Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We Are Thankful

     I am a little apprehensive to teach the Pilgrim-Native American story. I remember as a child thinking it all sounded kind of cheesy. Once I was old enough to research the actual origin on my own, I was disappointed to find that the actual friendly-feast was not at all like the Thanksgiving feast we were taught about in school. And don't even get me started on the betrayal and horrible crimes against humanity that followed between those "friends".  I'll get off my soapbox now. ;)
     Preschoolers need simplicity, so I found a cute story read aloud on YouTube.  "The Story of Thanksgiving".  This book refers to Pilgrims and Native Americans, the Mayflower, and the feast. It gives a basic account of the event. But does not go too much in depth. For M's age, I thought it was perfect for the purposes of learning why, when, and how.
     However, I like to focus this holiday more on being grateful for what we have and thanking our Heavenly Father for those things.

Here are a few of the Thanksgiving activities we did this week:

TURKEY HANDPRINTS - How cute are these handprints? As you can see, my 1 year old did not like the paint. But I love that smudgy little turkey so much! It really displays how difficult and funny it was trying to get her tiny hand to open up.

PAPER TURKEY - I cut out all the basic pieces. I had M help by cutting the fringe part of the feathers. She loves cutting, so she was very excited to do this part. She glued it all together herself.
Very proud of her Paper Turkey
PUMPKIN PANCAKES - These turned out SO delicious! Breakfast for dinner on Thanksgiving Eve sounds great to me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Quarterly Progress

I will be doing an assessment of what M has learned every 3 months. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the ability to do self-paced work and to focus on the things that I (as her parent) feel are important.  However, I would like to see if she is somewhat keeping up with the average educational standards.

  • Letters and Phonics
  • Colors and Shapes
  • Vocabulary
  • Numbers and Counting
  • Drawing and Cutting
  • Sharing and Socialization
Letters and Phonics. M is not catching onto the phonics to well yet. I've noticed when I go over naming letters, she gets easily distracted and seems very disinterested in naming letters. She does know several letters and their sounds, but she dislikes it so much that she always tries to change the subject.  We have been using the BOB Books. I like the BOB Books because they are very short simple stories and the set is easy to transport anywhere.  M is for sure a "sight reader." She can read several of them on her own, but she is memorizing words instead of letters and sounds. I am still very proud of her progress. My 3.5 year old is reading! It's pretty cool.  Hopefully the phonics thing will fall into place later on. We will keep working on it. CLICK HERE to see a video of my girl reading.

Colors and Shapes. Nailed it! She knows her colors and all the basic shapes.  I think I will step it up and start teaching her the more difficult shapes like trapezoid and rhombus. She enjoys colors very much.  She seems to be very visual and artistic. Pictures and colors keep her attention much better than letters and numbers.

Vocabulary. Confession: M watches a lot of movies. I grew up watching television all the time so it is so difficult for me to turn it off. But I've noticed that her vocabulary has grown so much from watching movies.  Sometimes I ask her how she learned a word and she will tell me what movie it is from. Aside from that, 3 year olds are still building their vocabulary by asking "What's that?" everywhere they go. I find it is very important to answer those questions as much as possible. Even when in a hurry or at an inconvenient time, keep in mind that these questions are learning impulses. Your child wants to learn and expand their knowledge of the world. I try my best to stop what I am doing and look M in the eye and answer her questions and even start a discussion regarding the subject.  I honestly believe by just carrying on a dialogue with your child, you are feeding their desire to learn and increasing their brain capacity.

Numbers and Counting.  Again, M does not like looking at letters or numbers, so identifying numbers has been a struggle.  I still can't tell if she doesn't know them or if she is just much more interested in hands on activities. She can count to about 20 without help, but when distracted by something else in the room, she will make 2-3 mistakes. I try to include counting in everything we do. "How many green beans should I put on your plate?" Then I ask her to count them as I place them on her plate.  She is good about pointing her finger at objects while counting. This skill helps preschoolers make the conceptual connection between the numbers and objects.

Drawing and Cutting.  This is M's favorite thing to do. I think I usually find a daily activity that involves something creative for her to do. Painting, coloring, drawing, and tracing all help develop that writing grasp that is needed for literature purposes.  Most preschoolers love scissors and cutting things...which can be a disaster if not monitored. (I had 1 inch bangs at 3 years old) Haha! M can cut along a pattern pretty well. When there is a project to do with glue and cutting she is very focused and will sit silently and cut and glue for at least a half hour. NOTE: It is so important to have a comfortable, kids-sized pair of scissors that easily open and shut.  There is no reason to make the activity difficult or frustrating for the child.

Sharing and Socialization.  M excels in the area! She adores everyone and is not shy.  She makes friends easily with kids of all ages. I just adore that kids this age can randomly meet peers and not even know their names but still.. "That's my friend, mommy!" We should really follow our kids' example when it comes to making friends.  
She is normally pretty good at sharing. Of course this usually depends on the appeal of the toy. ;) When kids are playing together, I think it is important for the parents to observe closely to see how they are interacting together. I like to let M play with friends with minimal mom intervention. However, I have found that when I do step in and take her aside and explain to her how better to handle her situation, she does listen to me and I feel she learned something very important. I like to focus on the Golden Rule. I want M to be able to see things from the perspectives of others. I mean, really, isn't this the best way to make a difference in the world? By raising our kids to respect and care for each other.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Educational activities can be found anywhere and regarding everything! Let's put it to the test...

Challenge me to create a lesson plan using A THEME OF YOUR CHOICE!
Post your idea for a subject/theme in the comments of this post. You may enter as many ideas as you like. I will choose the most creative idea submitted and create a preschool lesson plan about the subject.
The winning idea will be announced the day before Thanksgiving, and the lesson plan will be posted during the first week of December.
Get those clever ideas flowing! I look forward to seeing your entries. :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Prehistoric Play

     We get a lot of packages at our house. A lot. So we always have plenty of boxes and packaging paper.  We received some just yesterday and I wanted to do a project with it, but what?

     Before beginning our lesson on prehistoric people. We started out by watching Encino Man. I know, odd choice. But it is a movie I am familiar with, so I fast forwarded through a few parts of mature content and pointed out moments of educational value throughout the film. M actually really enjoyed it.  She kept laughing and saying,"That cave man is so silly!" Funny enough, the movie also taught her the value of a bath and brushing our teeth. ;)  You could also watch Ice Age or The Croods, to relate to the lesson.

     After the movie, I went over what a paleontologist does and how we can't learn about prehistoric people without fossils and other evidence in the ground.  I showed her a chart of common cave symbols and we started making our own cave drawings. I taped the paper up on the wall and we each had a paintbrush and some paints.  

     After we finished painting, I explained that cave drawings usually tell a story. So I helped her create a story from the drawings we made.  Here is her story:
     Once upon a time there was a girl who had a pet duck and she was playing. Then a water monster came out of the water and scared her. It started to rain. Then a boy wanted to be the girl's friend, so he saved her. The boy killed the water monster and the sun came out. The boy and girl went back in the cave and played with toys. The end.
We then made some Salt Dough together to make fossils.  It is a fun and easy sensory activity that allows preschoolers to be heavily involved. We used mini toy dinosaurs and leaves to make our fossils. (You can also use large plastic animals and do footprint fossils.)

     I wish I had mixed more food coloring into my water before mixing, but other than that, the fossils turned out great. M learned about prehistoric evidence and prehistoric people while enjoying these super fun activities. I love hearing her try to say "paleontologist." And yes, sometimes our activities are so fun that we forget to change out of penguin pajamas. ;)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Service Project - Count Your Blessings

     BLESSING BAGS. We have all seen people on corners asking for help due to their bad circumstances.  I'm pretty sure we have all wanted to help somehow, but didn't really want to hand over cash (which I think is fine!). I've handed over cash before, but I prefer to give something I know will be helpful like a water bottle or a banana. A friend of mine shared this idea on FB, and I loved it so much that I knew it would be a great homeschool project for me and my daughter Marley. The blessing bags are filled with useful hygiene products and snacks, and are ready to go in your car for when you come across someone you feel prompted to help. And if you never feel the need to give them out, its also great emergency preparedness for your car!

     We made our field trip out to the dollar store and went through the aisles picking out things we wanted to put in the blessing bags. While walking through the store, I explained the project to Marley and we discussed how some people do not have homes or food, and its nice to help them sometimes because Heavenly Father wants his children to care for each other. She recalled the time when her dad gave a homeless man the shoes off his own feet because the man needed shoes. She was excited to tell me "Daddy gave the man his shoes, because he doesn't have a home like us." Today she also pointed out to me that if someone doesn't have a home, they can't have a Christmas tree! She loves her Christmas tree. Making her aware of people in need was a cherished lesson.

     When we got home we laid out all the supplies on the table and lined up our empty Ziploc Bags. Marley did all the packing, I just kept handing her the bags and told her how many of each product to put in the bag. (Counting practice applied!) I felt like each item we placed in the bag was a reminder of how many small blessings we have. Literally counting our blessings. Marley was very happy to do most of the work herself. Independence is a wonderful thing to a 3 year old. We made 6 blessing bags. All the supplies were around $35 and we had a few items left over.
          Once the bags were filled, I asked her what message we should put inside the bag for the people. I gave her 4 or 5 options and she picked "Heavenly Father Loves You." I printed out the messages and cut a strip for each bag. We read the words together. (Reading practice!) She also placed the messages in the bags. Afterward I rearranged the bags to make them efficiently placed and pretty, but she doesn't need to know that. ;)

     This was an enriching project and perfect for this time of year. I feel like we both had a memorable and sweet experience putting these together and I look forward to handing them out with Marley in the car. I am thankful for all of my blessings! Pay it forward.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Ballet Class 2013

     One of my promises to my husband when agreeing to homeschool was to make sure our children participate in recreational social activities. Of course! Those are the things I will look forward to the most.  This year I picked ballet for M.  She was thrilled to go to each class, made lots of friends, and had a darling little recital on the last day of class.  She is very comfortable with other kids and makes friends easily. She also was very good at being patient waiting for her turn and following the teacher's instructions. So far so good! She had so much fun and ran into class on her tippy toes each time.

     Here are two out of hundreds of photos I took. And yes, I cried a bit. I'm such a sap and since I am a dancer, seeing my daughter passe and saute just made my heart glow! And as theatrical tradition goes, my husband brought M some flowers after the performance. She felt very special and could not stop smiling and talking. It was one of those mornings you wish you could re-live over and over. Priceless.
     I truly believe education in performing arts stimulates parts of the brain that are so important. Creativity, confidence, and artistic perception all enhance other skills in life.  She also became more physically coordinated and came home talking about growing healthy and strong. Loved it! I plan to always involve some sort of artistic activity for each theme we discuss. These are the things that make the world beautiful!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sending Candy To Our Troops

     A friend from church told us about a dental office in my area that was doing a "buy back" for leftover Halloween candy. They pay $1 per pound and then send the candy to our troops over seas.  I loved this idea! Knowing my girl would not find it easy to just give away her candy, I thought she might feel better about getting money in return.

     Learning opportunity! We discussed soldiers and how they protect our country. Since it is November, we were able to add American soldiers to our Thankful Tree.  I asked her if she would like to draw a picture for the soldiers to send with our candy. She quickly sat at the table waiting for her markers and crayons with a big smile.  

     The office greeted us with big smiles and were very excited to see that my daughter drew a picture for the troops. (Her picture is of a soldier next to a rainbow.) She created the rainbow using Do A Dot markers. We love these! The office receptionist thought it was so cute, she asked to take a picture of my daughter holding her picture and the candy.  We received $5 for our 5 pounds of candy and went straight to the store, where my daughter picked out a Decorate Your Own Piggy Bank. She has been wanting a piggy bank for a while, so decorating one was extra special for her. 

     The whole morning was fun and memorable. And I am glad to know that she is aware of our US troops and that mommy and daddy are grateful for all they do.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Love One Another

     Yesterday morning we were watching Reading Rainbow (one of my favorite educational shows for kids, so we bought the seasons off iTunes). Out of nowhere my daughter asked, "Why does he have very dark skin?" LeVar Burton is still inspiring children to ask questions. :) I replied, "Because all people are different and we are different colors." This led to other questions and it became a discussion. I decided to turn the discussion into an impromptu theme for the day. 
     I took her to the computer (I love the internet!) and showed her many pictures of different races and cultures.  I showed her pictures of mixed race families, which we happen to be! I am part Hispanic and my husband is Caucasian. My older daughter is tan with brown eyes and brown hair, where my younger daughter is fair with blond hair and blue eyes.
Ironically, she has never noticed or pointed out that our family is different colors, but she noticed it in someone else.  My sister in law also pointed out how sweet it was that she doesn't view us as different colored people, but as her family.  So precious!
     This is when having a stash of colored construction paper is so nice.  I pulled some out and fed them into my printer. I printed out several people outlines. We then cut out different color paper dolls and decorated them with eyes and hair.  And we called them "Different Colored Friends."  She was so happy with the finished product, she kept making more people afterward. She enjoyed making purple people with green hair, and orange people with black hair. It was a fun project and taught a sweet lesson. I believe that when concepts like this are taught early with sincerity and grace, children will grow up without the unnecessary fears and prejudices that existed before.

Catching Up #4: Halloween Homeschooling

     I had no idea how much education is involved in Halloween! I mean, it is so important to learn how to carve a proper Jack O Lantern. Okay, maybe not a life changing lesson, but one that will stay with you for years to come.  
     My husband has enjoyed joining the homeschool quest. He is learning to turn everything into a learning opportunity.
     PUMPKIN CARVING - He carefully walked our daughter through the carving process and invited her to participate. I've noticed (at least in my daughter's case) many times the best way to learn is to be hands on.  
     PUMPKIN PAINTING - While painting our small pumpkins, I noticed we didn't have the colors my daughter wanted. The problem quickly turned into a lesson: we mixed colors to make other colors.  She learned that blue and red make purple, and that red and white make pink. 
     PUMPKIN SEED TOASTING -  I also taught my daughter how to toast pumpkin seeds on the stove. My tip: I do not rinse the seeds. I've noticed the seeds have a tastier pumpkin flavor. I like them extra toasty and then toss them with salt.  Delicious and healthy! 

     SLEEPY HOLLOW HISTORY - The week of Halloween, I made the lesson theme The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. My daughter loves anything spooky and scary, so I knew she would get a kick out of it.  Every day we talked about where and when the story took place. I showed her on a map where New England was.  She was only interested in these facts after we watched the Disney cartoon version of Sleepy Hollow. She asked to re-watch the cartoon several times that week. I let her watch it, as long as I could teach her another fact about the history behind the story. It was a great theme and I plan on reusing it next year, probably with some related art projects and crafts.

Catching Up #3: Fox News Segment

     A friend who works with Fox News, let us in on an opportunity to be part of a Halloween event on tv.  The event was for "Eek at the Greek" in Los Angeles. They had kids in costumes promoting the event.  I figured it would be so fun for my girls to be on the news. It also turned out to be a perfect learning opportunity! 
     My 3 year old was able to see how the camera guy worked and how the news reporter listened to her earpiece waiting for her turn to speak. My daughter was fascinated. She at least learned a basic idea of how people get on television.  

Learning opportunities are EVERYWHERE. 

She was very excited to see herself on the news later that day.  Here she is before the news segment in her Punky Brewster costume. (Yes, she is a huge Punky Brewster fan, due to her very 80s mom). And my little one in her skeleton pajamas.
     The Punky costume was such a hit, that she became the spotlight of the segment.  She was a little shy once the lights were all pointed at her, but she was very calm. I was so glad she was able to experience the whole thing.  Both of my girls had a blast being treated like a diva with breakfast pastries and cupcakes.  The drive home was very quiet since they both crashed from all the sugar. It was a good morning.  

Catching Up #2: Cooking with a 3 Year Old

     About a month ago we had our first cooking lesson.  We had gone over our scripture of the week and reviewed our letters and we were done. I was looking around for an activity to do.  I noticed we happened to have 4 overly ripe bananas and the day was delightfully gloomy and cold.  So of course, I asked my daughter if she wanted to bake banana bread with me. She was very excited and gave a gitty laugh as I sat her on the counter.  I gave her the fun job of mashing up the bananas as I gathered up the other ingredients.  This is the recipe we used.  
A little trick to great recipes: Google "Best recipe for..." when doing your online search. So far, I have had great results. ;)

I didn't have buttermilk, so I used the substitute for buttermilk (1 cup of regular milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice).  It still turned out very tasty!

M wanted to touch everything! So I had to keep reminding her what she could and couldn't touch. It was a little exhausting for me but she was SO happy to be so involved in the process.

     I made sure to dab her nose and cheeks with flour and told her a proper baker always gets a little messy. She thought it was hilarious. I'll never forget the smile on my husband's face when he came home and she touched his nose with flour and she said, "Daddy, you're a baker!" 

We had so much fun cooking together, I want to try to do one cooking project each week with her . We shall see if I remember to do that. Haha.

Catching Up #1: Disney Schooling

     Since I have had so many valuable homeschooling adventures already, I need to go back and document some of them.

     Back in September, we were fortunate enough to participate in "Not Back To School Day" at DiSNEYLAND! We are avid pass holders and I was so excited to learn of this annual event.  We went and met a few fellow homeschoolers and had a great time on a very uncrowded day, since most kids were actually in school. ;)  We were able to really enjoy the park and meet many princesses and actually stay and chat with them.  My girls had a lovely day.


     I met a homeschool family I adored. They had at least 5 kids and all the kids were polite, well spoken, and outgoing.  One little girl was obviously a bookworm, as she buried her nose in a novel after smiling at me and saying "Hello" during introductions. I loved that the whole family was friendly, intellectual, and NORMAL. I say that jokingly, since my husband often jokes about homeschooling kids being weird kids with problems.  We know its not true, but it is refreshing to meet wonderful families who are homeschoolers.

It was on this day that I realized, my children might be missing out on a lot of things most children in public school will be doing, but the children in public school will be missing out on all the extraordinary things we will be doing as well. We are all having memorable experiences. And again the world is just as it should be.

           I also have big plans for homeschooling using Disneyland. Stay tuned for that!

Deciding to Homeschool: 1st Day Jitters

     I knew I wanted to homeschool since I was pregnant with this little princess.  I had never thought about it before. It was just an instinct that told me it was the best thing for my child.  And I stress "...for my child." I do not judge or criticize the decision to choose other methods of education.  I firmly believe that all children are different and need different things.  I have faith that loving parents are blessed with the tools to make the right decisions for their own children. 

     The more I researched my options and thought and prayed about it, I knew more firmly that homeschooling would be my choice. So when it came time to look at preschools, I was so excited that I had already had many years experience as a preschool teacher (my occupation choice to get me through college). It has been so easy to plan out activities, games, books, etc. Go me!

     However, I still have all the insecurities, and reservations most people have when contemplating the homeschool journey.  I still wonder if I'll be holding my children back. I still think they might miss out on all the fun things their friends will be doing.  I still fear that they won't properly learn how to interact with others. I still hope we can live off one income, since I will not be returning to work.  When I drop to my knees to ask my Heavenly Father, "Please, can't I just decide to do public school? Can't I just do what most people are doing?" I get the spiritual support I need to continue with my own decision.  I get that little voice in my head saying, "Sure you can. You can choose public school. But you know you can do this. And you know that your children will have an amazing experience in the process. It's your decision." Well played little voice, well played.

     This Fall we did it! We started our 1st preschool year at home.  I downloaded my curriculum from Confessions of A Slacker Mom (I loved her simple and laid out preK activities based on scriptures, and its all FREE). My daughter enjoyed the "school" routine and was very happy to sit and learn with mom. 

     My absolute favorite part is that we begin each lesson with a prayer and we end them with a hug. When I wrap up the lesson using supportive words, I see my daughter's face light up, and I am confident that I am the best teacher she will ever have.  This is exactly what I had hoped for! I know I am in for some struggles and stress and tears in the future challenges of homeschooling, but I know in my heart this is right.