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!