Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year

I did a brief explanation of Chinese New Year with M today. We then read Sam and the Lucky Money. A very sweet book about a boy who discovers how to be selfless.  It is a beautiful story and perfect for preschoolers.

RED ENVELOPE - We then made our own red envelope by cutting out a piece of red paper in this shape. I then drew the Chinese lucky fortune symbol on it and gave M some glue and sparkly decorations to use.  I love these kind of art projects that exercise fine motor skills and also cause her to be focused and quiet for a long while.  She was very excited to get her own dollar bill in her red envelope to spend however she wants. Dollar Store, here we come!

YEAR OF THE HORSE - I also informed M that this year is considered the year of the horse.  She enjoys doing Do-A-Dot pictures, so I printed out a horse outline and allowed her to color it with dots.

Here are two other art projects I thought were cute, but I didn't get around to preparing.


I like using the current season or holidays to create preschool activities. It's much easier than actually being creative. Haha. ;)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy Birthday Mr. Mozart!

     This past week we did a unit on music in honor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His birthday is TODAY! January 27th, 1756. This theme was inspired by Robyn's entry in the Creative Curriculum Challenge. Thank you Robyn!
I am a fan of classical music and an advocate of all arts. Even though my preschooler probably won't comprehend the historical significance of Mozart, I knew we would have fun talking about him and doing projects associated with music.

This link to instructions for this super easy craft was fun to do with Marley.  She was happy to help and have an instrument to hold and play. The sound was not what I'd hoped but the project was simple, fast, and enough to capture Marley's attention.

I took the girls to DISNEYLAND this past week for Homeschool Day and while we were there, I decided to use the Disneyland resources to enhance our music unit.  We went through Tarzan's Treehouse and both my girls had fun playing the musical instruments at the end of the attraction.  I pointed out the instruments and had Marley help me name them. We also stopped to listen to The Pearly Band in Fantasyland.  We love hearing their covers of all our favorite disney tunes.  I like to ask Marley to name that tune.  She listens carefully and usually guesses them pretty quickly. Listening to music and identification is a fun way to get kids exercising that part of the brain that aids audio recognition.

I asked Marley what instrument she would like to play if she could play any instrument. She said the violin. I pulled up this video of Hilary Hahn (a very talented violinist), and showed it to Marley. It was a beautiful piece! Marley watched the whole video attentively and when it was over, she said "She did really good!" I adore watching her love for the arts grow.  So special.

I like to write a word out on our chalkboard easel each week and Marley will trace the word as best she can to help her fine motor skills and letter memory. We also review each letter and sound a few times per week.

WRITE YOUR OWN MUSIC.  This is a cute one that young children enjoy.  I took a few feet of butcher paper and drew 5 equally spaced out (about 4 inches apart) lines across, to create the look of blank sheet music.  I then printed several copies of music notes and cut them out.  Then I squeezed white glue all over the butcher paper and let Marley "write her own music." After she was finished, I tried to play her song out on the piano. It sounds silly, but it is fun and made my daughter giggle to hear her unique song played out.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Deciding On A School Name

     Yes, we are homeschoolers.  Just after I gave birth to my first daughter we decided to homeschool our children.  Ever since, I have been on a mission to make sure they get the most amazing quality education I can give.
     One of my favorite projects was deciding on a name for our "private school." In California it is required to file as a private school to enroll children ages 6-18 in a school other than public. This is the process for legally homeschooling children.  You would do so through the California Department of Education.
It seems complicated at first, but it is really simple and several sites give step-by-step instructions on how to file your affidavit.

     I've been thinking about a name for the past few weeks. I wanted a name that represents our family educational philosophy and something that sounds legitimate.  I wrote out a long list of words that expressed independence, art, beauty, and hope for the future. My husband helped me come up with some options and we both agreed on the name...

     He thought is sounded girly at first, haha. But I explained to him why I loved it.  It reflects my hope for our children to be educated in a beautiful and loving environment.  I want to create an educational environment that encourages passions, goals, and dreams. I want our children to be "inspired" in their education to use their imaginations and their intelligence to expand their knowledge and to make goals for physical, spiritual, and emotional happiness.

Philosophy: "Our homeschool is based on inspired interest led learning, with an emphasis on hands on experience.  We highly encourage artistic expression and innovation."

Our school will be divided into 3 different school levels:
      Inspired Play Academy (ages 3-7)
     Inspired Learning Academy (ages 8-12)
     Inspired Knowledge Academy (ages 13-17)

Fun! Fun! Fun! I firmly believe the key to a great education as a child is to play, have fun, experience games, go outdoors, go on field trips, and so forth. I like the term "play" because it expresses the joy that children should be experiencing in these early years.  Aside from the obvious basics of reading, writing and math skills we will be covering, play and fun will be nurturing the brain and giving the children energy to think and ask questions and teach themselves. A happy child is eager to learn.

The reason I decided to separate our middle school at the age of 8 is because in our faith, we believe that when children turn 8 years old, they have reached "the age of accountability." This is the age when children are given the opportunity to be baptized and will feel a sense of responsibility for their decisions and choosing right from wrong.  I believe this is a very special time for children and is a beautiful right of passage into experiencing the gifts of free-agency.   I look forward to my children being baptized and I want them to feel that they are advancing in all aspects of life. The term "learning" indicates observation and analysis.  Discerning right from wrong is a significant portion of this age range and I believe children do the most "learning" at this stage.

Once my children become teens, educational goals will begin taking on a different form.  I believe at this age, our children can start to explore their passions and what they would like to do in life.  They will be taking control of their educational direction and building their own paths. At this stage, I hope my children will begin to explore their skills and abilities. When I think of "knowledge" I think of applying education to life and enhancing the mind by setting goals.

     I love our homeschool name and regardless of the bumps, accidents, and roadblocks we will encounter, I intend for our journey to be inspiring.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Very First Sewing Lesson!

I am finding that my best homeschool lessons are last minute activities prompted by interest or questions.  Taking my cues from what M wants to learn or is interested in, is part of what makes homeschooling so awesome.

The other day I was fixing a pair of pants. As I sat at my machine, measuring, marking, cutting, etc., M came up and started watching me asking "What are you doing?" "Why are you cutting that mommy?" My first reaction was to tell her I was busy and she should go play. She remained quiet and stayed watching me attentively.  I stopped and noticed her curious eyes.  After mentally slapping myself on the wrist for ignoring such an obvious teaching opportunity, I smiled and asked her if she would like to learn how to sew.  Her smile was so big while she nodded profusely.

I grabbed some extra fabric and decided to walk her through the steps of sewing a Simple Drawstring Bag.  I really don't know too much about sewing, just the basics, but I know enough to teach some beginner projects.  I knew she would be most impressed with something simple and quick.  The drawstring bag was perfect.  I talked her through all the steps and asked her to help me with as much as possible. Note: Don't be afraid to let kids handle scissors or needles. Monitor closely. And let them experience things for themselves. Being very involved will help them advance quickly and they will remember the activities with great appreciation. 
I sat her in my lap and showed her how to position her hands on the fabric to guide it through the machine.  She was so quiet and careful.  Her little hands were so carefully placed that it was the most precious view ever! (My instant thought: Quick! Grab the camera!)
M couldn't reach the peddle of course, so I told her to tell me when I should start. She said "Go!" and I pressed the peddle and guided the fabric through her hands and fingers.

She loved the experience so much and was incredibly proud of the final product.  Showing her bag to daddy was a special moment.

At this rate, she will know more about sewing than I do by the time she is a teen. I'm sure she will be teaching me soon enough. :D

Thursday, January 9, 2014

K is for Kid who drives me nuts!

We reviewed K and had an "eventful" morning...

     First, I used my little chalkboard easel to go over how to write K.  M asked if she could try it. :) After I did a little happy dance in my head, I told her she could try it.  One nice thing about a chalkboard is that after erasing an image, the lines are still faintly visible.  Makes for perfect writing practice for little ones.  M traced the faint lines and was very proud of her K.

     Since M is into princesses, I thought it would be fun to discuss Kings (aka..the dads of our favorite princesses). She liked talking about them.  Just carrying a dialogue with a preschooler can be so fun and support creative thinking and visualization.

     We set up M's new bowling set (dollar store item) in the kitchen and did some bowling.  My girl loves to bowl! I stopped playing long before she did.  I explained to her about the term "kingpin" and "kegler" because they both start with K! Works nicely doesn't it?  Did you know that "kegler' means bowler? Neither did I until today. We both learned something new. Haha.

MID-MORNING TANTRUM: After she was finished playing the bowling game, I asked M to clean up the set.  She tried to run away and I physically picked her up and brought her back to the set and said she had to clean it up. She threw a lovely tantrum.  She cried and screamed "I can't! I'm so tired!" It was not fun.  I had to stare at this screaming crying face and explain to her (using an angry voice) that she was going to clean it up whether she liked it or not and that sitting there crying was not going to change that fact.  My explanation did not make it any easier and it did not make her calm down.  She cleaned up each piece while still crying her eyes out and I wanted to tear my hair out. But the set was cleaned up and I didn't give into her excuses.  I don't think I handled it quite right but I hope someone (her or I) learned something from the frustrated outburst. At this point, I'm just glad it is over. But I wish I had gotten a picture of her flipping out. It would have been funny for the blog. Oh well, next time...and I'm sure there will be many next times. Haha.

     K IS FOR KING ART: After taking a time out (my time out), I gathered up my energy and we did an art project.  I printed out a K outline and instructed M to color in the K however she wanted.  I told her to cut out the K (her favorite part) and to glue it down.  I cut out a crown shape for her and she glued it onto her K to make him a "king."  I then gave M some sequin confetti to bedazzle her King's crown.  I loved watching her eyes light up when she saw me dump out the sparkly pieces on the table. The whole project was done calmly and with smiles, as if the prior incident never happened. It's funny how quickly we can move on from frustrating events.

     We had our ups and downs, but overall it was an educational morning. We learned about K. K is for Kindness and kindness does not come easily during a tantrum. ;)

Catching Up #5: What Happened In December?

     The holidays were crazy and fun and full of learning opportunities. ;) Of course due to vacations, and family gatherings, I fell way behind on posts but the educating continued!

     Some friends from our church met us at a local park and I prepared a craft for the kids to make paper christmas tree ornaments.

      PAPER ORNAMENTS - Here are examples of the two ornaments we made.
Paper Ornament #1

Super easy and can be fun for any age.
Paper Ornament #2

     SNOWBALL FIGHT - After the craft, I lead the kids in a snowball fight (Southern California style). I rolled up several white socks into balls and gave each team a bag of the "snowballs." All the kids had a blast! There was so much laughing and running, it was very memorable. I highly recommend this activity for the holidays.

     Later in the month, my brother was able to go through the LDS temple.  This is a very big deal in our faith.  Being worthy of going into the temple is a wonderful milestone and I was very emotional and proud of my brother.  This turned into a field trip for my girls.  I believe it is very important for children to have experiences and lessons regarding religion and/or faith.  I am certain that the human mind has a part that is stimulated solely from spiritual experiences. This was a perfect opportunity to explain the temple a little more to M.  She was very excited for her uncle to enter, because she is always telling me she wants to grow up and get married in the temple "like mommy."  The best and most effective way of teaching children is to lead by example.  M has so many wonderfully righteous family members who are great examples.  Since the temple was a very special day, I helped M get dressed up for the occasion.  She was so excited to wear a new dress she had been saving for a special occasion.  These pictures don't do the cuteness justice! She was very proud of her big girl dress.

     We took M ice skating for the first time! I have been looking forward to this day since she was born.  I love ice skating and hope she enjoys it also.  When we first arrived and M saw the ice, she refused to go on the ice. She was very scared and said she wanted to go home.  My husband talked her into putting on her skates and just standing on them.  We told her that she didn't have to go on the ice but that we would give her a treat if she did.  Yes, we are incentive based sometimes, and I see nothing wrong with it.  The world itself is incentive based.  The treat peaked her interest and she walked over to the ice.  When she got to the entrance to the ice, she started to back away and refused again.  At that point, daddy pulled her out on the ice and hugged her to calm her down.  He assured her that we were both so proud that she was on the ice even though she was scared.  Little pep talk after another, she became more comfortable being there.  Baby steps, baby steps.  By the end of the session, she was smiling, laughing, and skating on her own holding onto the wall. I was so glad we pushed her a bit beyond her comfort level.  I was thinking if we had left when she refused to skate, she would not have learned how to face her fears, and she would not have realized how much she liked ice skating.  Pushing your limits can result in great accomplishments and epiphanies.