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Monday, August 29, 2011

First day of school!

So many thoughts ran out of my head as I shut our classroom door for the day. Thoughts like, why did you do this? what were you thinking? these kids are crazy banshee monkeys they can't be taught!

But I know that's not true.
My son had a hard time. He didn't understand circle time, he didn't want to sit, he didn't want to be still for that long. He saw toys in all the other directions and me talking about foxes for whatever reason and probably thought I was nuts. My issues so far are pretty common, I think: having a hard time finding curriculum that's both appropriate for a 3.5 and 2.5 year old. It's challenging for my son, and not quite challenging enough for my daughter. I honestly thought I had picked some good material, but I was wrong.

I've always spent more time with her, since her afternoon nap is about half of my son's, so she's gotten extra attention as far as education goes her entire life. Also, she's already been through one year of preschool. She breezed through my work sheets. After I explained how to use them, they were finished. I'm not sure how far to push her -- I don't know what's "age" appropriate and what's not. It's difficult.

My other hiccup is I need to give my son extra attention since he needs the most help with stuff, but my daughter wants the same amount of attention. It's totally understandable, just a little difficult. I overly praise him, only because I want him to stay interest and feel like he's doing something well, even when it's mostly me doing it for him, where as with my daughter, she does everything herself, so I'm not constantly praising her the entire way through a worksheet.

I think I need to let one play while I work with one, and then switch them. I also found that when I had them both enjoying center time, they both wanted my attention with the toys, also. They pretty much want 100% attention on their self 100% of the time. It's hard. 

How do you homeschool more than one age at a time? Any tips or tricks?

Here are some pics from today. I forgot to snap some while we were in class, but I did manage to get some afterwards:

This is our learning board from circle time. We talked about the FOX, spelled out the word and learned the letters. We talked about where a fox lives, what it eats, and the different colors a fox can be. We made our fox masks (my daughter was very excited to use sticky tape for the whiskers! ha), and then walked around like foxes and pretended to eat wild berries. I love their imaginations. I love watching them learn something and grasp a concept. It's so exciting.

Here are their work sheets. Abigail is working on coloring inside the lines, she's doing a great job! She also wrote and spelled her name by herself. Good job Abigail! 

The kids really enjoyed our fall sensory box. Brody tried to eat all the plastic & wooden fruit. Abigail thought it was awesome picking up the tiny bird eggs with graspers (which is what they will be called on this blog until someone tells me the right name for them), counting them, and putting them in the bird nest. Point for mom!

 And of course, our circle time mat!!! My husband majored in geography, so when I found this adorable fabric a couple months ago, I practically snatched it out of this pregnant lady's hands and bought a panel. SO cute. I lined it with some batting and covered the back in some polka dot fabric I already had. My husband loves it and my kids love to search for things on it! Double fun. (:

Tomorrow my kids start their first day at their preschool (they will go twice a week on T/TH) so wish them luck. It's Abigail's second year so she's pretty excited, but Brody's FIRST day of school ever. Or better yet, say a quick little nice thought for their teachers.. ha.
Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week one: THE FOX

What do you know about foxes? Have you studied them explicitly? Do you know what makes them tick? What their favorite snack is? How they like their fur brushed? Why they run in packs? What a pack is exactly? No? Me either. But I found out.

I decided to stray away from the typical "fall" animal (horse, bear, etc) mainly because I like to be different. Also I didn't have any good horse stories on hand, and it's hard to trick your family members into buying books for your new project the day before you need it. Also I like foxes. Having recently watched Fox & the Hound with my kiddos, I was reminded just how cute and cuddly they were. Also when I asked my son what I fox says, his answer is really stinkin' cute.

Go ahead. Ask him.

Coming up with curriculum for a preschool setting is both easy and difficult at the same time. It's easy because it's fun: crafts, stories, little science experiments... it's so much fun looking at all the different ways you can incorporate a single animal into math and science and language arts and crafts and reading. So many options!

But it's hard because you don't want to screw up. You don't want to give the wrong information. You don't want to teach your child something too easy or too hard or too boring or basically "too" anything. You want it to be perfectly perfect so that they'll listen, and enjoy it, and LEARN something, and all the while not go over or under (?) their heads.

It's hard.

So here is where we're starting:

Where to start? 
Ask children what they know about foxes, or if they have seen pictures or read stories that have a fox character. Ask children if they have heard about endagered animals, and what these terms mean to them. 

Basic facts about the fox:
The fox is a wild animal that has a pointed nose, pointed ears, and a bushy tail. Foxes are closely related to coyotes, dogs and wolves. Foxes hunt insects, birds and other small animals but will sometimes eat plants - especially fruit.

[do you think they are going to laugh at me if I read straight from my sheet? no? okay cool.]

So that's our starting point. Discussion.

From there, I have created a guided lesson plan for the week, with five areas I want to concentrate on, with three activities per area (since we will home school for three days a week).

Fox masks,
Marble art on fox cutouts,
Friday we'll "make our own" fox with color squares (you can glue them on), fuzzy stuff for the tail, and googly eyes

look up "fox" in our encyclopedia and talk about what it says. talk about fox food, where they live, habitat, etc.
pass around a toy fox and talk about how it feels, the different parts, what the fox uses each body part for, etc.
friday: felt fox body parts to put together, which we will have talked about on wednesday

Two stories from Aesop's Fables
And one of my daughter's favorites: My Lucky Day. I thought we would read this on Monday so there is a sense of familiarity to our class.

Writing the letters for F-O-X and spelling the word. We have writing sheets for F, O and X with upper and lowercase letters. Practice writing the letters for the word fox, then trying writing the word as a whole.
Use the word fox in a sentence using a word from science time: A fox is red. Make up a silly sentence about a fox (Abigail's favorite game): Have you ever seen a fox wearing a dress jumping rope at the grocery store?


Count the fox faces and match it with a number and word

Roll a dice and put fox pictures in a bowl, most after 5 turns win

Circle the right number of foxes


A tour of our classroom

This is what you see if you walk into our classroom and turn immediately to the left. First up is our shelves, which have everything from toys that match our montly theme, to books & puzzles, stacking blocks, musical instruments and even our Tag & Tag Jr. This will be what the kids use during their "free time" in class. It's hands on and all easily self-playable.

That's not a word. I just made it up.

Directly next that is our art corner. Luckily, these kids have a mom that went to art school... because I just happen to have about 50 left over tablets full of newsprint and drawing paper... perfect for little hands to go crazy on. I can't wait to see what they'll do with these big pads! On the floor is an old splat mat we used to use during those wretched "i like to throw all my food on the floor" stages... perfect for broken crayons and "oopsies! i dropped my open marker on the floor" mistakes that are bound to happen. The paintings above the tablets is something my daughter and I worked on over the summer. We had been painting a lot at the time, and I was trying to explain why I mix my paints with one another to make new colors... so I found a way to do it on her level. Now she always remembers how to make green, purple & orange. Next lesson? How to draw a perfect circle... 

Next up we have our first long wall, which consist of our weekly fine motor on top/puzzle area & ??s book on bottom, our monthly themed sensory box, and our number chart. For the first month of school, our overall theme is FALL (with weekly themes of: fox/apples/tree & leaves/fall - more on this later), our color is RED, our shape is the CIRCLE and our animal is the FOX. Our fine motor & sensory box will change every month to fit our theme. At the end of the wall is my storage/supply closet. Please note that I got this particular piece of furniture when I was bout 14 years old; it has seen better days, though it's still doing it's job quite nicely. I suppose one of these days I'll have to buy some spray paint and give it a face lift. Until then... Here are a few close ups from the left side of the room:

Up above: Play-doh apple pie "baking"

Underneath: Our puzzle rack and our thinking books: "How Come?" & Children's Encyclopedia

Our sensory box for fall : contains wooden & plastic apples, silk & glitter leaves, wodden & beaded pears, pine cones, metal leaf & apple cookie cutter, leaf wooden & plastic buttons, birds nest with wooden eggs, cinnamon sticks, twine, acrons, wooden & plastic branches with berries... and probably some other stuff. Oh! And a rake! Of course.

Next up is our number chart:

And my awesome storage/supply closet: Top shelf is paper, middle is foam cutouts, bottom is coloring/sticker/activity books. Not pictured is my drawers filled with glitter, markers, stickers, confetti, paints, glitter glue, more stickers, play-doh, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, close pins, and all the other random crap I had that will be fun to use. (:

The right side of the room is pretty boring compared to the left side of the room... but it has my favorite spot in the entire class... our reading nook!This blue chair has been a faithful baby rocking chair for the past three and a half years, and I was at a loss as to what I would do with it after we turned my baby's room into his big boy room. Luckily, we needed a chair for reading time. Viola! Next to the chair is our books for the month. There are 13: 3 per week for four weeks, and a little extra one I had to include (Curious George Plants A Seed). Above the chair is a fabric birthday banner I spent countless hours making for my sweet boy's carnival birthday party last year. I hate looking at it all rolled up and sitting on the shelf, so it's getting used. End of story. On each side of the chair are airplane paintings a good friend of mine made for my son's old airplane-themed bedroom. I couldn't stand the thought of not hanging them up when we redecorated. And, since reading brings imagination to life... what better way to start dreaming than soaring to the sky?? Cheesy... perhaps. But they are kids, so it works. And it's my classroom.

Also along this same wall is my school/paying bills/printer's desk. In that purple tub next to the desk is our manipulatives for the month that match our theme. Because I like themes. And printing and laminating is fun. Also cutting. Above my desk is an awesome gift my hubby got for his birthday from his Aunt. This clock came out of the box tick tocking away at the perfect time... and it'll never have to be reset. Which is perfect for me since I'll never remember to reset it. To the right of my desk is our listening station, which I failed to take a picture of because I'm still waiting on a cheapy boombox for our class room. Any takers? And yes, that is a Fox & the Hound record hanging above our future listening station. And yes, it's from my childhood. Which means it's old. Really old.

So that's it! This is my "How I spent my summer vacation by superhero momma." What do you think? What's your favorite spot in our classroom? If you made a classroom at your home, what would you include... or leave out? I always love feedback (:

DIY classroom at home, step by step

Step 1: take apart your baby crib

Step 2: move guest bed into baby's room, thus giving baby a new big boy bed and emptying out your classroom

Step 3: totally gut the guest room and destory your house

Step 4: start piecing together a class room, station by station, all the while cleaning your house as you go

Step 5: call your sister and give her all your stuff that won't fit back into the guest room. I mean classroom.

See? It's eaaaaasy.


It's not like I woke up one morning and said, "I know what will be a great idea... I'm going to homeschool my toddlers. That sounds like fun!" It was more like, "Holy s*** balls! It's expensive to put two children into private preschool three days a week! Help!" And then I started googling.... which always leads to dangerous places. I found little activities here and there that we could do at home to educate alongside our preschool, but I just kept thinking to myself, this isn't enough, this isn't going to keep them entertained all day, they are going to EAT ME ALIVE!!!

So it was that, combined with the fact that I really enjoy doing art projects with my kids and reading them books, that lead me to seeking out preschool curriculum. How can I tie all this together? How can I make the information stick? Well.. the same way teachers do, dummy. You TIE it together, you have themes, you have cross platform continuity, you have.... CURRICULUM.


So I started researching more. I read about educating kids. I read about how they learn, how their brain works, how to engage a 2-3 yr old for more than five seconds. And then I created a lesson plan. And a daily schedule. And themes and activities and and and.

I made a super hero cape.