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August 11, 2014

What We're Using for Homeschool Preschool

Before I had my first little guy, I was an elementary teacher~ Throughout my teens, I served in church preschool environments and after college, I worked as an elementary teacher. As a full-time mom, my role of teacher has continued, especially as we look forward to homeschooling our kiddos.

Last year, in addition to our weekly activities, I incorporated various pre-school learning activities in to our day - just a few minutes here and there with a concentrated focus on letters and numbers. Starting after Labor Day, we worked on one letter of the alphabet each week. We took a few weeks off here and there for family vacation, holiday travel, etc. and we finished up in the Spring.

This previous post will give you a glimpse in to some of the letter-a-week activities we did last year. We continued throughout the summer using supplemental activity pages from Pre-K activity books, You Tube playlists and toddler-friendly apps that captured my little one's attention (Oh my Genius, Sesame Street, Hoopla Kids, Maple Leaf Learning, Starfall, Harry Kindergarten, Mother Goose Club, etc.), manipulatives I had on hand, easy Pinterest activities, etc. 

This year, I'm planning to build on what we did last year~ Starting after Labor Day, we are going to begin with the letter A...focusing on one letter each week and once again carrying that theme throughout the year. There are so many great guides out there for how to tackle the "Letter-a-Week Approach". I would say I have pulled ideas from 18,000 different places - using what I think will work for us and leaving the rest behind for someone else. We will continue to do some of the same activities we did last year - using magnets, Play-doh, cookie cutters, flashcards/flip-charts, chalk, paint, puzzles, blocks, sand, water, shaving cream, cutting/pasting activity sheets, etc. but I am also excited about adding some new elements.

I am planning to use these letter posters [and number posters] from ABCJLM in a variety of ways! For example, rather than simply coloring or tracing the letters and numbers, I think my little guy will respond well to filling in the open space with manipulatives - counting bears, plastic bugs, pasta noodles, play dice, rocks, etc. Super hands-on and very visual. Right now I'm working on printing/laminating these sheets so they can be used and reused one hundred times. I think they will also be great for texture activities - tracing in sand, etc.

This year, another one of our weekly activities will be creating the letter/number shapes by placing the popsicle sticks in specific formations. I know my little guy - I'm learning how his brain works - and this type of activity is right up his alley. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can do what works for you and your child and change it right away if it's not working for either one/both of you.
There are so many great curriculum options out there - Once again, it's all about choosing what works best for you and your little ones.  This year, we will be using the following two consumable books from A Beka's preschool curriculum.

As I was going through our homeschool closet, it was clear that we could tackle preschool without having to make any purchases like this, but I made the decision to order these books for a couple of different reasons. While I have loads and loads of great curriculum, I wanted Caleb to have ownership over these workbooks...that will arrive just for him...and be our steady guide throughout the year. As I look forward to incorporating more and more A Beka phonics into our academic routine, I want to acclimate him to the types of things he will be seeing over the next few years. Sure, he would be totally fine without these, but I think they are going to help bring some organization and structure to his routine - another thing I know my child needs.

A Beka loves their seatwork ;-), so my goal is for these books to meet our worksheet quota (I'm not much for worksheets...especially for preschoolers....especially for boys...I could go on...) and for all of our supplemental activities to speak to the senses.

While A Beka offers manuscript as well as cursive for beginning writers, we are planning to begin with manuscript - and by kindergarten, I plan to transition to Handwriting without Tears. ABCJLM and Handwriting without Tears offer loads of great sensory activities for beginning learners - You will definitely want to check out some of the options there.

For Bible, we use the The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name and Jesus Calling Bible Storybook. (We also love the The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers.) We read these each day before breakfast and before bedtime. In addition to Sunday church, Caleb also attends two weekly preschool classes that are infused with truth.

For Scripture memorization, we love Steve Green's Hide 'Em in Your Heart series. Did you know volume three - Hide the Word - has been released? We are super excited about that! We play his music in the car as well as at bedtime. We also love ABC Scripture cards and are looking forward to implementing those into our routine this year! We're also going to spend this coming year working on Psalm 23. Memorizing Scripture was an integral part of my growing up years, and I am so thankful for that! I remember most all of it!  (Did any of you attend Awana Club?)
Things I try to memorize as an adult? Not so easy to remember!

We read lots during the day and a bedtime - During this time we focus lots on colors, counting, opposites, rhyming words, etc. I've intentionally included lots of nursery rhymes, fables, poetry, etc. -

For art, music, physical education, etc. Caleb is involved in several different local programs. We also keep an eye out for any age-appropriate opportunities being offered at our museums, libraries, theaters, etc. There seem to be loads of great resources right in our backyard!

A few other resources we are planning to enjoy this year:
I love these Kumon workbooks! In the future, I look forward to Caleb participating in some of the math programs at our local Kumon facility. While browsing a kid's consignment store, I found two brand new Kumon [language arts] workbooks; and I recently purchased the cutting book at Staples. I found out that Staples price matches - even Amazon shipped prices. I happened to be in Staples one day, so that worked out great - Kumon books for $4 a piece - yes, please...that's actually the same price the consignment store had on them! (While I love Amazon, I was also able to price match my printer ink and more while in Staples that day, so I was one happy camper!)

Big Skills for Little Hands offers a great series to reinforce skills related to cutting, pasting, folding, tracing, drawing, coloring, etc. Caleb loves using scissors and glue, so these activities are going to be great - especially for rainy days indoors....Hey, maybe we'll even get a few snowy days in the south again this year!

A Few Other Thoughts:
When do I do "school" with my little one? Our weeks stay pretty full - with faith-based preschool classes, library storytime, art/music class, swimming lessons, playdates, etc. - so I have to be intentional about making things happen around here.  When given the opportunity, my youngest will still take an extra nap, so Caleb and I are able to do school while Isaac is asleep. For now this works out great~ Each stage will definitely require creativity and adjustment, but homeschool provides us with an incredible amount of flexibility, so we will take things as they come. A wise mentor once told me that teaching requires a gal to constantly prioritize...She was so right. I've carried that advice into motherhood, and it will most definitely serve me well in the homeschooling environment as well.

Where do we "do" school? When building our house, we created a specific homeschool space - complete with a large closet that houses curriculum, supplies, etc. At this pre-school stage, our kitchen table, our minivan, and the great outdoors have served as our classroom. I'm sure that will continue, but I'm excited that our homeschool space will be a great home base for years to come.
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.
*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!*

Implementing little academic activities is easy. Plan ahead, and before each week starts, gather your supplies- Scour the playroom, the kitchen, the art cabinet...everywhere! You probably have great resources all around you! No need to be fancy...just intentional.

What works for one family may not work for another! Do your research, consider your children, pray about your decisions, but do not let other [well-meaning] homeschool parents guide the choices that you make for you and your little ones. Educational conferences, teacher stores, social media, etc. can be your worst nightmare, because everyone wants you to know loud.and.clear that what they are doing is the best way and that their children have reached a level of genius that you just can not possibly imagine. Ignore these people. My other piece of flexible. If something isn't working, it's okay to change it...immediately. You are not a failure and neither is your child. There are so many great options out there, and you will find what works for you!

For ideas for some of the other resources I am incorporating into our preschool fun,
check out my "Preschool Resources" Pinterest Board. Pinterest is full of great ideas, creative inspiration, free printables, etc. It is such a great resource for any family, and we use it often!
Need a gift idea to start the year off right with your little learners?
If you missed my blog feature on Back-to-School parties, check it out here: