Friday, June 25, 2010

First day of Little Hands to Heaven Preschool!

JayBird, with JellyBean alongside, enjoyed his first day of our preschool curriculum today. Yes…today…on a Friday. We decided to start our non-traditional schooling on a non-traditional day. We have that flexibility with homeschooling. Besides, it’s summertime. And it’s preschool. So we’re relaxed.

We are going through Heart of Dakota’s Little Hands to Heaven this year for preschool. You can read more about this on
Our Curriculum page. I’m very excited about all that JayBird will learn this year in all subjects through the use of Bible stories and activities. We are starting now, mid summer, because it is HOT! So we need some fun things to do indoors. And since JayBird is ready and eager to learn, and I too am ready to start Little Hands to Heaven with him, we are ready to start!

Little Hands to Heaven will teach us math, science, literature, art, and music as it takes us chronologically through the Bible. So of course on day 1, we learned about Creation and how God created everything. The kids enjoyed the finger play song focusing on the letter ‘A’ and roaming the room as different types of animals. I’ll have to take a video of that later! In learning about how God made everything from nothing, we turned off the lights and closed our eyes to exemplify nothing and then opened them again.Then, for the art project…painting! JayBird saw that this was coming from looking at the painting icon in our guide book. He loves to do art.
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We drew with white crayon on white paper and used black paint to show that God made everything out of nothing! JayBird didn’t understand what we were doing at first, but as the first picture shows, he was excited when he realized he could see his tree, flower, sun, and grass through the dark paint. JellyBean, well she was much less impressed, but she enjoys doing everything that Big Brother does so she was sure to be right there with us.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Story Time


JellyBean (20mos) has never been fond of reading. Whereas JayBird has loved to sit and read since he was an infant, JellyBean screams and tries to take the book out of my hands if I am reading to her or her brother. It has made it quite difficult to read and enjoy stories together.

I recently heard about a mom that used carpet squares for her wiggly kids during circle time. I thought that was a great idea! The next day I happened to be at a community garage sale and was able to purchase some carpet squares for 25 cents each! Perfect! I thought carpet squares would also work well for my active JayBird. What I didn't realize is how wonderful it would actually be for JellyBean!

As much as it can be nice to cuddle up on the couch with your kids to read a story, I have found that it just doesn't work for us...well, at least not for JellyBean. One afternoon I decided to use our carpet squares for a story time. The kids sat on the floor on their carpet squares while I sat on the couch. It definitely had the feel of a library story time and felt a little odd to be like that in my home since I was "above" the kids reading a story and not sitting cozily right next to them. worked! I sang a little story time song and we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Having JellyBean on a carpet square below me kept her far enough away from the book that she didn't try to tear it out of my hands. And she really loves her carpet square! If she did stand up and wouldn't sit back down, I would just sing a sit down song and she would immediately sit down. She really responded to my instruction through song! And The Very Hungry Caterpillar was coincidentally the perfect book to read because there were several words that we could all say in sign language, many of which JellyBean had just learned that week! So it was very fun for us!

And now...JellyBean LOVES to read! The carpet squares were like magic in regards JellyBean and reading! She even brings books to me now and signs "book" and says "". Gone are the days of her screaming and closing the book on us. She is requesting I read to her. And she happily goes to get her carpet square for story time. I'm sure one day she will like to cuddle up to read with me, but for now, having our more formal, library-like story time is what works for our family so that we ALL enjoy reading together!

Into my readers' hearts:
~ What have you done to encourage a love of reading with your little ones?

Friday, June 18, 2010

We have some exciting news for you!!

JayBird is sharing with everyone that "We have some exciting news for you!! I was reading Hop on Pop!" That's right...JayBird is reading!! We have been going through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons the past two weeks. We were just going through lesson 7 and quickly combined some lessons through to the end of lesson 11. Then I asked him to get the Hop on Pop book and sure enough, he could read from it! Truly amazing since we have only been practicing our reading for two weeks! (I promise he was also excited, despite the looks of his picture here.)

JayBird has been interested in learning to read and would do very well with our lessons until the last few minutes of each lesson, even though the lessons are very short. On average, they are suppose to take 15 minutes, but could take as long as 20 minutes or as little as 10 minutes. Ours generally take 10-15 minutes depending on if we do everything within each task and how squirmy JayBird is. Each lesson is broken into 6-8 tasks. Examples of the various tasks are learning new sounds, saying things fast and slow, and rhyming. Even in just the first two lessons I could see a difference in how he would sound words out. Instead of pausing in between sounds and saying "pih-ih-guh...pihihguh?? What's that?" he learned to instead smoothly sound out "piiig...pig!"

JayBird would do great on each day's lesson until the last couple of tasks when he would then be ready to be done. But together we persevered and would finish the lesson. When doing lesson 7, some sounds were put together for the first time to form words. This was very exciting for JayBird! He wanted to go on and do more and read more words, which prompted us to combine lessons 7 through 11, which had a lot of repetition that we skimmed over (too much repetition and review for his desire) and just a few new things, like putting already learned sounds together to form new words.

It is so wonderful to see this progress so soon. Exciting for me as a mom and encouraging for JayBird as an early reader! So Hop on Pop goes down as his first book, which interestingly, is the first book his Dad ever read as an early reader too. Like father like son.

Into my readers’ hearts:

~ What was your child’s “first book”?

~ What (very) early reader books, such as Bob books, have you loved? Share your links and resources, especially if you know any free online resources!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Our Learning Room

After four garage sales to raise money, many coats of paint, and several trips to Ikea, the Learning Room is complete. As JayBird would say, "First it was an office. Then it was an office and a bedroom. Now it is the Learning Room!"

DSC00717.resized We made these bookshelves out of rain gutters from Lowes. They are completely customizable so you can size them exactly how you'd like. They make a great place to put books facing out so that your children can see them better.

DSC00625.resized Covers of books are much more attractive than the spines of books.

DSC00624.resizedBelow the bookshelves are two woven baskets to keep library books in or to easily move book around the house. Above the bookshelves is a curtain wire from Ikea to hang the kids' artwork. 

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The little desks are actually
side tables from Ikea. They are only $7.99 and come in 8 different colors! We looked at several children's desks and decided to go with this inexpensive option that works even better for us. They can each have their separate space, which is needed right now since JellyBean is a toddler and wants to grab everything, but then we can also pull the desks out and put them together if we want a joint space. We then added children's chairs from the children's dept.

DSC00633.resized My desk (which is no longer available in white) is in the middle which, as you can tell, hides my computer when closed (and any junk and clutter that may accumulate!) It also has three spacious drawers. One drawer houses our current home school books and curriculum. The other two are not yet being utilized. The bins on the top are also from Ikea, though I can not find a link for them. We also have this corner basket organizer, however it is not up yet because I have not decided where to put it and sort of forgot about it as we designed the room and put up the bookshelves.

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This is JellyBean's
Tot School cubby area from Target which hold her Tot Trays. Tot Trays hold fun activities that toddlers can do on their own or with others. These activities expose tots to early learning skills in a fun way. They can easily take a tray down all by themselves, do the activity, and ideally they learn to then put the activity back on the tray and back into the cubby. I will rotate the activities that go in the cubbies, especially as I build up my activity stash. Activities can be anything like drawing, gluing, stacking, pouring, sorting, and so much more. Anything that teaches some sort of early learning concept or fine motor skill works! And later, activities can coordinate with learning numbers and the alphabet. Have a fun activity idea? Please share! To read more about Tot School and Tot Trays, click the linked phrases above.

DSC00634.resizedSince homeschooling mamas are always interested in storage, here is a picture of my closet. A little more than half of it has shelves. I also added some plastic drawers. My closet filled up fast! I really could use even more space! I must keep pretty organized (although it is not as organized as I would like) otherwise it starts to overflow with things and then I feel like I really don’t have enough room in their! I store things in a variety ways, but mainly in storage totes or in cardboard magazine files.

DSC00630.resized Now this wall, although it looks quite barren, has a pretty neat function. Did you notice my kid's "names" on there? The wall is magnetic! This is so much fun for all of us! JayBird enjoys spelling out words with magnetic letters. JellyBean enjoys forcefully pushing them off the wall. (She's sort of in a destructive mode these days.) It is only magnetic half way up the wall. I will probably hang learning posters on the upper half as needed.

DSC00628.resized I have even more pockets of storage hanging on our door. Not all of the pockets are in use yet, but I am sure I will find things for to occupy them. This happened to be on clearance at Joann's a while back. Below is our calendar purchased from the Dollar Tree. It is a good starter calendar, but I don't think it will hold up very well. I'm already in the market for a more durable one.

We are so happy about this room! In fact, it is my favorite room in the house because it is so bright! The intention of this room is to be a learning room and not a play room, although I can't seem to keep the kids out of it! I often find toys from their bedroom have wandered in. The room definitely has the new and fresh feel to it for them. We all end up spending a lot of time in this room, whether it is for focused learning ("school") time or for learning through lots of play.

Now we all know...looks can be deceiving! Our Learning Room might make me seem creative and such, but really, I can't take the credit. My inspiration came from another home schooling mama's
Reading Room. She was my inspiration and now I have a truly inspiring room! I just love it in there with the bright colors. And thankfully, so do the kids!

Into my readers' hearts:
~ Do you have any Tot School activity ideas to share?
~ Do you have a calendar that you love to use with your children to teach them the month, days, etc? If so, send me a link if it can be purchased online!
~ Do you have a designated "school room" or area? Feel free to share information about what is working for you or share a link to your blog with pictures of your school room.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ready to Learn!

"Mom...let's learn!"

"When are we going to learn?"

"Mom, let's go learn in the Learning Room."

These have all been comments from JayBird (age 4) in the last couple of weeks since we have finished the formation of our "Learning Room". He is obviously excited about it...and so am I! JayBird will eagerly share with others that "First it was an office. Then it was an office and a bedroom. And now it is the Learning Room! We are going to LEARN stuff in the Learning Room!"

I'm so glad that JayBird is excited to learn. What he doesn't realize though, is that he is learning all the time, whether in the Learning Room or not. It's like sneaking in veggies. I still serve vegetables with our meal at the dinner table as normal but I also sneak veggies into other unsuspecting places. You know, like adding pureed red pepper to spaghetti sauce or zucchini into scrambled eggs or muffins. Or even spinach into brownies! You do know what I'm talking about, right? (Well if not, then you should try it sometime! Your kids will never know!) So just like I sneak veggies into my kids' food, I also sneak learning opportunities into so much of what we do. Although, it isn't really sneaking because JayBird loves to learn! So I don't have to be sneaky about it. Now we also just happen to have a beautiful space for some of our learning to occur, though we are undoubtedly using the rest of our home, our yard, and the whole world around us to learn every day...with everything we do....everywhere we go. We turn many opportunities into a learning opportunity. But for those more planned, focused times of learning (like when serving vegetables at the dinner table in all their full glory) we now have our Learning Room. It is done just in time to start our Little Hearts to Heaven (from Heart of Dakota) preschool curriculum. I'll share more about our Learning Room with pictures in another post soon.

Join us as we all learn together, in our Learning Room and out! Much of our focus will be on what we are learning through our Heart of Dakota preschool program as we learn phonics, math, science, art, drama, and music through Bible stories. This is mainly JayBird's preschool program, but JellyBean will be along for the ride and join right in with us as she can. Afterall, she does seem to think she is as big as her big brother (whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the circumstances!) We will certainly share many other things we do in addition to our actual curriculum since learning continues to happen all around us. Please let us know that you are here, learning along side us! Send us a comment here and there. Share your ideas with us! Let us all learn together and inspire one another!