled to sit on a makeshift empty ice cream bucket potty at a remote spot in the Parkway and pee outside (quote: "I love to pee outside!" more than once - memo to self: get that girl an outhouse for Christmas!) , Rose was carried through the cavern intoning, "drip, drip, drip" in her chirpy little voice, I got to see "Father Tim's church"... we had a great time - and it's not over yet!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Catching Up

Friday we went round and round with the doctor over Brian's expired temporary handicap permit. General practitioners. URGGGH. He basically said that exercise was the best thing for fibromyalgia (implying that a handicap permit would defeat that purpose - never mind that he can barely get from the couch to the kitchen table sometimes and he has been doing a lot of swimming to exercise on days that he feels well enough to move that much. Do I still sound peeved? But I digress...) However the chiropractor, who sees Brian at least once a week and know his condition better was more than happy to fill out the necessary papers - and said that he should have a permanent tag, not just a temporary one. It really helps when we're going places as a family that require a long walk to get to where you want to go, but a handicap tag could allow you to park right where you're trying to get to. For us, that can be the difference in whether or not we are able to do something together. Thanks, Dr. John!

We enjoyed a visit to the science center this weekend and the children got to hold a bearded dragon (lizard), explore the rainforest room (seeing the stuffed leopard, real frogs, and a coconut were highlights, held baby mice (ew), touch sting rays, see and touch live tadpoles in various stages of development, and seed and spin cotton. Afterwards, we enjoyed a lunch we'd made ahead and dropped off at Gran and Pa's and then went swimming. Anna Kate learned how to swim, both over and underwater, and proceeded to swim all the way across the pool (the short width)! On Sunday, I was able to see two very good friends have their baby daughters dedicated at church.
The meteor shower was awesome! I told the children that I would wake them in the middle of the night, but they all woke up independently around 2 AM (I had been planning on 4AM), so We sat on the front steps to see what we could see. It had rained and the ground was wet, so after glimpsing several flashes in the sky, we moved the party to the back deck where we snuggled between two quilts and saw dozens of meteors. The best were a few beautiful long trailing meteors that reminded me of the opening to Smallville (execpt they were smaller and not headed toward Earth :^) and had us squealing in delight, then shushing up so that we didn't wake up the neighbors. Brian had had a very painful day on Sunday, so he skipped them, but the kids and I were up until we finally had to get some sleep around 3:30!

This week we are studying the American West in preparation for an upcoming visit to see a cowboy band at a railroad (more details after the fact!). The objective: Get the kids "in" to cowboys so that they really get a lot out of the adventure. Day one (yesterday) included a Wiggles Cold Spaghetti Western (not very educational, but it set the mood), a section form ABEKA's grade two history book covering pioneers and cowboys, Gail Gibbons Yippee-Yay!, and a trip to find straw cowboy hats, a plastic set of cowboys and Indians, and a gun belt with cowboy guns and silver bullets. Mission accomplished already: Ethan comments, "I love cowboys!"

I was so pleased today to actually have everyone, up dressed, hair done, rooms cleaned up, math started, and the water for the grits boiled on time...just in time to get a call from Brian that a coworker was about to take him to the hospital for kidney stone #5. The last one was six years ago, much better than the four that were 18 months apart, but still no one's idea of fun. So school work was shoved into a backpack, children were taken to Gran's and the craziness commenced. Brian's sweet coworker drove him nearly all the way home until I finally intercepted and got him to the ER for some much-needed pain meds. The good news is that just a couple of hours after getting back to his mom's from the ER, he passed the stone. So, he's worn out and sore, but seems to be recovering well.

Despite all of that, the kids and I managed to make it to the Western Round-Up at the downtown library this afternoon. They had so much fun playing western theme games like lassoing the cardboard steer, throwing Indian spears through hoops, stick horse relays - and the highlight - square dancing! They were decked out in new hats and bonnet and bandannas, and Ethan had his badge and gunblet as well. He earned the nickname "sheriff" in the hour we were there. Today in school was Tall Tales day with a book on Pecos Bill and John Henry and a DVD of puppet-acted tall tales.

Anna Kate is grasping phonics like wildfire. She was so pleased to read her first word at her first lesson last week ("as"), and read a few of small words (like"dog") yesterday even though she really was just starting on blends. Ethan is just starting two digit addition with no problems. He also lost three teeth in six days, bringing his total to four. He refuses to leave them for the tooth fairy; he's saving his "tooth collection" in a jar. And Rose. Well Rose has taken a liking to splashing in the toilet. And as of last week, she is no longer "the baby". Previously she refused to identify herself as anything other than "the baby", but suddenly last Tuesday when I asked "are you my baby?" She replied, "no, I Rose." And that's that. She now says her name, and is not the baby. She's also not a big girl or a little girl. She's Rose.
Oh, and thanks for the ideas for a food gift. You inspired me to go to the farmer's market for treats. I got local honey, blueberries, peach cider, a miniature apple cake, handmade gardener's soap, and grape tomatoes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Best Phonics Teacher

If you're teaching a child letter sounds, check out this link. When you get there, click on Phonics Fun from the top menu, then click on the top game, Letter Sounds. They are short videos with simple animations and a game and repeatedly say the letter's sound. I was amazed at how well Anna Kate remembered the sounds after playing around with it just once! We begin our letter of the day study there now, and then move to the reading book and writing page.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Great Perseids All-Night Meteor Shower

Got a calendar? Circle this date: Sunday, August 12th. Next to the circle write "all night" and "Meteors!" Attach the above to your refrigerator in plain view so you won't miss the 2007 Perseid meteor shower.

"It's going to be a great show," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. "The Moon is new on August 12th--which means no moonlight, dark skies and plenty of meteors." How many? Cooke estimates one or two Perseids per minute at the shower's peak... Read the rest at NASA!

Keep your family safe

At Family Watchdog you can put in your zipcode and pop up a map of all registered sex offenders in your area. You can click on each location to see a mugshot, get information about each person, and see a close up map of where they live. It's just a good thing to know.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The First Day

Homeschool Forms

I finally got my planner together this weekend ( last minute, as usual). I found some great lesson planning pages. Here's what I'm using this year:

School Days - for keeping track of our 180 day count. Right now it looks like we'll finish up midway through March just in time for spring!

2007 and 2008 overview calendars

I couldn't resist these monthly calendar pages, but they only had 2007, so I finally found plain vertical pages for 2008 here. As a bonus, I got to explore all of their holiday/special day information.

Weekly Planning Sheets ( I love these because I can jot ideas on those big blocks ahead of time and list library books to request and craft materials on the other side!)

Weekly Log - I only printed one of these. I think this will work for recording what both Ethan and Anna do. It's only their math, reading, and writing that are different. If not, I'll figure something else out. This recording for two is making my small brain do gymnastics. I do like that it has extra lined space for language arts stuff.

update: I fixed the links. Not sure what happened there.

Homemade birdbath

Just invert the pedestal of a plastic pedestaled planter into the top of the planter. Add a few rocks underneath the bowl to weight it down and put smaller rocks inside the bowl to keep it shallow enough and to give birds additional footing.

Other easy birdbath links:

Start with information about make-it-yourself birdbaths and here too

  1. 5-Minute Birdbath
  2. Birdbath Spa
  3. Clay Pot Birdbath and here
  4. An easy and elegant birdbath
  5. And a few more

and for the craftier among us:

  1. How to build a simple bird bath to enhance your California Garden.
  2. Build a birdbath with Skil
  3. Hanging Birdbath

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge

A Life In Books is hosting and I found out through Loraena's blog.

If you’re interested in joining, here are the guidelines:

  1. The challenge runs from July 1 through December 31 during which time you must read six books that fall under the ‘armchair traveling’ theme.

  2. Fiction or non-fiction works are fine, and do not need to be specifically travel related, as long as the location is integral to the book - I’ll leave that to your discretion. Locations must be actual places that you could visit, so no Middle Earths or galaxies far, far away.

  3. Books may be cross-posted to other challenges, but you cannot count any books read prior to July 1st.

  4. To join, make a post outlining your six choices and link to that post below. Because I like to have a little wiggle room, you can opt to switch out books throughout the challenge.

  5. And yes, there will be prizes!

Here are my choices (sorry, the picture will not be tamed!):