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!