When Life Get’s in the Way…Routine Saves the Day!

 

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Captivated by a slug he found at nature preschool

Things have been pretty crazy at our house lately.  It seems like our schedule has been packed from sunup till sundown.  By the end of the day, I feel like I have been run over by a pack of wild horses, or maybe just four crazy, rambunctious kids.  But don’t get me wrong we have been having a lot of fun.

We visited with friends and family this past weekend, started a major home-improvement project on our house, went to nature preschool at our local arboretum, got our car serviced, and so-on and so-on.  To cap it all off, all four kids had dentist appointments first thing this morning.  Since we live in a rural area, this means a 45 minute drive each way.  Luckily we all survived, and we only found one cavity!  One of my daughters has the unfortunate luck of inheriting soft teeth, and is super prone to cavities, no matter how diligently she brushes.  After an hour at the dentist and another 45 minute drive home, we were finally ready to start our homeschool lesson for the day.

When weeks like these happen, finding time for homeschool can be a challenging task, but we always seem to find a way to fit it in.  One of the most important things for us is our homeschool routine that we have developed over the past few months.  When we first started using Mother Goose Time, I  frequently changed our routine and even the room we were working in.  Finally, after several months of trial and error we finally found a routine and a space that worked for us.  Having the consistency has definitely helped the boys (and me) get into the homeschool ‘mood’ more easily, and has helped me stay organized and prepared.  Our routine is especially helpful on days like today, when we’ve been running around all morning, and come home exhausted and wiped out.

Our Routine

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Our Circle Time Board

We typically start our day with circle time, and talk about the calendar (the date, day of week, and year), weather, and review the daily topic.  We also use this time to go over our letters, numbers, shape, and color of the month.  This may sound a little tedious to do with just 2 students (only one of whom is verbal), and more like something you’d expect to see in a traditional preschool setting.  At least that’s how it felt to me when I first started using Mother Goose Time.

When we first started homeschooling, I spent very little time doing circle time, unsure of how to adapt this activity for my small group of students.   However, as time passed I discovered that circle time was a great way to transition the boys from play time to learning time. It was also a great way to get my toddler involved – he loves picking out the weather for the day, and hanging it up on our circle time board. During this time I also go over the daily activities with my boys, and get input from them about their expectations for the day.

After circle time we move into the rest of our activities for the day.  The activities that are included in the Mother Goose Time curriculum vary from day-to-day, so I tend to adjust the order, depending on the mood of my kiddos.

IMG_1593IMG_1602Today we started with a math-oriented activity, in which we utilized some of our math manipulatives to complete simple word problems. Our duck manipulatives were used to represent herons, and red blocks to represent crawfish. Manipulatives help  turn math time into playtime, and helps addition and subtraction make sense to my son.  Most importantly, he was thrilled to being doing math problems just like the ones his big sisters do in school .  Meanwhile my youngest had fun using a tweezer like toy to pick up the ducks and transport them around the room.

Next the boys illustrated their own post cards, and dictated messages to send to some of their friends and family.  The postcards are included every month, and are a great way to share our homeschool experiences with relatives and friends.  Today the boys used a diamond-shaped stamp to create lilypads, and then sketched in some of their favorite pond critters.

We finish our days with an art project, so that the boys have lots of time to create.  Today we created Crawfish clappers, that we used along with the Mother Goose Time Music. IMG_1711 Each month Mother Goose Time sends a new CD, featuring a dozen or so songs that go along with the monthly theme.  The songs are inspired by a different musical genre each month, and have been a great way to expose the boys to different types of music.  The pop inspired songs this month, were particularly fun.  My youngest son loved dancing along with all the songs this month, especially the song about jumping like a frog.

After that we normally wrap up the day, by cuddling up on the couch and reading our book of the day (Check out my previous post if you want to find out more about the Mother Goose Time monthly book list–Read With Them, Everyday).  By the time we finish its normally time for lunch, and then the best part of the day-Nap Time!

Being able to cater the day around my son’s wants and needs, and his learning style is one of the reasons I decided to homeschool him this year. Although it took some trial and error in the beginning, I’m glad that we’ve finally found a routine that we are all comfortable with.   If you are in the early stages of homeschooling, I encourage you to try a couple different routines before you decide what will work for you and your children.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me, I’d love to hear from you.

Join me next week for more homeschool stories and of course more – Chaos on the Creek.

Disclaimer:  I am so grateful to have found this curriculum and am excited to share our experiences on the blog.  In exchange for my unbiased and honest reviews, Mother Goose time has provided us with the curriculum free of charge.

 

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Bugs at the Pond

This week we are learning about different insects found around ponds.  The boys really enjoyed participating in the activities this week, and have loved learning about different types of insects.  The Mother Goose Time curriculum does a really great job of making learning fun, and tying important developmental skills into each daily activity.IMG_1456   Within each month of Mother Goose Time curriculum, there are thirty-two developmental skills that are immersed into the daily lesson plans.  The developmental skills that children will be working on during each activity are conveniently listed above the activity in the teacher guide.  and referenced on a Developmental Continuum chart in the back of each teacher guide.  This chart can be used to assess how your child is progressing with each skill.

This week we focused on developing our fine and gross motor skills.  One of the boys’ favorite activities was learning about dragonflies, and how they carry their food with their feet.  The boys practiced being dragonflies by carrying bean bags across the room with their feet, and placing them into a box (no hands allowed).  It was a great activity which helped to develop gross motor skills and problem solving skills.

The next day we learned all about mosquitos, and practiced fine motor skills, as we discussed one of the mosquito’s many predators – the snapping turtle.  There was a cute poem included in the activity, which the boys enjoyed so much that they recited it the rest of the morning.  After reading through the poem a couple of times, the boys made their own snapping turtle out of a clothes pin and turtle picture, and used it to snap up mosquitos, fleas, minnows, and me!

We also talked about the mosquito’s most irritating characteristic, their bite.  Did you know that Mosquitos don’t actually eat the blood they suck, but use it instead to nourish their eggs?  Then the boys pretended to be biting mosquitos as they poked the letter P, with a paint-dipped cotton swab. IMG_1411 We ended up going rogue on this activity, asIMG_1401 I was supposed to roll a die which would determine how many times the boys poked their letter P.  However, the boys were so excited at the site of the cotton swabs and paint, that they went straight to work poking away at their letter ‘P’s’.  I let them roll with it, because they were having so much fun.  Honestly, sometimes its fun to just sit back and watch what they do, especially when they decided to use their mouths instead of hands to poke the ‘P’ with their cotton swab.

We were hoping to go for a bug hunt in our creek today, but with temperatures in the low 40’s, there weren’t many water insects to be found. So we strolled through our meadow and found some grasshoppers instead.

My son was thrilled that he caught three of them, and carefully carried them with us for the rest of our walk.  My younger son was just happy to be outside.

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Homeschooling my two boys this year has been such a rewarding experience.  While I can’t say that it has all gone as smoothly as I would have hoped, there are times when things exceed my expectations.  Thank you for letting me share my experiences with you, and again if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Disclaimer:  I am so grateful to have found this curriculum and am excited to share our experiences on the blog.  In exchange for my unbiased and honest reviews, Mother Goose time has provided us with the curriculum free of charge.

What’s in the Box?

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Each month, the boys and I look forward to the day when our new box comes from Mother Goose Time.  The box is full of all of our materials that we will need for the next month. We just received our April box on Friday, and I wanted to show you what’s included each month.  In April we will be learning all about Birds and Eggs, and it looks like we are going to have a lot of fun.

In each box there are bags containing materials for circle time and teacher materials.  Included in these bags are a CD with themed music for the month, math manipulatives, cookie cutter letters for the month, a themed calendar, and a new shape stamp.

We also receive a celebration kit each month, to help celebrate whatever holiday is happening that specific month (in months where there is not a holiday Mother Goose Time comes up with creative celebrations that tie in with the monthly theme.)  This month we received a celebration kit for Easter, which my children will love.

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The rest of the box is filled with 20 daily bags, with all the materials you need for the art projects, games, and other learning activities you will do each day.  Here is a look of what’s in store for us in April.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Mother Goose Time is designed to be used with both homeschooling families and preschools.  You can specify how many students you will be working with, and Mother Goose Time will ship enough materials for all of them.  Right now I just have my two little guys at home, but in the summer when their sisters join the mix, I order enough for four students.   You can order the Mother Goose Time curriculum on a monthly basis or in 3, 6 or 12 month intervals.   If you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  Also here is a sneak peek at the themes for next year, they look like so much fun!IMG_1219

Disclaimer:  I am so grateful to have found this curriculum and am excited to share our experiences on the blog.  In exchange for my unbiased and honest reviews, Mother Goose time has provided us with the curriculum free of charge.

Something for Everyone

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Despite my 9-year old being on Spring Break, snow and sleet (sneet?) is currently falling producing a distinctively un-springlike ambience.  “Spring” Break also means I have an extra student this week – my eldest is off school. IMG_0923 While one might assume that my nine-year old would be bored and uninterested in taking part in our preschool activities, they would be wrong!  The truth is, she actually loves joining in.  She relishes the opportunity to ‘play teacher’ with them, and loves teaching them about their letters and numbers.  She also loves learning about the different topics that are discussed.  This month’s pond theme happens to be right up her alley, as she is a huge nature enthusiast.

The Mother Goose Time  curriculum itself is so easy to work with, and is easily adaptable to so many age groups and learning levels. Yesterday we played a phonics game, in which we rolled a die with letters on it and then found a corresponding picture on the game board that started with that letter. The teacher guide has instructions on how to play the game, but then also has prompts below the activity which describe ways to challenge or simplify the activity.  My four-year old was comfortable playing the game as written, while my younger son enjoyed playing the game using the simplified instructions, and then my nine-year old enjoyed the game using the challenge prompts.  Everyone played by their own rules, and enjoyed the game.

Another example of the versatility of the curriculum can be found in the daily art projects.  IMG_0920This year, two types of art experiences in the curriculum: a make and play experience and an invitation to create experience.  The first is pretty self-explanatory, they are projects that are very cookie cutter, but in the end result in a prop of sorts that the child can play with throughout the day.  The latter experience is our favorite.

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An Invitation to Create, all set up and ready for the kiddos.

Invitations to create are very open-ended and therefore appealing to a large age range.  The children are given an inspirational piece ( a painting,a photograph, etc..),  and materials, and are sent on their way.  They are not given much in the way of instruction, but are encouraged to use their imaginations and be creative.  There are cues written down to provide a child with, if a child seems stuck, but we rarely need them.  The pieces of art the kids create are spectacular, and it is so interesting to sit back and watch their creative process.  Here some examples of our invitations to create this week (including my 9 year old’s):

 

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My 9 year old’s creation, entitled “Mud Fight On The Creek”.
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Everyone’s interpretations of the cattail photograph (seen on the left) on display.

The Mother Goose Time Curriculum is meant to be used with preschoolers, and would not be the curriculum I would use to homeschool my third grader.   However it does speak to its versatility that a preschool curriculum is able to captivate, entertain, and even challenge my nine-year old.  During the summer, I actually use the mother goose time curriculum with all four of my kids, and they all have a blast. We have been having so much fun with this unit, and I look forward to posting about more of our homeschool adventures. If you ever have any questions about any of my posts, please feel free to reach out and ask me anything.

Disclaimer:  I am so grateful to have found this curriculum and am excited to share our experiences on the blog.  In exchange for my unbiased and honest reviews, Mother Goose time has provided us with the curriculum free of charge.

 

 

Read With Them, Everyday

 

My favorite part of our homeschool day – All the noise and chaos stops for a few minutes, the boys pile onto my lap, it’s story time!img_0563.jpg

Each month, we are given a suggested book list, which lists a book to read with your preschooler each day.   16473004_358035524579649_2517127656280999154_nThe book coordinates with the theme for the month, and also the specific daily topic.   The books are not included with the monthly curriculum, but can easily be found at your local library (most libraries will let you keep the books longer, if you tell them you are using them for homeschool purposes).

This is just one of the ways that Mother Goose Time makes homeschooling a preschooler so much easier.  When trying to pick out children’s books for your children, it can sometimes feel like picking a needle out of a haystack.  There are so many books to choose from,  and distinguishing the good from the bad can be difficult.  The book list also helps us get out of that all, too common, reading rut.   You know, where you read the same types of books over and over again.  If it were up to my son, he would solely read books about cars, trucks, planes, and machines.   Reading a variety of books is a good habit to get into, and will open their minds to things they had no idea they were interested in. This month’s theme is,  “At the Pond”, and we have some great books to read.

img_0558I got a small book display at Ikea, which happens to be the perfect size to hold a month’s worth of books.  Each month I swap last months books out for the new ones.  The kids love seeing the new books on display and often grab them out throughout the day,  and flip through them.   My older kids love sitting down with their brothers and reading them stories during their free time.

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What we are reading this week:

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Turtle Splash  by Cathryn Falwell

A nicely illustrated book that counts down turtles from 10 to 1 as they disappear into the pond to go to sleep for the night.  The book highlights lots of other critters that can be found around the pond, and even has a some information about each critter at the end.

Kid review:  I liked all the animals, and the numbers.  I liked counting backwards.

 

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Good Morning, Pond by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

This book was one that we had lying around the house, and wasn’t actually on the Mother Goose Time reading list.  It’s an adorable book,   with great illustrations.  It has lots of sound effect words, which my sons love.  My four-year old had lots of fun making up sounds for the animals that didn’t have any sounds written for them.

Kid Review:  I liked the animals and their sounds.  I liked making up sounds for the salamanders.

 

img_0555In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

This book is quick read that captures the excitement around a pond.  The book uses descriptive words to explain how each animal moves around the pond.  The boys enjoyed imitating the animal movements as I read.  This book appealed to my 22 month old more than my 4-year-old, but both enjoyed it.

Kid Review: I liked it, I liked moving like a frog and dragonfly.

 

img_0552From Tadpole to Frog by Wendy Pfeffer

This book was a really great book for any kid, who wants to know more about frogs.  It explained the entire life cycle of a frog, and went into detail about what happens to frogs during each season.  I even learned some things about frogs that I didn’t know before.  This book is definitely aimed at older preschoolers and school aged kids, but even my toddler appreciated the illustrations of frogs, and making frog sounds as we read the book.

 

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One Duck Stuck by  Phyllis Root

This book is tells the tale of a duck stuck in the mud, and the various pond critters who come to his aid.  There are lots of rhyming words and great pictures.  It also incoporates counting from 1 to 10 as more and more animals join in to help the duck.

Kid Review: I loved the pictures, and the sound words.

I treasure these moments, when I get to sit with my little guys, and read stories with them. I’m so glad that my boys are beginning to develop a love of reading.  Reading will benefit them the rest of their lives, and will help them so much as they grow.

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Disclaimer:  I am so grateful to have found this curriculum and am excited to share our experiences with you.  In exchange for my unbiased and honest reviews, Mother Goose time has provided us with the curriculum free of charge.

 

Homeschooling with a toddler

img_0483I love homeschooling my mature and responsible 4-year old. Unfortunately, the harmony and progress of each day is threatened by…a toddler! For me, the word toddler evokes an image of an angelic face covered with yogurt,  who can wreak total havoc in the blink of the eye.

Perhaps this just applies to my little one, who is like a sweet little human bulldozer from the time he wakes up in the morning, until he eventually tires himself out.   So when I first thought about doing home preschool with my four-year old, I had some concerns about what I would do with my youngest during our lesson time.  I knew it was important to have some structure and routine.  I envisioned a peaceful environment, in which my son and I read story books, did craft projects together, baked cookies, and worked on his letters.  However when you add an active toddler into the mix you can pretty much forget things being routine or peaceful.  In fact as I am writing this right now, my toddler is dumping a bowl of cereal all over the floor, and gleefully crushing said cereal beneath his feet as if he was stomping the recent harvest of Bordeaux grapes.

So, how does one successfully prepare a four-year old for kindergarten and also deal with the chaos of a toddler?

As it turns out I found a homeschool curriculum that had the perfect solution for my dilemma.   I stumbled upon Mother Goose Time while doing research on different curriculums, and was sold.  Not only did Mother Goose Time have a fantastic curriculum to use with my four-year old, but they also had supplements to use with toddler aged children (referred to as Little Goose), and even babies.

With each monthly box, a teacher guide is included, that explains all the daily activities, and lays out each day for you.  Little Goose is an additional booklet that is used in conjunction with the main teacher guide.  Inside the Little Goose guide the daily activities are restructured in a toddler friendly way.  The activities each day can vary, sometimes there is a math oriented activity, sometimes there is an educational game to play.  Each day there is a craft project, which can be a simple make and play project or an invitation to create project (which is more open-ended).

All of the materials for the activities are included in the monthly box (with the exception of a few items that are commonly found around the house).  The Little Goose supplement also includes suggestions for a tray play activity and a cuddle time activity for each day.

To give you and idea of how this works, lets talk about our math lesson we worked on the other day.  My older son was working on number recognition and early arithmetic by counting sheep and doing some very simple addition problems.

If I tried to do this same activity with my 22 month old, it would obviously be too challenging for him.  Instead, the little goose supplement suggested taking the same sheep and separating them into groups of three.  My little guy was able to count to three along with me, and enjoyed pulling the sheep out of the bowl, putting them back in, and repeating this over and over again (typical toddler stuff).

Normally when I work on math concepts, or reading/writing concepts with my boys, I try to do them on an individual basis, while the other child plays or does some other busy work.  However the one thing they both like to do together are the art projects that are included with each daily lesson.   My little guy loves the art projects as does my four-year old.  It is so much fun to see them do the project side by side, and then to marvel at their unique creations when they are done.

Mother Goose Time includes most of the supplies for the daily art projects (with the exception of things like paint and glue), so it makes my job so much easier.

It is so nice to be able to work with both my boys and to watch them grow, and I’m glad Mother Goose Time provides appropriate resources to work with different age groups.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:  I am so grateful to have found this curriculum and am excited to share our experiences on the blog.  In exchange for my unbiased and honest reviews, Mother Goose time has provided us with the curriculum free of charge.