March 31, 2015

Don't miss my newest Homeschooling Post!

Happy Tuesday, Friends! Welcome to this week's link-up - We are so excited you're here, and are looking forward to checking out your posts!

While I love to blog about all kinds of things, I have really enjoyed connecting with many of you through my posts related to Homeschool Pre-school. This week, a jam packed post went live! It includes all kinds of information that will help you get started with pre-schooling at home. 


In this post, I chat a little bit about:

Choosing a Curriculum
Manipulatives/Hands-On Activities
Supplemental Resources
Extra Curricular Options
& More! 

If you missed the post, be sure to check it out!

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March 30, 2015

Homeschooling a Three-Year Old (Homeschool Preschool)

Several months ago, I wrote about our Homeschool Preschool plans for this year! I shared my resources as well as the way we had begun to use those items with our three-year old. In this post, I want to share our favorite things from this year, our plans for the summer, and our approach for next year. I also want to answer some of your questions regarding Homeschool Preschool.

I have made every effort to keep this post simple and organized. 
However, there is a lot here - so grab a cup of coffee (and maybe a handful of Oreos), 
and let's get started! 

Homeschooling a Three-Year Old
Homeschool Pre-school

Reader Question - How do you get started? First of all, consider this. Since when is school required for toddlers and pre-schoolers? This is a fairly new phenomenon. In past generations, children learned (and learned alot) through their play, daily interactions at home, etc. Therefore, please understand that you CAN.NOT.MESS.THIS.UP. Choose the areas where you would like to focus with your little one, and then gather resources that will assist you in meeting those goals. There is no wrong way to do this. The only danger is trying to take on too much at once - overwhelming yourself and your child. 
Keep it simple. It will make all the difference!

Our Core Areas of Focus for our 3-Year Old:
Letter Recognition
Letter Tracing
Letter Sounds
Counting to 20
Shape Identification
Color Identification
Motor Skills

So when it came time for me to choose workbooks, etc. I did not order a large (and expensive) curriculum kit. I am a believer in A Beka's phonics program, so I started there for our main workbooks - only ordering two items...the two items that I felt would best assist in with our areas of focus for the year. 


Letters & Sounds for 3s
Numbers & Skills with Button Bear
The Letters & Sounds book assists you in creating a strong phonics foundation for your little one. Over the past several months, I have watched my three-year old grow in the following areas:
letter recognition
tracing skills
letter/word association

The Numbers & Skills book offers great counting practice - but it also includes a variety of pages that will encourage: 
color recognition/application
reasoning skills

*On a weekly basis, we completed two pages from each of these workbooks.
**As part of our daily exercises, we used Phonics Charts 1 & 2 from A Beka. These two charts lay the foundation for A Beka's phonics program.

Reader Question - Why do you love A Beka's phonics program?  Some moms feel overwhelmed by the thought of learning A Beka's phonics curriculum, and I can understand this; but after a little bit of time, it will become second nature to you! Their pre-school curriculum is very basic, so you can gradually work in to the more complicated parts as your child moves on in the program. For example,  over the summer months, we will add Chart 3.
Some educators feel that A Beka's curriculum is too traditional; but in my opinion, traditional works best - at least foundationally. Out of all the program that I have taught, assessed, interacted with over the years, I have found that [hands-down] the A Beka curriculum produces the strongest readers. 
This is not to say that the program is for everyone - but this is why we have chosen to use it.

Reader QuestionIs A Beka the only curriculum you plan to use? No. In fact, one of my complaints with A Beka is that it can be heavy on seat work - specifically when it comes to handwriting practice. Especially for boys, I have found Handwriting without Tears to be a great option! They have great workbooks, kinesthetic products, etc. for all ages.
We are also excited to implement Keyboarding without Tears, so if you visit their website, be sure to check that out as well!

There are lots of great options out there (literally something for everyone!), and with homeschooling, you have the flexibility to choose what works best for your child! 

Kumon workbooks are perfect for my little guy! He loves them, and they provide great reinforcement! This year, we completed two pages from this workbook each week.

This cutting book was fun for my little guy as we wanted to provide him with opportunities for cutting, pasting, etc.

There are so many great [age-appropriate/developmentally-appropriate] activity books out there - find what your little one loves and let that be your guide! Don't over think it. Don't compare to others. Just go with it. You will be amazed what they will learn! 

This large easel tablet has been a fun extra to have on hand this year!

Each week, we focused on a new letter of the alphabet - and each new page in this huge coloring book worked perfectly for this approach. For example, this "Z" page included a zebra, a zero, zinnias, a zipper, and a zoo. 

While this proved to be a fun resource (I even enjoyed coloring with my little guy each week!), it also served a great activity for my toddler to do while I was working with my pre-schooler. 

Reader Question - How do you teach your pre-schooler while also having another little one running around the house? At the beginning of the school year, my youngest was still taking a morning nap - which provided me with a perfect window of time to work with my three-year old. As my toddler gave up his morning nap, I have had to get more creative. 
Here are a few things that have worked for us (depending on the day):
When my older one wakes up first (and he usually does), we go ahead and do school while the little one is sleeping. 
If our schedule moves school time to the afternoon (which sometimes it does), my three-year old and I do school while the little one is eating a snack. We're all seated at the kitchen table together and it works. 
If we choose to do school at a time when my little one is not sleeping or eating, I give him something to play with: building blocks, tupperware containers and kitchen utensils, Playdoh (depending on his mood...and mine), etc. 

Hands-On Manipulatives:

While workbooks have their place, hands-on interaction is the most important thing - especially when "schooling" a three-year old!
The following items played a huge role in our day-to-day learning this year: 

Counting Blocks
Popsicle Sticks

A Variety of Writing Tools:
Chalk & Chalkboard
Paint & Paintbrushes - Yes, for "writing".
Each writing tool has its own unique feel to it - I want my little guy to experiment with all of them. 

Various Letter/Word Flashcards

There are thousands of different ones out there - Simply choose the ones that catch your eye!

Magnetic Letters (and Numbers) for Play, Sorting/Classifying, Etc.
(Psst...Have you considered using an oil drip pan for a magnet board? It's perfect!)
Melissa & Doug pretty much have the market cornered on amazing educational supplies! Their puzzles are definitely an important part of the learning that goes on around here! 

*Check Amazon deals (especially around the holidays) and use 40% Off coupons at Michael's Arts & Crafts Store to score great deals on M & D Products~

Top Left: Tactile Letter Cards by Harcourt

Various Building Blocks/Manipulatives

There are so many different magnetic play and learn sets by this company! Love them!

As I've mentioned before, kids learn through play, and we try to be strategic about the toys we purchase. When I discovered this Design & Drill set, I immediately fell in love - Talk about great motor skill practice. This gem goes on sale from time to time, so throw it in your Amazon cart and grab it when it's at a great price - Your kiddos will love it!

Other ideas for encourage motor skills: rigorous outside play, tossing a ball with dad, building with blocks, assisting with household chores, painting at an easel, coloring, cutting/pasting, playing with Playdoh. Once again, whether we realize it or not, lots of learning is happening during typical childhood activities.

Letter Stamps

I just love hands-on activities, and I make every effort to spend more time with manipulatives than with workbooks - especially at this age! 

I like to stick with ideas that are simple and easy to implement! 
For example, I found this idea on Pinterest, and my kiddos have loved it! 

Reader Question - Where do you find your ideas? Some the activities we do are things I did in the elementary classroom with second and third-graders. I have simply tailored the ideas to suit a pre-schooler. In addition to that, Pinterest in my number one resource! When I am browsing Pinterest, I will either pin or screenshot ideas that I love - making sure to incorporate them as I am able. If an idea looks too complicated...too time consuming...or if it looks like it's going to require a lot of supplies that I don't already have on hand, I just keep on scrolling!

For ideas that have really worked - as well as fresh ideas that I'm planning to use this summer, check out my Preschool Resources Board on Pinterest!

When I find a new idea that I love, I oftentimes post it on my Facebook Page or over on my Instagram account. I would love to connect with you there! 

Reader Question - Where do you find your supplies? Most of my educational supplies/toys have come from yard sales, thrift shops, dollar stores, and consignment sales! You do not have to spend a lot of money to provide great resources for your children. Always be on the lookout - Buy ahead - and you will be amazed at the incredible collection you will be able to build.

For more details on specifically how we used these supplies, check out: 

Letter Mats from ABC Jesus Loves Me

Whispy - Interactive Reading Tool for All Ages

In inside glimpse:
Tactile  & Fun

Bible Curriculum:
Throughout the year, we work through these - We use one of them at of them at bedtime...and when we finish one, we move on to another. 

Check out these ideas for implementing Bible in to your regular daily routines. 

Our Memorization Goals for the Year:
Days of the Week
Months of the Year
The Pledge of Allegiance
Psalm 23

Reader Question - How do you teach your little one to memorize? Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. That's it! I find songs, rhymes, etc. that make these things fun, and we recite and sing and chant during our school time...when riding around in the night before bed, and my little guy loves it! Their minds are like little sponges! Don't be afraid to set [appropriately] high expectations, and they will amaze you!

Days of Week Song
Sing to the Tune of "Yankee Doodle"
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Don't ask me to sing again, because I'll do it anyway.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Months of the Year Song
Sing to the Tune "Michael Finnegan"
January, February, March, and April
May and June
July and August
September, October, November, December
These are the months of the year.

Search Google, YouTube, iTunes, etc. for more great ideas! There is so much out there that can assist you in making memorization fun and easy for your little one!


I like to keep most of our art supplies organized in a nearby cabinet.
(I usually let my Mommy's Helpers tackle the Playdoh!)

My pre-schooler loves to cut and paste, so his Paper Bucket Art Box is his favorite, and it reinforces our cutting/pasting goal for the three-year old year.

Painting is another favorite of his -  but we usually save this for when little brother is asleep or when Daddy is home to assist.

Educational Apps on Personal Tablet
YouTube Playlists on Laptop at Home
Computer Time at the Library

Some of our favorite YouTube Playlists: Super Simple Learning, Maple Leaf Learning, Oh My Genuis, Storybots, Edewcate, and Mothergoose Club. There are so many great ones out there!
We are also a big fan of Starfall! An awesome website - a great app!

My Advice:
Please do not feel the need to bookmark ALL of the resources mentioned in the post - ordering all of them for your little one. These are just the items that I have either had on hand or gathered at very little cost to our family.

1. Decide on the areas where you want to focus.
2. Shop your house for resources that will do the job!
3. If you feel you want to grab any additional supplies, be resourceful and use a little creativity!
(There is no need to spend a lot of money.)
4. If you get overwhelmed, pull back remembering to keep it simple.

Mamas, don't you dare hop online (or head to your local teacher) and drop hundreds of dollars on resources! I have shelves and shelves of amazing resources - but I have been bargain-shopping them for years...almost 15 years to be exact. Start slow...start your toy closet, your pantry, your art supplies, and then only purchase what you feel is necessary.  

Reader Question - What does your school calendar look like? 
We begin the week following Labor Day and continue through the Spring months.
We take week long breaks for vacations/major holidays as well as visits from out-of-town family.
When our main curriculum is finished (this year: 26 Weeks of the Alphabet), we continue on with hands-on activities, etc.
In the summer, we use supplemental workbook pages, hands-on activities, etc. to keep our little ones engaged - but there are no lesson plans. I commit to being intentional with it throughout the summer, and I make it happen as our schedule allows.

*Sam's Club sells some great workbooks to use for summer learning!

Reader Question - How much time do you spend on school each day? Our focused learning activities can typically be completed in 15-20 minutes. Yes, you heard me correctly! This does not mean the learning stops there! (When my oldest was two, we did an even lesser version of what I shared today, and we spent approximately 5-10 minutes on Letter-a-Week activities. Especially at this age, it is important to remember that so much learning is taking place through independent play, interaction with others, etc. My kids love when I read aloud to them! They are big fans of play dates at the park and trips to the library for music time/ story time. They enjoy going to the art center and doing little projects in the garage with their dad. They love taking "nature walks" and playing outside with water, bubbles, sand, and chalk. These daily experiences are where so much learning is taking place - In my mind, formal Homeschool Pre-school is simply for reinforcement and enrichment.

For more information on classes/activities that we attend outside of the home, hop over here.

Our Weekly Schedule:

A Beka Phonics Charts 1 & 2
Bible Reading/Bible Memory
Letters & Sounds Tracing Activity
Numbers & Skills Counting Activity
*Hands-On Letter Activities

A Beka Phonics Charts 1 & 2
Bible Reading/Bible Memory
Letters & Sounds Tracing Activity
Kumon Workbook Page
*Hands-On Letter Activities

A Beka Phonics Charts 1 & 2
Bible Reading/Bible Memory
Letters & Sounds Tracing Activity
Numbers & Skills Counting Activity
*Hands-On Letter Activities

A Beka Phonics Charts 1 & 2
Bible Reading/Bible Memory
Kumon Workbook Page
*Hands-On Letter Activities

Cutting/Pasting Activities
*Hands-On Letter Activities

Our Plans for Next Year:

Once again, I am tailoring our curriculum to fit our needs! I have ordered our core workbooks from A Beka, Handwriting without Tears, and KUMON. I have already begun gathering supplemental resources - using many items that we used this year as well as a few more advanced items that I have had stashed away in our home school closet. While yard saling, thrifting, etc. this summer, I will keep an eye out for great (low-cost) additions!
*While we do not lend items from our personal collection of resources, we are happy to point others toward where they can find the same great goodies!*

As many of you know, we are expecting baby number three (due this September). When the baby arrives, we will obviously experience an interruption to our regular routine. Therefore, I am planning to get a head start with my oldest - going ahead and beginning his curriculum this summer.

 Reader Question - When it comes to homeschooling, what is your husband's role? My husband works a lot of hours, but when he is home with us, he is fully engaged. He is passionate about teaching our little ones, and his perspective is oftentimes much needed! For example, when my oldest first started using scissors, daddy was the go-to guy! He was much better at teaching him the correct technique. I typically save a workbook page...a hands-on activity...or an art project for my pre-schooler to complete with daddy on the weekend. My hubby is great with this, and our Caleb loves the one-on-one time with his dad!

 Reader Question - I am not a trained teacher. Can I still homeschool my child?
Short Answer: Yes!
Long Answer: I am a trained educator - I hold degrees in education, a state teaching license, various certifications and other related credentials. However, these are not required in order for you to do an EXCELLENT job homeschooling your child. In fact, very few members in our immediate homeschooling community have ever received any formal training in education, and you should meet their children! WOW!
To put it simply, you know your child best, and you are fully capable of teaching them at home. I am definitely not suggesting that you walk this path alone! I am so thankful for great resources, additional programs, cooperative learning opportunities with other families/organizations, etc. Do your research! Be resourceful! Eagerly learn new things! Get creative! But don't doubt yourself! Passion for the why, a little common sense, and a smidge of creativity will take you far.

Want to know more about why we have chosen Homeschooling?
Why Gov't Schools are Not an Option for Our Family

My Favorite Book Report Projects: For Classroom Teachers & Homeschool Educators
Also be sure to visit my Teachers Pay Teachers shop! 

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March 28, 2015

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas

You know the drill! You shop the pantry (and the fridge) for items you might have on hand that will make a yummy dinner without breaking the bank! 

These Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas were born out of that exact scenario, and they are delicious!

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas

Drain 1 can of corn and 1 can of black beans. 

Toss together with diced pieces of cheese - mozarella is yummy...smoked gouda is even yummier!

If you have some bacon on hand, crumbling pieces of it into this mixture will take this dinner to a whole new level! 

When I make quesadillas, I use our griddle to make a few at a time - and they are perfect served with chips and salsa! 


If your family would like a little more spice, check out this version from Kristina Nunez!

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Teaching Your Children to Respect Books

There are few things I have loved more than watching my little ones fall in love with books! 
Fostering a hunger for reading has been a priority from the time my first little fella was in my tummy, and as he has gotten older and another little guy has joined our family, I have been passionate about teaching them to respect books. 

Teaching Your Children to Respect Books
Respect Books

I love reading out loud to my children! They love reading with me, but nothing compares to when Daddy reads with them - That's their favorite! What a great opportunity to model not only strong reading skills but also how to handle books with care.

We have been attending library story time since my oldest was in the Baby Story Time program. He has always loved the male librarian that leads this time, and I love that he is interacting with another male who enjoys books - as reading is unfortunately, oftentimes, handled as a "female sport".

Encourage your children to take good care of their books as well as any that they borrow from the library!

Library Books

From the beginning, teach them how to correctly hold a book, how to turn its pages, how to carefully close it, and how to appropriately put it away where it goes. We try to discourage them from standing on books, throwing books down in the floor, etc.

In our main living area, books are stored in a special book basket - If I feel like the basket is getting too full, I put some of the books away in a closet - rotating them by season, whether or not my littles are getting bored with them, etc.

These few things have made all the difference when it comes to teaching my little ones to respect books.

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Easter Basket Ideas

I just love this time of year, and one of my favorite things about this season is putting together Easter baskets for the ones I love!

Easter Basket Ideas

Pre-made baskets are not for me, and I try to avoid the junky little trinkets that will only find themselves in the trash before you can say Peter Rabbit! I love hand-filling my kids' baskets with all kinds of fun things that I know they will love, and I typically stick with a spring/summer theme:

spring-themed books
art supplies that will be fun used outside
new underwear (Okay, maybe that's weird...)
summer toys (a water gun, diving rings, sidewalk chalk, etc.)

I love a good variety of goodies for them, and I keep a look out for things....well, from the previous Easter until the present. Their baskets are large, and I love filling them to the brim! Would you believe I may even stop by Target to get a few last minute filler items?

Now...on to hubby's basket! He would highly disappointed if he received books, art supplies, or new underwear. He would probably really enjoy receiving a water gun, but the focus of his basket is always the candy, and this year, Hershey's candy did not disappoint! 

Candy is the number one item purchased during the Easter season, and The Hershey Company has a wide variety of new and classic treats to fill every Easter basket with joy. 

The Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs are the highlight of my Easter season, so I made sure to include those in his all-candy basket...for me, of course!

Cadbury Caramel Eggs are the highlight of his Easter season, and the creme eggs are delicious, too! This Easter favorite combines traditional milk chocolate with a center of pure gooey goodness that people know and love. 

See those silly prank glasses? When my oldest was just months old, I included them in his first Easter basket. Wearing these for a silly Easter photo has become a family a tradition of ours. What can I say? We're goofy like that!

Now...back to my candy-lovin' husband's basket!

I also added some Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs, a handful of Hershey's Kisses Chocolates a few Jolly Rancher Easter Shaped Lollipops, and a bag of Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans to his stash, but these also made great filler items for kiddos' baskets as I want to make sure to include a little sweet treat for them as well. These smaller products from Hershey's also work great for filling Easter eggs!

Speaking of Easter Egg Hunts, this year, I think we're going to let the kids hide the eggs! 
This means David and I are going to be doing the searching...and enjoying some of the candy for ourselves this year! 
How cute is this Hershey's Solid Milk Chocolate Princess Bunny? See, we are convinced we're having a girl...and since she's not here yet, mama might eat her Easter candy this year!

Hershey Easter offerings are now available at retailers nationwide!

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The content and opinions expressed below are that of All Kinds of Things.