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. http://www.ehow.com/how_4550638_start-kids-cooking-club.html

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.