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Thursday, December 8, 2016

More Fall Photos at The Eno

I can hardly believe it's my fourth year in a row photographing this precious family! A and I survived our first year of motherhood hand in hand. I don't know what I would have done without her! 

Here's a look at our fun filled family session at one of my favorite spots The Eno...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fall Minis at The Eno River

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Halloween Night 2016: A Night with Anna & Elsa

We went through several Halloween costume options this year. First they were going to be superheros sporting tutus (BatGirl and SuperGirl), then they were going to be Duke cheerleaders (I even bought a Duke cheerleading shirt to coordinate) and then finally settled on some Anna & Elsa costumes from Coscto. Well at least I can use my Duke cheerleading tee come basketball season! 

We had such a fun night trick or treating our neighborhood! Our first time time really doing trick or treating! 

At the end of the night we had Caroline pick something she really really wanted (she picked footed fleece Christmas jammies, she'd been asking for them for weeks). Then we let her pick 3 pieces of candy from her bag (one for each year old) and then she traded the rest of her over stuffed bag of candy for those desired Christmas jammies. She's been very happy with the trade as is this health conscious mama. 

I think it also helped her self control that she got a Halloween cupcake from our favorite cupcake shoppe (thanks to our sweet neighbor) before trick or treating so she didn't feel like she was missing out on treats. 

Would love to know my fellow mamas how you handle the candy overload of Halloween? 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fall Homeschool Preschool Curriculum & The Ultimate Fall Book List for Preschool/Kindergarten Ages

Charlotte Mason put a strong emphasis on nature in her educational philosophy. And fall is such a wonderful time to incorporate nature studies. 

There are so many wonderful books about leaves, pumpkins, and everything fall. But I think every other mom in my area has been thinking the same thing so we're still in line waiting for several of our holds on autumn books at our library. Here's what we've enjoyed reading so far:

We also decorated our pumpkin with alphabet stickers. I had originally intended to paint our pumpkins because carving pumpkin just isn't young child friendly and I wanted them to be able to be hands on in the pumpkin decorating. But fall has gotten so busy with photography for me so we just used some alphabet stickers I had on hand for an easy mess free pumpkin decorating activity. We talked about the letters and their sounds as we decorated. 

We also visited the pumpkin patch. Now there are lots of pumpkin patch options in our area. But keeping with our theme of Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool preschool I wanted out pumpkin patch visit to not feel like we're visiting a mini fair or mini theme park. I wanted a simple setting that encouraged the girls to play and explore their natural environment. Fortunately a little nursery down the road was perfect for that. There were goats to feed, a swam to greet us, a little bridge over a trickling creek to explore and pumpkins to pick from. 

Here's a few pictures. 

It was such a great experience. The more we lean towards incorporating Charlotte Mason's ideas on learning and childhood into our homeschool preschool the more I believe in the goodness and richness of her teaching philosophy. I highly recommend this book if you're new to Charlotte Mason and want to learn more. You'll be so inspired...

Here's a list of other favorite fall homeschool preschool activities inspired by Charlotte Mason that I just haven't photographed:

1) gathering acorns and playing imagining games with them (they became "food", currency, people- all kinds of things in our imaginary play) Charlotte Mason puts a strong emphasis on these types of unorganized play for children. 

2) going on a walk and observing all the signs of fall 

3) drawing pictures of the things we see appearing in nature during fall such as leaves changing colors, pumpkins, acorns...

4) reading lots and lots of books about nature's changes during fall (see above list for a resource) 

5) saving fall leaves in a leaf press

6) doing leaf imprints and acorn imprints with clay or playdough

Like I said, keep check back as I'l be updating this post with more fun fall homeschool preschool activities through the end of November.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sticky Fingers

Monday, August 22, 2016

Time Is Precious

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Homeschool Preschool Unit: Maps, Geography, and Germany

Our most recent unit study in our homeschool preschool was a study of maps, geography, and Germany. It was so simple and lots of fun. Thought I'd share our unit study here so other homeschool mamas might find it helpful.

Books We Read on Geography & The World

We got all these from our local library so zero spent on books for this unit study. We read these books several times over and over during our unit study.

We also began to learn the countries of the world song, at least the Europe part which she really enjoyed. 

We also did this printable to color the flag of Germany. Crayola has so many wonderful free printables on their website and they have this printable for many different countries' flags all totally free. Found here. 

We also discovered many wonderful German videos for preschoolers on YouTube. Again totally free. Little Pim is a great resource for learning preschool language learning. They have lots of free YouTube videos for a variety of languages. Find Little Pim's free YouTube language learning videos here. But the girl's favorite was from Kinderlieder zum Mitsingen und Bewegen. They enjoyed them because it was real German boys and girls singing and dancing in their preschool. These are still a hit and we watch these (And a couple Little Pim videos) almost everyday even though our unit study is over.
 Here's a sample:

That's pretty much it. Super easy. Totally free. And both my girls loved it and learned from it. Even I learned from it. Learning together and enjoying it? Homeschool win! 

Would love to hear from other homeschool preschool mamas...what unit studies are you doing? 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Oh Say Can You See

What a day the 4th of July is. I know a lot of us, myself included, tend to think of cookouts and swimming and fireworks when we think of the 4th. But it's really so much more. It's a day where we stand on the shoulders of the patriots who sacrificed everything to make America. In the excitement and fun of the celebrations let's not forget to hold our loved ones extra close and be grateful for all the sacrifices others have made for our freedom. 

Also this video you absolutely have to watch...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On A Golden Sunday Afternoon

Most of the time I'm either in jammies or my favorite Lulu shorts. But Sundays I actually try to look like I didn't just roll out of bed. Recently I've felt like the rare appearance of a dress and makeup and hair not in a messy mommy bun was reason for pictures. So we took a few minutes to snap a few post church photos. Unfortunately Emily Kate was not in the mood (she hasn't been in the mood for pictures since oh 10 months old). But Caroline obliged her momtog mama for a few...

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.