Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Quick Christmas Recipes

Here are a couple quick recipes we use around our house during the holidays. Enjoy!

Quick Christmas Breakfast Danish

1 or 2 cans of crescent rolls
Fruit pie filling (we use blueberry and cherry)
1 can of vanilla icing

Unroll crescent dough. Take each triangle and roll into a log. Braid two together and then attach the ends to form a wreath shape. Smush the middle together with an indentation in the middle. Add a tsp. or so of pie filling to the middle. Cook 375* until browned. Let cool slightly, melt vanilla icing and drizzle over danishes. For a Christmas touch, tint the icing green for cherry danishes.

Rolo's Cookies

1 package of sugar cookie or peanut butter cookie dough
1 bag of Rolo's candies
Bowl of sugar

Take off a chunk of cookie dough and roll it into a golf-ball sized ball. Push a Rolo into the middle and re-roll the ball until smooth. Roll in loose sugar. Repeat. These spread, so put at least an inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake according to cookie dough directions on package.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Charity

Hi, everyone.

We have been so busy. Homeschooling is on a hiatus for the month of December which is why I haven't posted much. I always plan to do school through the month, but we get so incredibly busy. However, we have done a few charitable things that I think are far more educational this time of year than the typical school work.

We did our Angel Tree child at the beginning of the month. We had a little girl who is 7, and the kids and I had a fun time shopping for her favorite items. (Barbie and Jonas Brothers) I have done Angel Tree since my son was 2 to teach them that there are kids and families who need a little help sometimes. So this was our seventh year doing the tree.

A couple new things Avlyn and I did was singing Christmas carols at a local nursing home and ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. The nursing home was okay. I think it's a little scary for small children to be surrounded by older people in wheel chairs who either want to touch them or want the kids to go away so they can go back to sleep.

She had a blast ringing the bell at the red bucket for the Salvation Army. A friend of mine does it every year and invited some of us to join her. Although I talked with Avlyn about where the money goes and what it's used for, I'm not sure she understands completely. But it's a start in the right direction. My 9 year old was a little disappointed he couldn't go with us to ring the bell. I think teaching kids to be charitable is a wonderful thing. While it would be nice if it happened all year long, we tend to foucs our charitable works during the holidays.

We're doing something for March of Dimes in February, but after that we'll probably be done until next Christmas. My greatest hope is that my children will want to continue to do things for other people even when they're older and on their own.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How to Make a Preschool Grocery List

One thing my daughter loves to do is help me grocery shop. Unfortunately, I find myself annoyed at having to constantly tell her what we need over and over as we shop. It makes me lose my train of thought, and then I get so hung up on helping her find the one thing she's looking for I forget to grab whatever else I need from that aisle. The other day I was downloading and printing out coupons and had an idea on how to make it easier for her to help me grocery shop.

I started by looking at all the things on my list. Then I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down stuff from my list onto her list. Since she's just learning to read, I then drew a picture of the item next to the word. I put most of the produce we needed on her list because it was the easiest thing to draw. So her list would say apples and then have a picture of apples, bananas and a picture of bananas, and so forth. She ended up with about 15 items on her list. Before we left, I had her go over the list with me to make sure she knew what my little outline drawings actually were. (She thought my crescent rolls were more bananas.)

She loves this idea and now won't shop without her own list. Another way to customize the list includes cutting out pictures of the items you need and pasting them on the list. You can also give your child coupons that you're going to use and have them find that item for you. Since most coupons include a full-color picture, it's easier to find than a hand-drawn box of sugar. Now when we shop we both have a list and a pen. To make sure I don't forget what's on her list, I include it on my list with a small line through it as a reminder. Happy homeschooling!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to Make Turkey Handprint Cookies

This week we made handprint turkey cookies from sugar cookie dough. My daughter saw the idea when she was watching something on TV, so we created our own.

Items needed:

One roll of sugar cookie dough
Chocolate chips
Candy corns
Colored icing
Anything else you want to add to your turkey


1. Trace your hand and your child's hand on a piece of construction paper and cut it out.

2. Roll out the dough and place the handprint on it. Using a knife, cut around the handprint and put the cookie hand on a sprayed baking pan.

3. Bake the cookie hands according to package directions.

4. When cool, decorate the cookies to look like turkeys. Use your imagination and have fun.

Happy Homeschooling and Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How to Teach A Preschooler to....

I just got to thinking a few minutes ago about some eHow articles I'd written in the past that would make great topics for the blog. Then I figured it would just be easier to post the links to the articles and you guys could read the ones that interest you. So in an effort to maximize my time, here are the links to some eHow articles I've written that deal with preschool homeschooling or homeschooling in general. I hope you find something useful. Happy Homeschooling!

Teach Children to Memorize Songs in Preschool

Teach a Preschooler to Use a Computer

Teach Kids About Feelings

Teach Math and Reading with Beach Balls

Teach Kids About Cavities

Teach Preschoolers Through Cooking

Teach Math with Dice Games

How to Find Homeschooling Supplies at Yard Sales

How to Pick a Homeschool Magazine

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' - A Storybook Review

I love reading book reviews from real people who truly love a book. While magazines give a general idea of a book, I think when a book is truly something a family enjoys the review is so much better. Recently I read the kids a book called Thanksgiving at the Tappletons'
by Eileen Spinelli. I think it's a great story about the true meaning of Thanksgiving that both engages and delights preschoolers. Avlyn laughed at the pictures and really enjoyed the story.

Now I have read some fun stories that try to convey the meaning of Thanksgiving using cute characters like mice and bears, but this story uses a family that seems more real than some of the Thanksgiving stories we've read.

The Tappletons' Thanksgiving starts off all wrong when the milkman causes mom to drop the turkey, and it slides on the icy steps, down the yard, and into a lake. Then when dad's impatience causes him to miss out on the bakery's Thanksgiving pies, the reader knows dessert will be a disaster. But dad tries to trick mom by bringing home empty pie boxes and, *gasp*, lying to mom that the baker is known for her light pies. When brother fails to mention that he fed all the salad fixings to the bunnies in his classroom, and sister's penchant for gabbing on the phone while the potatoes are mashing in the blender, (yes, the blender) all the trimmings for the turkey are ruined.

But with everyone trying to hide their Thanksgiving goofs, no one realizes there isn't any traditional food ready for the arriving relatives. It's not until everyone sits down to eat and Grandma wants to say the prayer that they realize there's no food. That's when Grandma reminds them that Thanksgiving isn't about turkey and trimmings, but about being with people you love. Even without a table full of food, Grandma still says a wonderful prayer of Thanksgiving. It's after the prayer when mom remembers that she has a fridge full of liverwurst....

What did we like about this book? We liked that the family made a bunch of mistakes they tried to cover up. Who hasn't made mistakes on Thanksgiving, whether it's serving a raw turkey or forgetting to bake the pies, and not wanted to cover it up somehow. We liked that the family worked together to get Thanksgiving ready, even if they did manage to collectively ruin dinner. And the kids loved the illustration of the turkey sliding across the yard and landing, "Plop!" in the lake.

We used this book to open up some preschool-aged talk about Thanksgiving. We also touched a little on what would have been different had the family been honest and told the other people what happened. But most of all we just enjoyed the fun story abou the blunder-filled Thanksgiving that still ended up wonderful.

If you can't find this at your local library, Amazon has a few used copies for cheap. But it does seem to be currently out of print for new editions. The link above will take you to Amazon if you want a used copy. Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Leaf Feather Turkey Craft

Thanksgiving is getting closer, which means we'll soon be putting up our Christmas tree and getting ready for Santa. The last couple of weeks we've read a lot of Thanksgiving books that had to do with turkeys. I think Avlyn has the whole turkey for Thanksgiving idea down pat. This week and next we're focusing on pilgrims and indians. One activity we did after reading a story was a leaf feather turkey craft.

I printed out the template for the turkey from The Best Kids Book Site, but instead of using handprints, we went outside and gathered up a bunch of leaves to use as the feathers. It was Avlyn's idea to add spots to her turkey. I also used it to reinforce the letter T and the sound it makes. Here's our finished project:

Happy Homeschooling!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What Is Phonics?

Phonics is the relationship of letters and letter sounds and how these letters and sounds combine to form words. Phonics is a cornerstone for reading and writing. It's what people are talking about when they tell kids to "sound it out." It involves consonant sounds, vowel sounds, and word families.

Studies have shown that a systematic approach to phonics is best for future reading and writing achievement. A systematic approach means that you have organized how you will teach phonics and aren't jumping from one concept to another with no rhyme or reason.

Experts will tell you that phonics instruction starts in kindergarten, but homeschoolers know that preschoolers, and even toddlers, can pick up basic phonics instruction. If you're yearning to start teaching reading, phonics should become a part of your everyday routine. Even if you only get 15 minutes of instruction in, that is something you can build on throughout the year. And homeschoolers don't really need to dedicate a 90-minute reading block like the public schools do, because the one-on-one attention means kids really learn what they need to in the first 15 to 20 minutes, at least in my experience.

Here is how our homeschool teaches phonics, with preschool focusing on consonant, vowel, and beginning letter sounds:

Consonant sounds

Beginning consonant letter sounds - focusing on the different sounds C and G can make in the beginning (cat-cent, go-gem)

Vowel sounds - with a focus on long e

Word families - ock, ake, etc...

Beginning consonant combinations - Br, Gr, Pr, Qu, Ph

Ending sound combinations - ing, ed, etc...

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Teaching Preschool Reading - Phonics vs. Sight Words

This is just the first post in a series I'll be posting about reading instruction.

The first couple years of homeschooling involve a lot of reading instruction. I know some homeschoolers who focus on nothing but reading until their child hits 1st grade. I can honestly say that even with a BA in English and four years as a reading coordinator for a tutoring program, teaching reading to my own child was the hardest thing I've done.

I've taught other people's kids reading basics and studied different theories and methods on reading instruction, but when it came to my own kid I hit a wall. In fact, I slammed into the wall, passed out, and didn't quite know what was going on when I came to.

My son was very difficult to teach when it came to reading instruction. I focused mostly on teaching phonics, and while he did learn how to sound out words well, he just could not get down the fluency. I was frustrated. He was frustrated. I think the alphabet was frustrated. I bought the Headsprout program, hoping a different type of instruction would help. He liked completing the program, but his reading was the same.

It wasn't until I started reading instruction with my daughter that I realized where I went wrong with my son. I didn't combine phonics with sight word reading. I'm fully convinced that the best form of teaching reading is to combine phonics instruction with sight words. I call it the "sightnics" method. Just my own little term for it.

Basically Avlyn and I study four sight words at a time. The current set is the words A, An, And, The. This is actually our first set of words, and I will probably do one more set before we get busy with the holidays. After our sight word study we do a little phonics teaching. Right now we are still on consonant sounds.

At first I felt like I failed my son. But after talking to his first grade teacher a couple years ago and hearing her say that he had a wonderful grasp of phonics, I knew I did something right. I just didn't know how to put it into action so I could teach him how to put it into action. I can't go back, but I can rectify the mistakes I made with him so that my daughter is a fluent reader by first grade.

If you're a first year homeschooler, remember that you will make mistakes as you navigate the waters of reading and math instruction, but you will learn from those mistakes and continue learning all through your homeschooling adventure. Happy Homeschooling!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Preschool Learning Centers

Hey everyone,

My finger is healing and I'm back to writing work, which means I can also get back to the blog. I don't have my stuff ready for November yet, but I did want to share something we did last month.

Avlyn seems to thrive on the whole concept of preschool learning centers. In daycares these are usually areas dedicated to one particular learning concept. In our homeschool, these are spots on my dining room wall that cover certain concepts. Since including these 'learning centers' as part of our daily routine, Avlyn has picked up concepts without me even having to try. Part of the reason is because she loves changing the weather center, referring to the letter center when writing, counting out money at the money center, marking off days at the calendar center, and showcasing her work at the arts and supplies center.

Creating simple preschool learning centers is fun and beneficial to your homeschool. Below I'll detail our centers and what we have in them.

1. Calendar center

Here I post a printed out calendar. I used seasonal pictures from DLTK's Custom Calendar Centerto print out a calendar page for each month. Every day we review the month, day of the week, all the days of the week, the number of days in the month, and then she marks off the day.

2. Money center

Here I taped up paper coins I found at the Dollar Tree store. Above those I taped the actual coins for a better reference. She reviews the coins and how much they're worth at the money center. I will add dollar bills and a 'store' to the money center later on this year. If you don't have a dollar store nearby, you can find free money printables at Money Instructor.

3. Letter center

This is the spot on our wall where we hang our letter strips. We use these strips to review letters, letter sounds, and when handwriting.I also purchased these from the Dollar Tree store.

4. Weather center

This is one of her favorite centers because it changes everyday. I put up a sign that says, "Today's weather is". I then attached two magnets to the wall and to paper weather pictures. (Yes, Dollar Tree store again)She has pictures of a sun, snow, rain, clouds, wind, and a girl wrapped up in a scarf looking at a below 0 thermometer. I did print out the wind and cold girl since our weather package didn't have those elements.

5. Art and supplies center

This is the area where I hung a pocket folder to keep all her supplies. She also showcases her craft projects. This will soon be the art/sight words center as I'll be hanging up the monthly sight words on this wall.

And that's it. A really simple but fun way to incorporate traditional learning centers into your homeschool routine. Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Taking a Short Break


I didn't want to just take off for a little bit without posting first. I need to take a few weeks off from posting. We haven't stopped learning and doing activities, but typing is very hard for me right now. I cut my finger on a broken pie dish and severed the nerve. I can no longer feel the top half of my middle finger on my left hand, and I'm left handed. So while we'll continue learning, I won't be able to share the lessons for October like I originally planned. I hope to pick up again in November. Happy homeschooling!

Monday, October 19, 2009

HSLDA'a Christopher Klicka Dies.

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association's first full-time attorney has lost his fight against Multiple Sclerosis. Christopher Klicka, a great advocate for homeschooling and a parent's right to homeschool, passed away on October 12th. He was an integral legal voice for many homeschooling families. If you'd like to learn more about Christopher Klicka's life or leave a tribute, you can visit this HSLDA page to do so. It's always sad to lose a homeschooling pioneer and advocate who has helped so many families on their homeschooling journey.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Preschool Lesson Plan for Ordinal Numbers

Preschoolers are notorious for chanting "me first" when it's time to get something or stand in a line. But what about the rest of the ordinal numbers? Would it cause less meltdowns if kids thought they were 4th in line rather than last in line? Probably not, but it's worth a shot. Here is a simple lesson Avlyn and I did the other day, taking full advantage of fall time and pumpkins.

Teach ordinal numbers 1st through 5th using the "5 Little Pumpkins" song and a craft.

*Long piece of brown paper - an flattened wrapping paper tube works best, but you can staple a few pieces of construction paper together.
*Orange and green construction paper

Begin by drawing a fence along the bottom of the brown paper. Let your child color the fence. Avlyn added some spiders to her fence. While your child colors the fence, cut out five orange circles that will fit comfortably on the top of the fence. Also cut out five green squares for stems. On the bottom of the pumpkins write 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Leave enough room for your child to draw faces.

After the fence is colored, review the ordinal numbers written on the pumpkins. Show your child how each pumpkin has a place based on their ordinal number. Then, have them glue the stems on the pumpkin based on their number. For example, you will say "glue the stem on the 3rd pumpkin" and so forth.

Let your child draw fun faces on each pumpkin, but instruct them not to cover up the number. Once the faces are drawn, ask your child to put the pumpkins in order based on their ordinal numbers. Review ordinals and give any help needed. Next, sing the
5 Little Pumpkins
song, holding up the corresponding pumpkin.

Tape the fence to a wall and have your child attach the pumpkins on the fence in ordinal number order.
I mixed up the pumpkins and then had her pick which was 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so forth. Then we sang the song again and she pointed to each pumpkin. I also gave her a speed quiz where I quickly told her to point to the 1st pumpkin, 4th pumpkin, 3rd pumpkin and so forth. And that was our lesson plan for working with ordinal numbers up to 5. Happy homeschooling!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Songs

I have only two Halloween songs that I can remember learning as a child. They are Old Mrs. Witch and 5 Little Pumpkins. Below are the words, as I remember them, to these two Halloween songs. There is also a short song, sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" that my daughter and I made up to go along with a ghost craft. 5 little pumpkins is a great song to go along with teaching ordinal numbers. We will be doing a craft and lesson plan for the 5 Little Pumpkins song that I'll post later this week. If you and your child practice the song, you'll be all set to do the lesson plan. Happy homeschooling!

Old Mrs. Witch

Old Mrs. Witch Old Mrs. Witch
Tell me how you fly, tell me how you fly

I fly on my broom stick up in the sky.

Old Mrs. Witch (repeat)
Tell me what you see (repeat)

I see a little jack o lantern looking at me

Old Mrs. Witch (repeat)
Tell me what you'll do (repeat)

I'll fly on my broom stick and SCARE YOU! (Yell loudly)

5 Little Pumpkins

5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate
the first one says, "Oh, my it's getting late."
The second one says, "There are witches in the air."
The third one says, "Oh, I don't care."
The fourth one says, "Let's get ready for some fun."
The fifth one says, "Let's run and run and run."

Oooohh went the wind, out went the lights, and the 5 little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Flying, Flying, Little Ghost

Flying, flying little ghost
You're the one who scares the most
Trick or treaters walking by
As you chase them from the sky

Flying, flying little ghost
You're the one who scares the most.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Christopher Columbus Coloring Sheets and Activities

Columbus Day is October 12th. If you live in America, you may spend some of your homeschooling time teaching your kids about Christopher Columbus. Preschool is the perfect time to build a foundation on this historical figure. While a complicated history lesson isn't necessary because it won't be remembered, and most likely not comprehended, letting preschoolers color a picture of Columbus is a great way to start. The history lessons you teach your preschooler now can be built upon a little each year. This method helps build a solid education about historical topics.

You can find Columbus coloring sheets HERE.

For a more hands-on approach to Christopher Columbus, you can help your preschooler complete a craft. My son brought home an art project he did at school for the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. (Pictured above) I think it's very basic and works for a preschooler, too. I would start by reading a book about Christopher Columbus and then proceed with the craft. Here's a suggestion for a good preschool level book:


I hope this gives you a couple of ideas, or at least a jumping off point for Columbus Day ideas for a preschooler. Happy homeschooling!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Happy October

Welcome to fall everyone. It's officially gotten colder here, and I do love this time of the year. Although we live in Missouri, we're originally from South Florida, which means we're still getting used to seasonal changes and actually having to wear sweaters in October. I've decided that at the beginning of each month I'll post a rundown of what's gonna be on the blog. Hopefully, you'll see something you're interested in and come back to check it out. Of course, I'll add posts as the inspiration strikes, but I'll use my general homeschooling outline to let you know what's coming up.

Vist the blog in October for posts on:

Pumpkin painting

Pumpkin lesson plan ideas

Halloween songs

Halloween crafts - including a bat and ghost craft

Fall foods - particularly apple-filled muffins

Weighing and measuring activities using apples and pumpkins

A recap and pictures of our pumpkin patch field trips (yes, it's plural. We'll be pumpkined (is that a word?) out by the end of October.

Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learn Letters With a Letter Game

Educational companies sell an endless supply of alphabet learning games. There are online programs, letter software, and a myriad of workbooks aimed at teaching preschoolers letter recognition. I've found the best games to be ones we make at home using markers and paper. One we made today was to help with recognizing upper and lower case letters. We call it "The Letter Match Game."

You can tailor this to meet your own needs, using colored papers, holiday-specific designs, substituting words for letters, etc... Here's how we make and play "The Letter Match Game."


Fold the papers so you have twelve rectangles divided down the middle with a crease. Cut along the middle crease and then cut out the rectangles. Gather a stack of rectangles and fold them in half so you have two squares. Cut in half. Write all the uppercase letters and then the lowercase letters on their own squares. Lay them out and review all the letters. Ask your child to pick if they want to be uppercase or lowercase.

Help them spread the letters out faceup on their side, in no particular order. If you're just starting letter recognition, then it might work best to put the squares in ABC order. Spread your letters out faceup on your side. Have a little scoring paper to keep points.

The child goes first and asks if you have a match for a certain letter. They can choose any letter on their side that they want a match for. They must say the letter, not just hold up the paper. You then look for the matching letter and hand it to your child. If you can find the match within 20 seconds, (you can increase or decrease this time depending on ability) you get a point. It's now your turn to ask for a match. Your child then looks for the matching letter and hands it to you. If they find the matching letter in 20 seconds, they get a point.

If you or your child doesn't find the match in the alloted time, the person asking for the match gets a point and another turn. The letter just goes back into the mix to be used on another turn.

To make sure Avlyn comes out a point ahead, I will pretend not to be able to find a match in the 20 seconds a couple times. This keeps her from getting frustrated, because there are times when she does not find the match in 20 seconds and loses her point and her turn.

Happy Homeschooling!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Jammie! Congratulations to Jammie for winning the SpellQuizzercontest. A copy of this preschool software is on its way to her and her daughter. I hope you guys get plenty of use from this spelling software program. Thanks to all for entering the contest.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Letter W Whale Art Activity

I'm finally back on track. We haven't done much school-wise the past couple weeks because I've been ill. But we're back on track this week, and I wanted to post about something we did a few weeks ago for the letter W. Avlyn has pretty much gotten over her confusion of capital W and capital M, but this is a fun project for those of you still working on these letters. This also works for those of you needing an ocean themed activity.

Items needed:
Washable paints (We use the Crayola brand, and they do wash out easily.)
Construction paper (We cut ours into smaller rectangles, but you can use a whole sheet.)

W for Whale

Using a marker, write an upper and lower case W on the top left of the paper. Next, write the word "whale" to the right.

Have your child use a Q-tip to paint the ocean on the bottom of the paper. Then, help them dip their thumb into some paint and make a sideways thumbprint on the paper. This is the body of your whale. Using the Q-tips, they can give the whale a more distinct tail, water coming from its spout, and a face. They can also draw clouds, fish, birds, or anything else they like on the paper. If they have space, they can add more whales to the paper. Let it dry and hang on your display wall. Here's what Avlyn's looked like.
You can see that her whale is pink and seems to be out on the ocean all alone. I tried to get her to add more stuff, but she was happy with it the way it is. Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two Days Left to Enter the Free SpellQuizzer Contest

There are two days left in the SpellQuizzer comment contest. By simply leaving a homeschooling, parenting, or education related comment on one of my blog postings, you're entered to win a free copy of SpellQuizzer. This program helps students practice spelling and vocabulary words utilizing an online software program. So check out my posting about Fall Curriculum Ideas and leave a comment with an idea of your own. Good luck! Contest ends Sunday at 11:59.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preschool Fall Curriculum Ideas

Fall is upon us and it's one of my favorite times of the year. I was born and raised in South Florida, where the temperature doesn't seem to get below 70* until January. Moving to Missouri helped me see why people make such a big deal about autumn weather. Since I love the season so much, I also enjoy doing lots of fall-related activities. Here are some ideas for your preschool homeschooling fall curriculum.

* Leafrubbings- Go for a walk and collect a handful of fall leaves. Lay them under a piece of white paper and gently rub with crayons to see the design.

* Cook apple cider and other treats - An apple theme for fall is perfect, and making a batch of apple cider, apple muffins, apple roll-ups, and apple butter is a perfect way to teach cooking. I'll post a recipe for easy apple roll-ups soon.

* Create a pumpkin patch - We plant our own pumpkins every year. If you've never done it, you'll be surprised how easy it is, and how many pumpkins you get from just one or two plants. Last year we had two plants and got 18 big pumpkins. This year we planted miniature pumpkins and got 24 from two plants. Collect all your pumpkins, some straw, and a couple scarecrows and create a pumpkin patch. You can plan plenty of math activities around your pumpkin patch as your child sells and buys the pumpkins from the patch.

*Create a fall tree - This preschool project is a little time consuming, but it's fun and engaging. Using brown paper, create a tree trunk on the wall. Make the trunk as tall as your child so they can reach the leaves. Next, create fall leaves using your leaf rubbings or tracing around a leaf and cutting out the shape.

Use colored papers in red, yellow, orange, brown, and purple. As fall progresses, have your child remove the leaves. You can have some falling down the wall, some lying at the bottom of the trunk, and some completely removed from the tree. By the time winter gets here, the tree should be bare. This is a great way for a small child to track how long a season lasts.

If you'd like more fall ideas, check out this book from Amazon for a fall-centered preschool curriculum.

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Happens to Your Homeschool When You Have a Sick Family?

Fall and winter are the two seasons in my house when everyone starts sniffling and coughing. Sometimes they're just your run-of-the-mill cough and sniffle. Other times they turn into full-blown colds, or even worse, the flu. So what do you do when one or more of your family members are out with an illness? How do you get your homeschooling done when one is coughing, one is sleeping, and you yourself just want to crawl into bed? The answer is simple - you don't.

Being a homeschooler means you have the freedom to take a week or two off when the family is down and out with an illness. There is no reason to force a kid to sit and do school work when they aren't feeling well. And if the kids are fine but mom is under the weather, it's okay to take some time off then, too. This just happened to us recently. I suffer from the occasional migraine, and my stomach has never been my friend. I just had a bad bout of illness the last week and am still recovering slightly. Our September work has suffered because of it, but I know we'll catch up.

So if you homeschool and the germ bugs hit your house hard, take a deep breath, (if it doesn't cause you to cough all over the place)relax, and realize that homeschoolers can make up missed work on the weekends, at night, during the holidays, and on vacation. There is no penalty for taking a little R&R when the health of your family is under attack. Happy homeschooling!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Win a Free Copy of SpellQuizzer

If you're looking for something to supplement your spelling curriculum, enter my contest for a free copy of SpellQuizzer. With SpellQuizzer you can teach spelling, letters, Dolch words, and vocabulary by recording your own voice to the program and quizzing your child.

The Rules:

The contest will run from this Sunday, 9/20/09, to next Sunday, 9/27/09. To enter, simply leave a comment on any blog post written between the above dates, or any previously written blog post on this blog. The comment must be related to education/parenting/homeschooling, and not simply a random comment or any form of marketing comment. I will keep track of the order the comments come in and will use to pick the winner. You may enter as many times as you like, not to exceed one comment per blog post.

Make sure there is an email address available for me to contact you if you win the sweepstakes. The winner will be contacted on or around Monday, 9/28/09, with further information about claiming the prize.

The Prize:

The prize is one free copy of SpellQuizzer. SpellQuizzer is a downloadable program, and the winner will receive all information necessary to download the program from the website. The current value of this prize is $29.95

Friday, September 18, 2009

Practice Spelling Words with SpellQuizzer - A Review

Every child must learn to spell at some point in their lives. Even parents who choose unschooling as their form of homeschooling need to teach their child to spell. Common practices include writing down the spelling words, writing the words within sentences, and orally quizzing the words.

I recently had the opportunity to use the SpellQuizzer software program. SpellQuizzer is a spelling program that helps kids learn their spelling and vocabulary words. The spelling program downloads right onto your computer, meaning once it's downloaded you don't need to sign on to the Internet to use the program.

The SpellQuizzer web site has pre-made downloadable spelling lists that you can download and use with SpellQuizzer. These are arranged by grade, commonly misspelled words, holiday words, and many other varieties. The spelling software allows you to download a list, save it to your hard drive and import it to the SpellQuizzer program. For preschoolers, the site offers letter lists and Dolch sight words.

My children's favorite aspect of SpellQuizzer is the opportunity to create your own spelling words. My son used his spelling list from school. The program is designed to work with a microphone. If you don't have one, you can find them at Wal-mart for around $8. After you type in a spelling word, you record the word and any sentence you choose. For example, I would say "snow" and then the sentence "do not eat the yellow snow." You do this for each word. Once the list is complete, your child can go on the program and click the "Quiz Me on a List" button. They choose the saved list and then listen as your voice, or theirs, dictates the word. They then type in the word. If the word is spelled wrong, the program shows the correct spelling and allows them a retry at the end of the quiz.

My daughter enjoyed recording her own letters and then finding them on the keyboard. After the holidays, we will start working on the Dolch sight words list provided by the spelling software. While preschool homeschoolers may not utilize every aspect of the SpellQuizzer program right away, it is a valuable practice tool for anyone looking for a fun, different way to practice spelling words.

***Check the blog in a few days for a chance to win a free download for the SpellQuizzer spelling program***

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

HSLDA - Do You Need Legal Assistance When Choosing to Homeschool?

The legalities of homeschooling are always a hot topic. I hear comments from people wondering if homeschooling is legal, or they want to know what the family must do to legally homeschool. When it comes to homeschooling, all of a sudden we have a bunch of worried law-abiding citizens putting their noses into our educational choices. But whether or not you should consider legal "back-up," so to speak, is important.

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is notorious for backing homeschoolers and giving them legal support when social workers or truant officers come knocking on the door. Their support isn't free, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than having to hire an attorney and go to court to prove you are educating your child. You may be asking, "Why does this concern me? I'm only homeschooling a preschooler." Well preschool is the time to decide if you feel that joining HSLDA is beneficial for your family.

I have never been an official member of HSLDA. I did take advantage of a free trial membership a few years ago, but chose not to continue with the paid membership. The reasons I chose not to join included:

1) My family was supportive of our decision to homeschool.
2) Missouri has lenient homeschooling laws, and as long as I could show documentation of hours, I was fine.
3) My little town has its fair share of homeschoolers, so I did not feel alienated by choosing to homeschool.
4) I educated myself thoroughly on the homeschooling laws in Missouri, along with my rights as a parent, so I wouldn't be bullied by a social worker or truant officer.

While I can't tell you whether or not you should join HSLDA or another support group, I would consider myself in need of legal backup if:

1) My family was not supportive and made comments about reporting me to social services.
2) The school district seemed opposed to homeschooling and demanded measures beyond the law.
3) I lived in an area with very little homeschoolers, and felt that my neighbors may report me for child neglect.
4) I did not understand the homeschooling laws of my state, and whether or not I was meeting the basic requirements to homeschool.

Those are just some points to ponder as you continue your homeschooling journey. You can click on the blog title to visit the HSLDA site. Happy homeschooling!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Should You Have a Homeschooling Schedule?

I'm the first to admit that I'm not the best when it comes to creating and keeping to a schedule. I can create a schedule just fine, it's the whole keeping to it that causes me problems. I find the task of keeping to a schedule daunting and impractical for our homeschooling. However, I do believe that homeschoolers should have a general idea of what they're going to accomplish each day, or even each week.

Many new homeschoolers want to know how other homeschooler's schedule their time. So here is a general rundown of how a typical day goes in our home (with the understanding that this isn't set in stone, and on occasion, nothing gets done during the day but fun, playing, and some cleaning.)

7:30 a.m. - I get the kids up and my son eats breakfast and gets ready for school. He was formerly homeschooled, but asked to try elementary school and is doing well.

8:30 a.m. - Avlyn and I eat breakfast. I've just started working out in the morning, so sometimes we exercise together.

10:00 a.m. - We start any sort of 'school' around this time. This is when we will do handwriting practice, arts and crafts, letter practice, number practice, computer games, and songs. Depending on her mood, she usually has an attention span of about 1.5 to 2 hours.

12:00-12:30 p.m. - I fix lunch around this time. Sometimes Daddy comes home to see us, and Avlyn shows him her work for the day and her craft projects.

2:00 p.m. - We read stories and take a general rest. During the school year she will fall asleep when we go to pick up her brother, which means she's up all night. So I try to nap her around this time for 45 minutes or so.

3:30 - Leave to get her brother, and the rest of the day is spent playing, picking up the house, and cooking dinner.

7:00 p.m. - Homework time for Gavin, which means Avlyn usually gets out her "fun book" and does some work, too. Her "fun book" is a big preschool learning book that has all sorts of activities she can do independently.

9:00 p.m. - Bedtime

I hope this helps some of you wondering how to schedule a preschool homeschool day. Keep in mind that on Tuesdays we do gymnastics, some Wednesdays we go to playgroup from 10 to 12, and on Fridays we hit the library at 10:30 for storytime and to get our books for the week. Happy homeschooling!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Teaching Kids About Money at the Grocery Store

Preschool is not too early to teach kids about money. Both of mine knew what a quarter and a penny was when they were two. It could be because pennies are a different color than the other coins, and those candy and toy machines only operate with quarters. All I know is I didn't teach them about those coins, so it must have come from using the money.

I am using our grocery shopping experience as a learning tool about money. I think the most effective teaching happens when a child can relate what they're learning to a real-life experience. My idea started by simply asking her what the numbers were on the posted prices while I'd shop. The next time I explained to her what the decimal point meant and which side meant dollars and which side meant cents. Over the next couple of months, I'm going to create a grocery shopping game. If, after reading this, you have any ideas on this please let me know. It's just my 'rough draft' so to speak, but I'm excited to get started on it with her.

Here's my plan (your child must have their number concepts down and be able to write most of their numbers before attempting this lesson):

In the produce section at our grocery store the prices are displayed in large numbers on the sides of the produce bins. I think these are perfect for teaching because they're large, and the produce section is spread out enough that she can move around without getting into anyone's way.

I'm going to start by giving her five cards with different prices on them. (I will do my research beforehand and make sure I have five prices actually displayed in the produce section.) Then, as we're shopping, I will ask her to match the prices on her cards to an actual fruit or vegetable with that price. For example, if apples are on sale for $1.25 a pound, I will help her write the word apples on her $1.25 card. To expand the lesson when we get home, we will draw or paste a picture of apples on the $1.25 card. I plan on doing this for a month, which equals about four times since I shop once a week.

After she has that skill down, I will give her five cards with a picture of a certain fruit or vegetable. Instead of matching prices, she will find that item and write down the price. I will include the $ . on the card so she knows where to put the numbers. I also plan on finding pictures of some of her favorite foods, such as Trix yogurt, and having her find the prices of those items.

For a more advanced grocery store game, and to teach the concept of less and fewer, you can date the cards and then compare prices from September to the prices found in February to see if it cost more to buy apples in September or February.

This grocery store game is easily adaptable to older children, and I plan on using it with my 3rd grader. You can give older children ten cards with an item printed on it, such as oatmeal, and have them find the prices. You can make it a real challenge by having them write down all the different prices for the various oatmeals and comparing how much you can save by buying one brand over another. You can also have them factor in coupons, once the price comparisons become too simple. Happy homeschooling!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How to Make Your Own Book or Magazine Holder

We have a handful of workbooks that we use for preschool. I was keeping them up in my supply cabinet in the kitchen, but it was impractical since Avlyn couldn't reach them. I saw an idea in Family Fun magazine where a mom turned cereal boxes into book/magazine holders. From the pictures sent in, it looked like she used tape to fold in the edges and left the design the cover of the cereal box. I liked the idea, but wanted to avoid using a bunch of tape and wanted a cuter box.

Project: Homemade workbook holder
Cost: Used supplies we had on hand, but you could factor in that the cereal cost around $2.
Time: Around 30 minutes

Using a large cornflakes box, I started by cutting the the top off the box. Then I traced an angled line from the top corner to the bottom corner and cut off one side of the box I repeated this on the other side, trying to make the sides as equal as possible.
While I was busy cutting and measuring, the kids decorated pieces of white paper with their own creative drawings.

Once the box was cut it looked like this:

I used clear tape to adhere the kids' drawings to the outside of the box, like this:

We now keep our homemade book holder in the center of our dining room table. It turned out quite nicely, and the kids are proud to have their artwork displayed for all to see. It's also a more practical location for Avlyn's school supplies. Not only do we keep her workbooks in it, but we also keep her crayons, colored pencils, glue, and scissors in it. Happy homeschooling!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching Letters with Cereal

I always review during the first month of school by reteaching letters and numbers. When I did a review of the alphabet with Avlyn, I noticed that there were a handful of letters she still struggled to recognize right away. These included: M, R, T, and W. After working with her, I realized that she is confusing M and W, and just needs a little practice with R and T.

I'm starting with M and W since I think she'll pick up R and T rather quickly. We have done coloring sheets, practiced writing M, printed out a letter M book that we read daily, and today we made a cereal M. You can find free letter printables at:DLTK

While I don't recommend wasting food, and know that a lot of homeschoolers are thrifty folks, using cereal or any other familiar food is fun for preschoolers. Not only does working with ceral or macaroni help teach letters, but it also helps with motor skills. If you really have trouble using food for projects, just use the crumbs that collect at the bottom of the cereal box or broken pieces of macaroni. Put the crumbs or pieces in a bowl, and let your child sprinkle them onto the letters. We did this with the little m, as you can see in the picture. You will need white glue for this, as a glue stick just won't adhere the cereal. Happy homeschooling!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Preschool Homeschool Voted One of the Best

Just wanted to say that The Preschool Homeschool was voted one of the best blogs for homeschooling moms by So a big thanks to the folks at for recognizing all the homeschoolers and for giving a great list of resources.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Make Your Own Flower Crown

I am a happy subscriber to Family Fun Magazine, but sometimes I find the activities either too expensive or time-consuming for our family. But I'm challenging myself to find at least one activity out of each issue that is neither expensive, nor too tedious to put together. I plan on doing the activity and blogging about it with step-by-step pictures. Avlyn and I started today with the wildflower crown from August's issue. You can join in this challenge by leaving a comment about any fun project you do that doesn't cost a lot or require a whole day to put together. It doesn't have to be a Family Fun idea.

Cost: none
Time needed: Approximately 1-hour total, but we picked the flowers in the morning and created the crown in the evening.


1. Take a walk and find some sturdy, long-stemmed wildflowers. I'd love to be able to tell you the names of what we used, but I have no idea. We used a couple types of grasses that had fuzzy stuff on the end and then some flowers we found growing along the edge of the national forest we live next to. The grasses have the sturdiest stems, so I used them to get the crown started. After washing them to get rid of bugs, this is what we had:

2. We let the flowers dry while we ran errands. The crown only takes about 10 minutes to put together. Starting with a sturdy long-stemmed flower or grass, hold the stem horizontal. Using another piece, loop it around the first stem and tie a knot. Lay the flower or grass flat and repeat. If you can't tie a knot, just loop the second stem around itself like this:

3. Now repeat the process, holding the stems together while you loop and knot. Once the crown is long enough for your child's head, feel free to go back and loop some smaller stemmed flowers into the crown. That's what we did with some small white flowers Avlyn wanted to add. Tie all the stems together with a loose knot to close. When we were done it looked like this:

While I think this is a great craft to do for together time and helps kids learn the basics of weaving, you could use it for a nature unit or flower unit, too. I have three other projects we're going to try from this same issue. I'm excited to try them and share them with you. Happy homeschooling!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Free Ebooks for Kids

Today is our first official day of school and I'm online printing out some templates to work on the letter M. While I'm busy doing this, Avlyn is busy following along with an E-book from Tumblebooks on my laptop. The Santa Clara City Library offers this program for free from their website. Just click on Tumblebooks in the sidebar and let your child pick a book. Some of the older books just show the illustration, but some of the books are animated and more engaging.

This is a great option for families who live far from a library or don't have a library card. You can find tons of books on here to enhance lessons or just enjoy a little story time. Click on the title of my blog post to get to the site. Happy homeschooling!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Free Handwriting Printables

Preschool is the time to start teaching handwriting. A friend sent me a great file related to the Handwriting Without Tears program that gives ideas for teaching kids how to form letters. If you'd like to try utilizing these letter formation ideas into your curriculum, you can check out the files at

My suggestion for beginning writers is to avoid the structured handwriting tablets frequently sold in stores this time of year. I focus on using the tablet once my child has the basics for each letter down pat. I use a dry erase board and markers to teach letter formation. I prefer starting with a dry erase board and letting them free form their letters by using letters I've written as a guide.

After the Christmas break, when they have all their letter formation and recognition down pat, I move on to the structured writing tablet. I also like the dry erase board because it's just fun. We have a large one that allows us to lie on the floor and write together. Another idea is to buy small dry erase boards and write in your lap. You can even play a game where you call out a letter to draw, hide the board while you're writing the letter and then flip it around to show each other your letter. Kids like this because it has an element of surprise. Happy homeschooling!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

We're Back

Well the family is back from vacation and getting ready for school. My son starts third grade on the 17th, and my daughter will be starting her official year of preschool on that day, too. This week I'm going to blog a little about school preparation and how to prepare for that first week, or at least how we prepare for that first week.

The first step to preparation is organization. I cleaned out the cabinet where I keep all the supplies for learning and fun and took an inventory of anything I needed. A basic list for homeschooling preschoolers includes:

Blunt scissors
Construction paper
Handwriting tablet
Brown lunch bags
Paper plates
Cotton balls
Pipe cleaners
Googly eyes
Coins - fake or real
Counting manipulatives

Not every family will use all of the things I mentioned, and some will need added materials to teach. As you can see, I didn't mention workbooks because I think every family should decide whether or not they want to go the workbook route. I do have a couple workbooks I picked up at yard sales, but most of our activities I print off the Internet or create myself. If you're not sure what to use some of the mentioned materials for, feel free to ask and I'll share some ideas. Happy homeschooling!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

E-books for Homeschooling

An e-book is an electronic book available for immediate download. There are e-books available for every imaginable topic, with e-book authors creating new books every day. Living in a rural town, I can understand how not everyone has a good library or bookstore at their fingertips. Thankfully, the assortment of e-books available can replace the need for a hard copy by providing homeschoolers with information on their computer. One example of a good e-book for preschool homeschoolers is: Little Kid Crafts

While crafts are available all over the Internet, having a book already sectioned off for easy craft retrieval can help cut down on craft research time. I know sometimes my daughter asks to do a craft and it takes me 30 minutes or so to find something online that's engaging and age-appropriate. If you haven't checked out e-books as a form of curriculum, you're missing out on a whole other area of homeschooling curriculum.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Learning Ideas for the Beach

Pretty soon me and the kids will be on a plane to visit the grandparents in Florida. One thing I'm looking forward to is the beach. After moving to Missouri, getting to see the beach is exciting again. I'm also excited because there are so many learning opportunities that happen naturally at the beach.

Preschoolers can practice their building skills by planning a sandcastle community. I'm always amazed at my children's natural critical thinking and analyzing skills when we play sandcastles. They plan bridges, moats, roads, and castles, including the design and decoration.

Seashells bring out all sorts of questions about the colors, types, and styles. Searching for seashells provides the opportunity to search for shells based on color, shape, or texture. Kids will also learn about sea animals and sea glass when taking a seashell walk.

One of my favorite learning activities, and one that gets me just as excited as the kids, is exploring a natural reef area. In south Florida, we have one particular beach that has a handful of natural reefs. The kids can find hermit crabs, snails, fish, sea cucumbers, mollusks, and coral all at one beach. Having a digital camera handy for your beach adventures is a great way to record memories and print out picutures so you can make ocean-themed books. Happy homeschooling!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Signs that Your Preschooler Wants to Read

My daughter has shown signs of wanting to read independently for a couple of months now. It's my fault she's not reading better, since everything is so busy I just haven't sat with her and practiced putting sounds together. But the signs are there, and I'm excited to start working with her after our vacation is over. If you're wondering whether your preschooler is ready to learn to read, here are some signs to look for:

- Constantly asks what sounds letter make
- Asks what words say and tries to sound them out
- Shows an interest in writing, especially their name or other familiar words
- Recognizes words on signs and tries to read them
- Sit independently with a book and tells a story
- Remembers parts of a story read together and repeats the story at the correct parts

Once you start seeing some of these signs, your preschooler is ready for some beginning reading instruction. We like using Starfall and Bob Books for beginning reading. Another idea for beginning readers is to turn the closed captioning on during their favorite T.V. shows. Happy homeschooling!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to Set up an In-Home Grocery Store

If you're using this summer to prepare for a preschool homeschooling adventure next year, consider dedicating one part of your house to an in-home grocery store. Grocery stores are a wealth of learning activities, with all the opportunities to learn about colors, counting, foods, textures, and money right at your fingertips. An in-home grocery store provides the same fun learning activities, without having to drive across town to the store.

Start by saving boxes, plastic containers, egg cartons and plastic shopping bags. You can also buy some fake foods and a shopping basket to enhance the experience. Once you have a handful of food item containers and boxes saved, use tape to close them up and make them sturdy. Stock the groceries on a bookshelf or other area in the home. If you have enough room, you can use two small bookshelves designating one for fresh foods like produce and the other shelf for boxed goods and snacks. For really young children, prices aren't necessary. Just the experience of shopping is fun. But for older preschoolers you can begin to teach about money by labeling the foods with whole dollar amounts. For example, 1.00 for ice cream and $2.00 for laundry detergent.

You can also teach older preschoolers how to shop by looking at prices located on shelving, rather than on the product itself. I have many times where I tell my daughter to grab the ketchup that is .97, pointing out that it's 9-7, and the label is on the shelf below the item. You can create a checkout area on the coffee table or anywhere the kids can reach and slide the items. For a more realistic check out, use a large piece of butcher block paper and tape it to the ends of the table. Use fake money or fake credit cards when checking out. Keep those GEICO or other plastic cards that come in junk mail to use as credit cards.

If you use a corner bookshelf, you can keep your grocery store up 24/7 without it cluttering up the house or getting in the way. If you don't have a lot of room to spare, make up the food items and store them in a cabinet or other area and bring them out during grocery store time. A really fun group activity is to get three to four preschoolers together and give them a shopping list using pictures. The first kid to find all the groceries gets to be the checkout person.

Below is a picture of the kids shopping at a fake grocery store at the museum. Gavin is pretending to get attacked by the 'fresh' lobster. Have fun!


Monday, June 1, 2009

The Lying Phase

My daughter is going through her lying phase. This is the phase where you as the parent know they're lying to you, but they think they're getting away with it. We have been dealing with little lies here and there over the past few months. We started our handling of this by explaining to her what a lie is and why it's wrong. Once she grasped the meaning of a lie, it was like she went out of her way to make sure her lies were believable. Strike one, mom and dad.

Next we tried the time out method, which of course brought a lot of tears and shrieks over the unfairness of life when you're four. However, she has a knack for lying between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00, which means a crying time-out only exhausts her and she falls asleep. This means a later night for me because she slept for an hour. Strike two, mom and dad.

Today we were getting in the car and I noticed she had something in her mouth. "Avlyn, what do you have in your mouth?" I only asked because I thought she might have picked up some old candy off the ground or something. "Nuffin" she said. Of course, she's saying this with her cheeks puffed out and her tongue rolling around something in there. So I ask again. Same answer. I ask, "You have something in your mouth, don't you?" "Mm-uh-mm-uh" was pretty much what the answer was. So I told her to spit it out. Now I know I said this in perfect english that she comprehends very well. She looked at me and did nothing. "Spit - It - Out - Now!" Nothing.

Okay, time for me to play mean mommy. "You are not going to your baseball game tonight." That declaration was followed by a lot of screaming and crying and sounds of "I'll spit it out when we get home!!!!!" While I hate for her to miss baseball, just because I enjoy watching her so much, I knew it was the most effective discipline. I'll have to see it if worked over the next couple of weeks, based on whether or not the small lies increase or decrease. Sometimes education doesn't involve books and pencils, but heartache and tears.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Extracurricular Activities for Preschooling Homeschoolers

Now that summer is officially underway in our house, school got out last Friday, I won't be posting much over the next month. But once I start curriculum planning and doing activities, the blog will sizzle with homeschooling excitement. :)

All this extra time to do stuff with the family got me thinking about extracurricular activities for preschoolers. Both of my kids are involved in activities outside of the home. My son was in gymnastics, karate and AWANA when he was a preschooler. My daughter is just now starting up with activities, and her favorite is baseball. She also attends a weekly gymnastics class, and we will pick up with soccer in the fall.

I am not one to tell homeschoolers that they must have outside activities for socialization. We believe outside activities just provide more fun and learning. Playing with kids their own age is just a short-term benefit, but not the reason we utilize sports and other activities. If you homeschool and need some extra activities, talk to your local parks department or churches to find out what's offered. While some activities can cost a lot of money, like karate and gymnastics, other activities only have a small fee.

I pay around $400 a year for the gymnastics, but only $20 for the baseball. AWANA programs are free, as are vacation Bible school and many other church activities.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Preschool Homeschooling Websites

When it comes to homeschooling, the Internet is my best friend. There are so many free resources that I don't understand why some families spend hundreds of dollars on a prepackaged curriculum. But I also understand that surfing the net for ideas and lessons takes time that some families don't have. So here is a list of some of the sites we really like. Maybe this list will help save you some time.

Universal Preschool
The Best Kids Book Site
Mr. Kent Interactive Online Exercises
Free Kids Crafts
First School
Letter of the Week

I have a bunch more, but I don't want to overwhelm you. I'll try to give a short list every couple of weeks to keep the resources fresh. If you have any online sites you use in your preschool homeschool, please share them!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kids' Cooking Club

I'm getting ready to head out and shop for my kids' cooking club, Little Chefs. I started this activity with Avlyn's playgroup, and this month is the last month we meet before summer break. If you're homeschooling a preschooler and wondering what you can do to get a bunch of kids together, try starting a cooking club. The great thing about a cooking club is that it works for any age group. High schoolers can use it as part of a home economics class and create their own recipes. For a more in-depth explanation on how to start one, you can see my eHow article.

The group I have ranges in age from 2 to 4, with most of the two year olds being older two's. We meet once a month, and I have three to four recipes planned out for them. They do not use the oven or stove. I handle all of the actual baking or cooking procedures. I reuse the plastic cups that stores sell applesauce in and make sure each kid has the ingredients they need in their own cups. This month the theme is fruits. I try to think of recipes the kids can do on their own, with little to no parental involvement. For example, one of the fruit recipes will have the kids taking an apple slice, spreading peanut butter on it and sprinkling it with teddy grahams.

The kids have cracked eggs, made pizza, decorated cookies, stuffed biscuits with sausage and cheese, made fruit face english muffins, and made seasonal treats. All the kids really seem to like it. My daughter loves it and looks forward to it each month. After speaking to some of the other moms, I found out that Little Chefs was the first time their child had cracked an egg. So it's a fun way to teach cooking and kitchen skills, and it's so yummy!

Here is Avlyn decorating a cookie during Little Chefs. I see Santa in the background, so this must have been the December group.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coffee Filter Butterflies Preschool Craft

Spring is my favorite season for crafts. While winter runs a close second for craft making, I enjoy making all the spring related crafts that help teach Avlyn about butterflies, flowers, seeds, bugs and more. Both of my kids enjoy making coffee filter butterflies. My son loved this when he was a preschooler and my daughter is the same way. She likes that we can work on this craft together, or she can pull out the paint and filters and work on them independently. I use this craft as a hands-on learning tool when we do our mixing colors unit. She made about ten the other day and wants to hang them in her room.

While her idea is to hang them, you can use these butterflies in a variety of ways. One idea is to draw a springtime mural on a piece of butcher block paper. Include flowers, grass, trees, clouds, and anything else that represents spring to you. Then make the butterflies and attach them to the mural as a 3-D effect. You can also make one and use it to demonstrate the life cycle of a butterfly. No matter how you use these, they are a lot of fun to make and the different colors make each one unique.

Coffee filters

Washable paint (We used the little bottles of Crayola brand paint)

Pipe cleaners



Flatten the coffee filter and brush paint down the middle of the filter vertically. Add as many colors as you like. Just remember that the thicker the paint is in the middle, the longer it will take to dry. Fold the coffee filter in half vertically and lightly rub it down. Open gently to see the array of colors and let dry. You should have something like the picture below. I did the pink and purple and Avlyn did the colorful one. After they dry, grab them from the top and bottom and crinkle towards the middle. Cut a pipe cleaner in half and attach it around the middle. Bend the pipe cleaner so the ends look like antennae and fluff out the wings. Enjoy your butterflies!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are You a Homeschool Educator?

I found this in my Internet travels and thought it was cute. I can relate to quite a few of these. Can you?

You Must Be a Home Educator If...
You live in a one-house schoolroom.
Your walls are covered with maps and timelines.
You know what math manipulatives are.
You have mold growing in your fridge…on purpose.
Your preschooler can name all the planets, but doesn't know who the Rugrats are.
You've mastered the fine art of vacuuming a floor without sucking up a Lego or K'nex piece.
You're either an expert at doing the Lego dance - Oooch! Ouch! Yeow! - or else you've resorted to wearing shoes around the house.
You know the recipes for homemade versions of Play-doh, finger paint, and paste.
Your students have to clear the breakfast bowls off the table before sitting down to do their school work.
Your house is messy, but your kids are happy.
You know that reverse psychology really works.
Your kids publish their own family newsletter.
You shop for birthday presents at educational stores.
All you want for Christmas is a Barnes & Noble gift certificate.
You'd rather buy books than clothes.
Your friends don't want to help you move because you have so many books.
You turn a trip to the grocery store into a learning experience.
You get nervous about what people will say when you take your kids to K-Mart in the middle of the day.
You have a standard one-minute speech to give to store clerks, mother-in-laws, and school officials about why you homeschool.
You are sick and tired of answering the question, "But what about socialization?"
For your wedding anniversary, you decide to splurge and get a photocopier.
Talking out loud to yourself is the same as having a parent/teacher conference.
When you see a parking lot full of mini vans, you wonder if there's a homeschooling conference.
You take your family vacation in September, when the beaches and theme parks are empty.
You take a suitcase full of books along on your family vacation.
You can never find your kitchen utensils because they're out in the sandbox.
Your kitchen doubles as a science lab.
You are on a first name basis with your local librarian and bookstore owner.
The UPS driver delivers a box of Scholastic books to your doorstep once a month.
You know the scientific names of dinosaurs from A to Z.
You're willing to drop what you're doing at a moment's notice to go look something up in a dictionary or encyclopedia.
You have ever vented for more than five minutes on the evils of standardized testing.
You don't get fired for teaching your students about God.
Some days you learn as much as your students.
The more your kids learn, the less you seem to know.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Making the Most of the End of the Year

Traditional school lets out for the summer here in a couple of weeks. The great thing about homeschooling is that some families homeschool all year long, while others follow a more traditional schedule. Our family follows a traditional schedule, with not much work being done during the summer. However, I do like to take advantage of the end of the year to help me plan for next year. Here are some things I do that might help you assess and plan for your preschooler:

  • Review everything learned over the course of year. For us that is the alphabet, numbers 1 - 20, writing and spelling her first name, counting to 50, mixing colors, number order, alphabet order, and sorting objects.
  • Give a small assessment that shows how well your child knows the topics you covered, without giving much help or prodding to get the answers or skills done correctly. For example, I use an ice cream print out with the numbers 1 - 10 on the scoops. I then have her put them in order on the ice cream cone. I evaluate whether or not she knows her number order or just has the numbers memorized when counting.
  • Use fun crafts and hands-on activities that emphasize any skill she still struggles with.
  • Take notes, making a point to start the next school year with the skills she still needs help on and a short review.
Utilizing this method helps me assess her without using workbooks or formal tests. I don't use any sort of books or suggestions on what she should know, nor do I compare her to her peers. I simply evaluate if she has met the skills I set up for her during the year. If she has, great! If not, I just figure out more ways to teach a particular concept next year. Many times, a few months of aging really changes how a child learns and comprehends.
Happy Homeschooling!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Nick Jr. Magazine

I'm not affiliated with Nickelodeon or anything like that, but I wanted to recommend that any preschool homeschoolers check out this magazine if you haven't already. My daughter picked this out at the bookstore the other day and has been independently flipping through it over the past couple of days. The other day I sat down to read it with her and was pleasantly surprised at the content.

I was expecting a bunch of stories relating to the Nick Jr. television shows, but the magazine is full of fun stories and activities that actually teach something. There were lessons on the alphabet, birds, matching, counting in spanish, critical thinking, and reading. Nick Jr. magazine also has tips and ideas printed at the bottom of the pages to expand on the lesson or activity. Magazines are one tool I really love utilizing as teaching aids. They're bright, colorful, include current information, are portable, and make learning fun. If you're not using magazines in your homeschool, you should browse the local bookstore and find one that your kids love.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Preschool Curriculum - To Buy or Not to Buy?

It's that time of the year when homeschool curriculum catalogs start filling up my mailbox. Homeschool publishers want you to get a jumpstart on the next school year. But if you're homeschooling a preschooler, do you really need a purchased curriculum? My response is yes and no. Yes, you need some form of planned activities, but no, you don't need to spend $300 on a packaged curriculum.

With sites like Starfall and DLTK, homeschoolers can print out activities and lessons for free. However, sometimes it's easier to just purchase a basic curriculum book instead of wasting time and money printing out alphabet and number pages. For handwriting, letter recognition, and beginning reading, I think workbooks are a nice supplement to a hands-on curriculum. For arts and crafts ideas and self-created worksheets, the Internet provides plenty of free items.

Some curriculum publishers offer manipulatives as part of the curriculum price, but many of these manipulatives are unncessary. For example, I just recieved a catalog that charges around $150 for the preschool curriculum. It includes workbooks, reading books, and a couple containers of math rods and counters. If you take out the math rods and counters and just order the books separately, you spend about $90. There are so many things you can use in place of counters and rods that you probably already have around your home. Crayons, coins, buttons, and wooden skewers are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head that can be used as counters. So, while buying a curriculum takes the guess work out of lessons and activities, make sure you're buying things you really need in order to teach. Also, don't assume the package price is always the best deal, either.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sign Up with Craft of the Day

I like to share free resources that we use for homeschooling, and one of my favorites is the Craft of the Day blog. Click on the title of this post to visit the site. The best thing about this blog is that it comes direct to your email box. While I do visit blogs regularly, I check my email frequently. I've found the crafts to be easy for preschoolers and elementary school kids. Most of the crafts also include a picture of the finished project. Plus, I can save the email to my fun stuff folder and refer to it at any time. So, if you'd like to start building up a craft folder for rainy days or for crafts that complement your curriculum, check out Craft of the Day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to Find a Homeschool Group in a Small Town

We have only lived in our little Missouri town for about 3.5 years. While we moved from a large, crime-ridden city in Florida, the lack of resources in this town makes homeschooling and socializing a little tough. I know that a lot of rural families benefit from homeschooling, and any of them born and raised in a rural town probably know all they need to about the town. However, for homeschoolers who move to smaller places it can seem like they are all alone. Quite frankly, homeschooling in a small town where you know no one and there isn't much to do can get lonely.

That was our dilemma when we moved. I was homeschooling my son who was in K, and I had a 10 month old baby. All of my family and friends were back home soaking up the Florida sun, while I was busy winterizing our new home. I knew that hunkering down would drive me and the kids insane, so I went out of my way to find resources for homeschoolers in this town. Here are some ideas that will work for any family living in a small town and for those enjoying the city life, too.

1. Talk to the local library, specifically the children's librarian. The library here was familiar with a local homeschooling group that had used the library for a couple of occasions.

2. Get online and see if there is a local Yahoo email group for homeschooling. By typing in your city and the word homeschooling any local groups should pop up. Yahoo Groups

3. Check out local message boards for your town. Topix is a popular message board that has forums for cities around the country. While the forum for my little town is full of gossip and nonsense, some cities do have productive conversations happening. Just creating a message that says, "Hey, anyone know if there's a homeschooling group around?" That's actually how I got current contact info for the local homeschooling group.

4. Talk to people you see around town that seem to have school-aged children with them during school hours. Homeschooling families know that if there are errands to do in the day, the kids tag along. Just starting a friendly conversation like, "Oh, do you guys homeschool or is school out today?" will get you lots of information.

5. Depending on your town, some of the local churches may be familiar with local homeschooling groups. A couple of the churches here allow homeschoolers to take state tests using their facilities. Any church associated with a small private school may be familiar with homeschoolers, too.

Hopefully these ideas will help you out if you're in a small town and are looking for other homeschoolers. If all else fails, start your own group and advertise online, at churches, at the library, and on bulletin boards. You may be surprised how many others are looking for homeschoolers, too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome to The Little Homeschool

Hi! Welcome to The Little Homeschool. This blog will follow our homeschooling adventures. Preschool is my absolute favorite age to teach, and I'm excited to go full on with my daughter's preschool program next school year. I'll have links, ideas, crafts, curriculum suggestions, reviews and opinions about all things homeschooling related. I hope you'll join us on our adventure and offer some opinions of your own, too.