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Archive for September, 2014

Baking Week

Theme: Baking and Measuring
Letter: I (short I sound)

A few months ago I asked A what she wanted to do when she turned 4, and she told me she wanted to bake a cake. As a result, this week was baking and measuring week. We got together with R on Monday for our weekly lesson. First they colored a little i worksheet, then I read the book Whopper Cake and R’s mom did a lesson on measuring. There were lentils everywhere! Once they learned the basics of teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups, I brought them into the kitchen and we whipped up a batch of Alton Brown’s biscuits. We used cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes. While the biscuits were baking the kids played with their measuring utensils outside in the water table, which resulted in my not finding my measuring spoons again until Friday. The biscuits were delicious for lunch!

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In the afternoon we tried our hand at making shrinky plastic art in the oven. It worked great! I first found this idea at Dollar Store Crafts years ago but had never tried it. A made a clear one and I made a red one. It was fun watching the cups melt in the oven, then holding our art afterward.

On Wednesday we played with baking soda and vinegar for our science lesson, then made a baking soda and vinegar leavened chocolate cake for her birthday. She enjoyed licking the bowl.

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We skipped outside day (on Take Your Child Outside Week, ironically) in favor of a morning trip to the Natural Science Museum downtown. She had been asking me if we could go for weeks so I put it on the calendar. We have been going to that museum together since she was tiny. I enjoy watching her interact with the same exhibits in new ways as her understanding matures. When we got home she spent her quiet time painting on her new easel. She then helped me start some pizza dough for dinner and we went to an evening liturgy at church.

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That was her last day of being 3. Friday morning we planned a play date party for A and her friends R and C to celebrate turning 4. They got to color their own bowls of frosting and decorate the cake with them, plus some jars of sprinkles and colored sugar I had laying around. We sang to her and she opened presents and we all ate cake. It was a great time!

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Happy birthday to little A, age 4!

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Cross Week

Theme: Cross
Letter: None

Our friend R was out of town this week so we didn’t do any formal schooling. Instead, we stuck pretty closely to my loose schedule and learned some things even when we didn’t realize we were learning.

On Monday we joined some friends at a local roadside attraction called the Kipling Cross. There, the kids were able to paint with watercolors and get some good playtime in.

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On Wednesday we tried an experiment with milk, food coloring, and dish soap (video here) but for some reason it didn’t work very well. Instead, A used the food coloring to dye her lunch yogurt green. It is fun for me when she remembers and requests we do things that we used to do when she was smaller, like dying our yogurt.

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We tried our outside day again on Thursday and were much more successful. This time she cooperated with me and actually enjoyed herself. We remembered to bring her swimsuit so she could swim in the lake. Then we had a nice picnic lunch before heading home. In the afternoon we went to the library and checked out the books we’ll need for next week’s theme. Our library also has a great playground. She can go across the whole monkeybars!

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Friday morning we had a fun playdate with one of her favorite little friends. She even played well with other kids she doesn’t know.  In the afternoon I had hoped to get to a concert for our music lesson, but she requested that we stay home. So instead we checked out the brand new playground that was just installed by the lake and tried playing Spot It and Uno together for the first time. I think playing board and card games will be helpful as we try to figure out what rules are and why we might need to abide by them. Plus, it’s fun to have something new to do together.

We are looking forward to R being back next week.

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Storytelling Week

Theme: Storytelling
Letter: Aa

We decided to start our preschool with a week dedicated to storytelling. When the kids arrived on Monday we introduced them to the new school room and let them color letter A worksheets. I like the worksheets at Boggle’s World. We focused on capital letters last year and will be working on lower case this year.

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Our preschool space is carved out of a room that had previously been dedicated solely to free play. The hardest part about the first day was convincing the kids that we needed them to do what we asked in there. But we made it through.

After their coloring time I set up some cushions around a chair and invited them to come sit. I got the idea from Sugar Aunts. First I read the book Rocket Writes A Story. Then I invited the kids to sit in the chair and tell us a story. I had a small collection of storybooks available as prompts. R got up and read Goldilocks and the Three Bears to us. A took her turn next but was more reticent, so I started a story and let her fill in the blanks until she was ready to run with it herself. Story time worked so well that I may use it every week to shift gears and present our theme.

We brought them back up to the school table to introduce our main project for the day: coloring puppets and putting on a puppet show. They were very excited to color puppets! We got the Three Little Pigs puppets from Education.com. When they were finished coloring they needed a break and both retreated to the book corner for a rest. R’s younger brother soon busied himself with cutting bits of paper, and that interested the girls, too. We let them cut paper while R’s mom read two books emphasizing the sounds that the letter A makes. I think I was feeding the baby at this time so I didn’t notice what they were called. Our time was coming to an end and we really wanted to show them the puppets in action, so I put on a short show for them. The kids enjoyed it, but they were done with structured activities.

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After lunch and a nap, A returned to the school room and spent two hours building a puppet theater. It was her idea and I helped her by cutting holes and handing her tape. She was still coloring puppets for the theater when it was time to go home. I considered that a successful first day.

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On Wednesday we tried making a cloud in a jar (from We Made That). There was definitely something happening in there, but it wasn’t as great as I was hoping. We might have to try that one again. She also continued to work on her puppet theater. At this point in the week working on the theater was way more fun than putting on puppet shows, so our storytelling theme fell by the wayside.

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Thursday was our first try at forest preschool. I had hoped to spend the entire morning outside, but as soon as she arrived at my house I knew we were doomed. She was in a foul mood. We tried, though. I let her choose the things she wanted to bring out to the woods with us. She chose: her two favorite books this week (Hansel and Gretel and The Woods), a flashlight, her compass, a fairy costume, two stuffed animals, a plastic recorder, a clipboard with blank paper that she called her nature journal, and a marker. We also brought our lunches and a picnic blanket. When we arrived at our location a short walk from my house I sent her into the woods with her flashlight to explore for 10 minutes, then her baby sister and I went in with her. We have been to the woods there several times so she knew the kinds of things we could see. Because of the baby, though, we didn’t do any stream exploration. Once she worked through all of her toys and ate lunch she was done. We went home and she got in the pool. After nap my husband came home and they built some kind of campsite/fortress out of couch cushions until it was time to go home.

photo 5On Friday we went to a local library’s storytime and then played with R at her house for the rest of the morning. After nap we went to our local Greek Festival and enjoyed the music and dancing!

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Our Pretend Preschool

Our new school room the night before the first day of school, plus cat

Our new school room the night before the first day of school, plus cat

It is the first week of preschool here at the lake and we are having a great time. My friend Arielle of Cill Dara asked me to blog about it so I will try to remember to share what we’re working on in this space.

Little A will turn 4 just after the cutoff date for public school, but since we homeschool I don’t feel a great need to try to hold her back academically. My own inclinations are for a very hands off school where we pursue her interests at her pace with my role being to introduce things to her and see if they take. I also care deeply about naps.

Our schedule is an odd and somewhat erratic one:

On Monday mornings we are trying a new cooperative schooling effort with another family. R is turning 5 and is ready for more reading readiness activities than A is, but they play together well so her mother and I are hoping that they encourage and challenge one another. Monday afternoons are reserved for art.

On Tuesdays A will be attending our parish co-op two days per month with the opportunity to go on a field trip one additional day per month. I don’t watch her on Tuesdays so I have no control over whether or not this happens.

Wednesdays are bookended by morning and evening church services. We usually spend the late morning at a coffee shop having snacks and conversation with friends. This doesn’t leave much extra time to devote to school, but I am hoping to sneak some science experiments and maybe some math in there. Of course, I consider learning proper church and coffee shop etiquette to be a valuable lesson, so the day is not completely lost.

Thursdays are almost entirely free except for her 45 minute gymnastics class, which may or may not happen every month. I am dedicating Thursdays to nature studies. We will make every effort to spend the entire day (excluding nap time) outside. Because I haven’t been consistent about her outside time she is out of practice. Today’s outside time lasted a measly hour.

On Friday mornings we have a standing play date. Friday afternoons will be dedicated to music.

Each week will have a theme and a letter (the two will probably not be related), which we will definitely incorporate into Monday’s co-op time. Whether or not I carry the themes throughout the week depends on her interest. I like having themes to keep me thinking about ways to introduce new ideas to her. Without them we do the same couple of things every day and get more and more bored with each other.

A gets some time every day with Starfall or my curated offering of iPad apps. Some apps that she is really enjoying now are Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader, and Endless Numbers (this one got her thinking about numbers for the first time) by Originator, Inc; Elmo Loves ABCs, which features clips from old Sesame Street shows; and the MeeGenius book app. She has others that she still plays with even though she has outgrown them, and still others that I think she will enjoy but she isn’t ready for them yet. I don’t allow a lot of screen time in our day, but she really likes to settle in with the iPad when she wakes up from her nap.

A also swims every day that the weather allows it, though our warm days will soon come to an end for the year.

I’ll post a first week wrap-up before Monday so you can see how this works for us!

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