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Saturday, June 4, 2016

How We Homeschool Preschool

Before having kids I worked in a wonderful transitional kindergarten classroom that I absolutely loved. Somedays I wish I still worked there (you know so I could send my kids home at 1:30 and have the rest of the day to myself. Just kidding. Sort of. You mamas of littles know what I'm talking about).

Seriously though...the world of preschool is magical. Yes, it comes with struggles but it really is such a magical stage. The world is exciting and ready to be explored by these little learners. 

 I've been saving ideas since then and thought maybe someday I'll do homeschool preschool with my kids. 

Here's a sampling of what our homeschool preschool looks like...

Pre-reading skills:
- Letter Tracing: this can be as simple as you writing letters for your child to trace on paper. Or you can buy workbooks full of letter tracing pages. Don't forget to check Pinterest too, there are lots of letter tracing activity pages on there too if you have a home printer. This is great for your child to start learning how to prepare to hold a pencil for writing later. We typically use markers because they're easier for little hands to grip and your little one doesn't have to press very hard to get color out so she can focus more on mastering those letter curves. 
- Letter Recognition: This can really be so easy. You don't have to plan activities for this. Just point out letters in books when you're reading with your preschooler, or when you come across signs while out grocery shopping. The list could go on letters are everywhere. The opportunities to be letter hunters and help your preschooler practice letter recognition are everywhere! But if you want to plan activities there are lots of fun letter recognition activities. One recent one we enjoyed that was super easy was going on a letter hunt in our sandbox. Before I hid the letters in the sandbox I made a chart of all the letters I was going to hide so we could account for them all (we were practicing lower case letters or "little letters" as we call them). It was fun digging for letters then finding their corresponding letter on the chart. Even toddler sister got in on the fun of digging for letters. 

Art is so so so important for preschoolers. It's way more than just another center for them to play at. Almost all art projects really help develop their fine motor skills which will play a big part in their confidence as little writers in a few years. Holding a paintbrush, scribbling with a crayon, using q-tips to spread glue on a collage all really work to develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. 
Art is also important emotionally for little ones. It can be very calming and quieting for their little minds that are usually running a mile a minute taking everything in. 
A few of our favorite preschool art projects this year have been painting birdhouses, making collages with buttons, dot art paintings, melting broken crayons into new crayons and coloring with them, playdough, painting on paper, painting in the bathtub with pudding (or can do outside just wouldn't recommend doing it inside unless it's in the bathtub). It really doesn't have to be complicated. The best thing you can do is just give your preschooler opportunities to create open ended art, meaning the end result is up to your child. All those cute preschool crafts on Pinterest are precious but often these end up with the parent doing most of it and making sure the child has a certain end result in mind. Whereas open ended art grows your child's creativity which we know grows their little minds. So think projects that have no end result in mind. Just put out some paper and paint maybe some glue and buttons and see what your little creates. 
(side note: squeezing glue from a bottle can get frustrating for littles. And while it can help build their hand strength if your preschooler is having a tough time managing that glue bottle pour some glue into a bowl and have them use a q-tip or small paint brush to get the glue on their paper- still working those fine motor skills and with less frustration).

Math & Spatial Awareness:
- Pattern blocks are a favorite of ours for learning shapes, math, and spatial awareness. You can count the sides of the pattern blocks and talk about the names of different shapes. There are lots of fun patterns you can buy or print out for your child to follow to create animals or other pictures. But also it's fun to pour out a big container of pattern blocks on the table and see what they create!
For math we also talk about "how many" a lot. I need this many oranges at the grocery store, can you count? Or how raisins do you have left? Those types of questions. 

Gross Motor
Caroline takes ballet and that has been a huge part of developing her gross motor skills this past year.
 We also enjoy visiting open gym time at our local kid's gymnastics gym. They have a blast running, jumping, swinging from bars and braving the balance beams. 
Freeze dance is another great way to get some energy out and develop gross motor skills.
Hopscotch is great can draw a hopscotch or there are lots of fun interlocking hopscotch sets you can buy. We love those for indoor hopscotch on rainy days. Hopscotch is also a good opportunity to practice numbers and talk about right and left. 

Caroline loves the Nutcracker so we listen to the soundtrack a lot. She also learns songs during the kid's program Sunday mornings at church. The library has also been a big music resource for us. I check out lots of favorite children's CDs and the girls have enjoyed almost all of them. YouTube is another fantastic resource for homeschooling and I'll admit I totally enjoy sitting with the girls and watching YouTube videos about music- we especially like the Piano Guys. We also have a piano at home that Mike plays. We let the kids experiment playing keys noticing the sounds, taking a peek at the strings inside. It's not a fancy piano and for that we're grateful because instead of having tell the kids "don't touch" we can invite them to learn and explore with it. Just today Mike took the front off the piano so Caroline could learn how pianos create sound. Learning is so much better when you're not afraid of getting messy or breaking things. 

We try to spend time outside almost everyday. Outside play is so so important (The Last Child in the Woods and Charlotte Mason are great resources explaining the importance of children to be outdoors...and I'm talking outdoors with trees and grass..not a concrete playground). When we're outside we just let nature make the lessons. When the seasons change we talk about how nature changes whether it's the leaves falling from trees in autumn or discovering a nest of robin eggs in spring. Recently Caroline was filling up a small bucket with water and pouring it out inside the garage over and over so I suggested we go water the plants in the garden. I told her about roots in the ground that we can't see and how that's how the plants drink. Really just being outside with an open mind is a wonderful way to learn. I remember as a kid while out for walks with my dad he'd gather interesting looking leaves and bring them home and we'd look them up together to find out their names (and back then we had to use a it became a spelling lesson too) 

An important part of preschool is social development. Fortunately when you have two kids less than two years apart in age the social environment is very real. Someday it's too real. We deal with a lot of social conflicts all day everyday. Sharing, taking turns, personal space, empathy, working together, and on and on and on till sometimes my mama heart just wants to sit down with Netflix and a bag of Bark Things, ha! I'm far from perfect but I've tried to be very intentional in how we handle our conflicts all day. We've been talking a lot about empathy and reading books about empathy and pointing out empathy and opportunities for it every chance we get. It's hard but we're starting to see some fruit in small ways. When I was planning out unit specifically set on empathy & kindness I saved some of my favorite ideas to a Pinterest board. You can check it out here. When you grow up with siblings every day is an opportunity for character development that's for sure (and I'm not just talking about them...mama too!)

Okay so history isn't usually a big part of preschool beyond pilgrims at Thanksgiving and the Christmas story at Christmas. But I grew up in a family that was truly in love with history so it's hard for me not to make it a daily part of our homeschool preschool. Right now Caroline loves reading the My First Little House books and we read those often.  I always make a point to talk about different things like how they couldn't just go flip a light on like we could, they had to light candles. Or how they couldn't just swing by Target like we could- they had to make or hunt their own food. We often even pretend Little House on the Prairie throughout the day..."washing" plastic bowls in the bathtub or a basin of water to pretend we're hand washing like the Ingalls did. Or when I need to get errands done at the mall and the girls are in the double stroller we pretend we're in a covered wagon and ask Caroline to imagine things on our journey "Is there a river that we need to cross?" I also made a recipe from play dough (not the kind from a container but dough that felt and looked like real dough made from flour and oats but was more the consistency of the store bought playdough) to pretend we were making bread like on bread making day in the My First Little House books. 

Really the bottom line is this: LEARN AS YOU LIVE.
You might read this post and be overwhelmed and feel like how does she plan all that? I could never do that. I don't. I'm just as stressed, and distracted, and busy as the next mama of young kids. I don't plan things and I get overwhelmed and I'm just trying to roll with the craziness of having two small children. It all comes down to attitude. If you approach each day and each experience with an open mind -whether it's a visit to an incredible children's museum or just a quick trip to the grocery store- you'll find endless opportunities to learn. I'm preaching to the choir here because I'm task oriented and checking things off my list is what I do best. But if I remind myself to slowdown and teach and learn and explore life their little minds really open up to the world around them. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Recital 2016

"Ballet is like dreaming on your feet."

C's recital this year was such a special time. I got to be a backstage chaperone for her class so getting to share the whole experience with her was unforgettable. It reminded me of my dancing days. And watching her conquer her fear of the stage was a big moment. Couldn't be more grateful for my tiny dancer. 

For the friends and family who haven't had a chance to see the hilarious and adorable video here it is: 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Safe House

"A safe house is not just a place, it's a relationship. You are the safe house to your children. You are home." 
(Joshua Straub)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Garden Fairy

"How dreary the world would be if there were no fairies."
{scroll to the very bottom for some mama thoughts} 

It's not typically the perfect photos I end up loving. It's often the unexpected candid takes that somehow capture an essence, a feeling, a moment, a quirk that I never want to forget about them. They're constantly changing but it's the little things that stand out as the sweetest moments. Like the way the wind catches her wild and ever untamed hair and does a dance of its own. It's like a little fairy just flitted by and if I don't stand still with my ever long list of grown-up to-dos I may miss her sweet presence. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Daddy Daughter Dance Date

Princess Caroline (or as she'd prefer to be called Fairy Princess Ballerina Caroline) now travels about the garden with a security detail...

Okay. In all seriousness this is actually a pre-Daddy Daughter Dance Date photo. Our church hosted a special dads and daughters only night and it was a huge hit. Caroline's only experience with dances so far in her wise three years is ballets, specifically The Nutcracker. (which she still religiously watches/listens to/acts out) For days before the dance she'd ask me questions like "will there be snow falling at the dance?" "will Daddy wear a costume too?" "Emmy Kate is not allowed to come up on the stage, right?". All week she was imagining a Nutcracker ballet like evening. I was a little worried she might be disappointed. But between wearing her favorite ballet costume (including magic wand), dancing her heart away in a room full of equally enthusiastic and outfitted little girls, munching pink cupcakes, and getting Daddy all to herself she was on cloud nine. And yes, there was a stage and she got to dance on it. A very small stage. But a stage nonetheless and she didn't mind one bit. 

And Daddy wore a "Daddy costume" otherwise known as a suit. 

Monday, March 14, 2016


Post nap greetings from my snuggle bug!

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Caroline is hardly ever Caroline these days. 

She's either Laura (and I'm then Ma, Emily Kate is Mary, and Daddy is Pa) or she's Clara. We're either living on the prairie of living in a ballet. Note the ballet slippers, tutu, and nutcracker tucked under her arm. Definitely a Clara moment.

 But if you see her with braids in her hair and her toy dog in tow chances are better that she's Laura. I've gotten so used to it that half the time I call her by her character name and not Caroline when talking to other people about her. And the funnier part, I don't even notice I've called her a name besides Caroline until the person I'm talking to asks.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

We Are a House of Tutus

I love looking back on blogs from when Caroline was a baby and remembering all those little sweet moments that as she's grown I've forgotten. I've neglected writing memories on here for several reasons these past couple years. One, I'm a much more private person than I used to be. I like to keep many things just to myself. But then a friend or relative mentions how much they enjoy this little blog and I feel I ought to share these moments with them more often. The second, life just seems to get busier and busier. We're running on this crazy race- my husband's job in a very demanding and intensive stage and me trying to keep Caroline from an emotional break down (can anyone say THREENAGER?!) and Emily Kate from scaling every piece of furniture we have. I barely have time to get out of my jammies (which I'm currently still in as I write this) let alone maintain a decent journal of memories. 

Nevertheless I'll do what I can to jot a few more memories down here. And post a few more pictures. And in the spirit of journaling our memories I thought I'd write, for memories sake, what our home is like these days...

We are a house of tutus. 
We are a house of ballet slippers, trying on shoes all day, and blasting The Nutcracker ballet over the sound system. 
We are a house of one who can't stand getting messy and even once complained to me about how she didn't like being wet - in the tub! And the other who seems to make messes out of thin air. How could a granola bar possibly cause such damage? 
We are a house of tight budgets but rich love.
We are a house of tiny pink and purple sippy cups filled with green juice their current drink of choice. But don't give the wrong girl the pink cup because then a meltdown will follow. One is always the pink and one is always the purple. 
We are a house of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood when mommy is on the verge of a meltdown herself and just needs five minutes of peace.
We are a house of reading Bible stories every night from our Jesus Storybook Bible and big theological statements such as "Jesus doesn't want us to get a bath because that's God's truth." (she really did say that)
We are a house of playing doctor, toting baby dolls, and accessorizing with anything and everything. 
We are a house of a threenager who knows her mind and a toddler who has just learned the absolute pleasure of the word "no".
We are a house of Little House on the Prairie books read over and over and over. 
We are a house of little people and big hearts. 
This is such an exhausting, busy time in our house. But I wouldn't trade these days for anything. 
This is our house, the house of tutus.