Catching up and Re-establishing Routine

image

The turkey has been transformed into tetrazzini and the black Friday deals are in the bag. The kids are thoroughly strung out on pie and their eggnog addiction is in full swing. So, in an attempt to push the proverbial reset button on the family today we did nothing but homeschool in the morning and playing in the backyard followed by crafts.  Nothing crazy, nothing new, we just got back to normal after after family fun and altered schedules.

The boys were still a bit crazy-to the order of about a dozen xmas ornaments ripped off the tree, but they did help put them back.  So, that’s something. We said goodbye to November and tomorrow we begin our 25 days of fun and activities advent calendar! I’m going to be busy setting it up tonight. Pictures to come- of course!

Paint Clean-Paint Messy: One Day, Two Very Different Painting Experiences

image

Painting is an all senses on deck experience for my youngest son and lately he’s been asking to do it more and more often. Sometimes I’m up for the hose ’em down when they’re done style of backyard body painting, but other (most) times I’d rather not. Research suggests that the sensory simulation of finger painting is very beneficial for the brain development of little ones. So, finding time for that kind of immersive creation is important. There’s also strong  empirical evidence that my kids have no business finger painting while I’m trying to make breakfast at 8am. There’s a time for everything.

Clean “Painting”:
Paper towel or paper
Brush
Small amount of water in a cup (to minimize spillage)
This “painting” in quotes because…well there’s no paint. I was actually shocked at how content he was with this super clean painting substitute. Thinking about adding a paint brush to my arsenal of purse items as another tool for keeping the kids occupied at restaurants. “Why yes, I would like water and a paper towel.”

Messy Painting:
Non-toxic Paint
Brushes
Rolls of paper
Something on which to put mass quantities of paint. We used a baking pan.
This is Painting with a capital P because it is an all in experience. There’s no painting smock in the world that can handle the mess that ensues when I get my two boys outside for mural finger/face/body painting. After they’ve had a good time smearing with their hands I take the paper off of the wall and put it on the ground so their feet can have a turn. Then I get out the hose and towels.

“Hands On” Learning Tip

image

The boys will take this morning’s homeschool lesson with them all day-on their hands. Simply writing or drawing on your kiddo can be a handy way to help them remember a new concept. Plus, it’s super versatile!

After discussing Maxwell’s sight word of the day “and” I wrote it on his hand and told him every time he found and showed me the word I’d give him a high five on his and hand.

For little brother, he got his shape of the day-triangle.

Other ideas for “hands on” learning:
1. Left vs right
2. Letter of the day
3. Number of the day
4. Color
5. Shape
6. Sight word
7. Vocabulary

Classroom in the Kitchen: Making Edible Legs

image

We’ve been learning all about the body; our most recent topic has been muscles and bones. It’s hard for kids to understand that there are things inside of them since they can’t see it.  So, with the help of some simple ingredients we explored the most basic elements of the legs-bones, muscles, fat, and blood- in our kitchen, and ended the lesson with a tasty snack!

Materials:
Premade pizza dough (skin)
Marinara (blood)
Mozzarella cheese stick (bone)
Shredded cheddar cheese (fat)

image

Objective: (for 3-5 year olds)
Child will be able to identify skin, fat, bone, and blood.
Child will be able to briefly explain the function of:
Skin-helps us feel
Blood-sends oxygen and nutrients around our body
Bone-helps us stand up and makes blood
Muscles-helps us move

A note on objectives: these are variations on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and are likely very similar to objectives for prek in most states. The expectation is not that the child will master the objective after just one lesson, but rather that they are simply working towards mastery over time

Continue reading

“Grow Your Own” Graphing Activity: Our Spooky Skeleton Graph

image

A $1 grow your own skeleton, our October Body Unit, some chart paper, and a couple of makers made for a weeks worth of morning math and science learning. Oh, and a magical end of week skeleton surprise.

Graphing of one kind or another is a common fixture of the circle time routine in many preschool classrooms. Our three person classroom had been graphing the weather, but a wild little brother put an end to that by ripping down as many posters as he could before I could stop him. Instead of mourning our lost weather chart I took the opportunity to explore the other ways I could integrate math and scienc.

Materials:
A “grow your own” toy– You know, the things you put in water and they grow. We used a skeleton, but you could just as easily use an animal, person, or whatever. Wish We’d Bought One of These Bigger Ones
A large bowl of water in a place the kids can’t easily get to and mess with in between measurements
Chart paper
Markers

Objective:
Child will be able identify and name basic body parts (head, neck, ribs, arms, legs, skull, hips, legs, feet)
Child will be able to recognize and record change over time
Child will compare objects by size
Child will be able to make logical predictions

A note on objectives: these are variations on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and are likely very similar to objectives for prek in most states. The expectation is not that the child will master the objective after just one lesson, but rather that they are simply working towards mastery over time

Continue reading

Monster Eggs: Seasonal Fine Motor Activity

image

We’ve been learning all about our body this October. These silly little monster egg faces were a great way to bring the fun of Halloween together with our months theme. Plus, peeling the eggs was an accidentally awesome fine motor skill for the boys. We may have lost half of the eggs in the process, but they really worked those tiny finger muscles.

If you can make hard boiled eggs you can make these monster eggs.
Just hard boil some eggs, lightly tap eggs to create cracks all over, and then soak in dyed water for at least a couple of hours. Peel and voila, you’ve got monster/dragon/dinosaur eggs.

If you’ve got some Mr. Potato head pieces you can then make the little faces too!

Being Your Child’s First Teacher: 3 Practices That Will Help You Raise Lifelong Learners

image

Being your child’s first teacher is less about doing specific educational activities a few times a day than it is about transforming your every day tasks into learning experiences.

Imagine that you’re time with your children is one big ongoing field trip.

Prior to staying home full time with my one and three year old boys I taught preschool and then middle school. Parents always asked me what they could do to help their young children succeed in school. Now that I have kids of my own, I understand why parents wanted suggestions beyond completing homework, reading nightly, and taking an active interest in their children’s learning. School is some kind of alchemical institution that transforms young minds into golden vessels of knowledge and skills, right? Whatever a mere parent could do to contribute must be special too, right? I’ve found myself asking these questions as well, since having children and still have to remind myself that they’re wrong in their very premise. Learning is not a series of magical lessons that add up to an educated child; learning is a way of looking at the world like every experience is an opportunity to deepen understanding and improve the way in which we act in that world. One of the greatest educational gifts we can give our children is to teach them to live like lifelong learners by exhibiting curiosity, modeling persistence, and celebrating creativity.

3 Simple Practices for Teaching Young Children
1. Narrate your life: You may feel crazy describing everything you do as you do it but doing this regularly will help build your child’s vocabulary unlike anything else-even if you don’t think they’re listening. “We’re going to buy 1,2,3,4 juicy red apples. I’m going up drop them into the brown bag. Ooh they smell so fresh. I bet they’re delicious!”

2. Think Out Loud: Teaching your child HOW to think is probably even more important than teaching them WHAT to think.”Ugh! This jar lid is stuck on tight! I can’t get it off. I won’t give up. I’ll need to try another way. Maybe heating the lid in hot water will help loosen the lid. Yes! It opened now that the metal is hotter.”

3. Ask Questions: Asking questions about what they see and what you’re doing is great for helping steer and enhance their observational skills. Go even deeper by asking questions back to them when they ask you a question and encourage experimentation. My son asks, “Why can’t I put my popsicle in the water? “. I respond, “Well, you can but the popsicle is cold and the water is warm. What do you think will happen?” Then I went and got another popsicle to avoid another meltdown.

Internalizing these practices and making them habit expands the time and geography of a child’s learning from inside a classroom for a limited amount of time, to the world at large for their entire life.