Preschool at our house – ready for a new baby!

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Here is the latest change-over for the twin’s preschool activities for homeschool time each morning. We are currently taking a school holiday break for 2 weeks, leading up to the birth of our 7th blessing.

I have found from experience that everything goes much more smoothly if we continue with school, rather than take a break at the same time as the newest arrival. Too much free time and lack of structure and supervision creates cranky kids who bicker all day and drive me crazy! I have made sure that the activities for this term do not require a lot of 1 on 1 time with Mum and the older children especially are able to work through without requiring my assistance, other than for the occasional question etc.

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These handwriting books are the one item in the preschool cupboard that will need my 1 on 1 attention. The twins are asking me how to write certain letters now and are keen to write their names. My opinion is that if they are going to write letters, they may as well learn how to do it properly right from the start, rather than need to re-learn later and correct bad habits. I should be able to fit in the 15 minutes or so that is needed to complete 1 page per day.

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I picked up some old activity books with dotted pictures. Tracing these dotted lines to make the figures is great fine motor practise. I have removed the pages from their covers so that the twins can easily grab one page at a time.

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I also found some old sticker books. Again, I pulled all the pages out so that they can choose one at a time. Some paper to stick them on to and a packet of textas is all that is needed for some creative fun.

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I have had these pattern block puzzles out before but the children do not choose to do them unless directed to do so. I have made a list of each picture with space for a sticker or stamp next to each one. After finishing a puzzle they can mark it as completed by stamping or sticking next to the corresponding name. A little added incentive!

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Cutting and gluing are still exceedingly popular with both children. This box has some large plain paper sheets, wrapping paper pictures, glue sticks and scissors for free creating.

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A carry on from last month – matching upper and lowercase alphabet letters. More work is needed on this skill so I have just changed the presentation and popped it back out again. The large jewels have capital letters on them and the ice block trays have both upper and lowercase. It is a basic matching activity.

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Addition and counting skills will be something we continue to work on for a while. With the rocks as the manipulatives, the children solve the simple addition sum on each peg before clipping it to the correct segment on the paper plate. Using pegs means that this also improves fine motor skills as well. The circle in the centre is the inside of a used roll of sticky tape. I just glued it onto the paper plate which provides a great place for the pegs and rocks to be stored when not in use.

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Three letter CVC words are going to be out for quite a while. With the same letter tiles and a new set of pictures (free printables here) the twins already know how to do this and need only a little help. Last time I had them lucky dip the tiles out of a bag but I found that they wanted to be able to see all the letters and find the one they needed so ended up tipping them all out anyway. Having them in the plate means they can see the tiles and choose the sound they are up to.

 

Preschool at our house; hands-on homeschooling

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Almost a month exactly has passed since I last updated the twins (4 1/2 years) preschool activities. Changing them out once a month takes me an hour or two at the most (without interruptions!) and with approximately a month until I need to do it again, isn’t too much of a burden. If I take the time to plan for interesting activities then I find I have a positive attitude to “school” time and of course, with something new and interesting to do, so do they. A little internet surfing and Pinterest pinning and I have more ideas than I could possibly put into practise.

The children have plenty of time during other parts of the day for play-based learning and some free choice, but school time has a little more structured. I like the activities to be hands-on where possible and try to keep in mind that we have years ahead for academic learning. Right now it is more of a priority that they learn to sit, focus, concentrate and obey my instructions than it is for them to learn a particular academic skill.

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This is what the school cupboard looks like this month. With the broad categories of mathematics, reading and writing in mind, we are focussing on adding small numbers, sequencing numerals to 30, identifying upper and lowercase letter names and sounds, sounding out 3 letter words, forming letters and fine motor skills.

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These addition strips are once of the free printables I designed to go with Mathusee Primer level. We are working on basic addition facts, this month: adding on 3 and 4.

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These plastic party spoons have the numerals 1 to 30 written on them. The child needs to put them in order and then post them into the right slot in the shoebox. If unsure of where to put them, they can lift up the red strip to see the numerals below.

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This is the favourite by far. The twins dig out the buried jewels from the rice sensory box and match the uppercase letters to the lowercase letters on the trays.

These large jewels are the kind you find for displaying flowers/candles and are a very inexpensive way of creating your own Montessori moveable alphabet. A set of black letter stickers was all I needed to purchase and with the jewels came to a grand total of $4.50. The rice I had in the cupboard from my other large sensory tubs and the metal trays are a pencil tin that my daughter no longer needed.

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After mastering initial sounds, we have started work on 3 letter words. The bag holds the letter tiles which are lucky dipped and matched up to the correct space under the consonant-vowel-consonant  (CVC) words. There are no spare letters so the activity is self-checking. The answer could be written on the back of the cards too but I find that my little darlings like to turn them over and cheat check if I do that! The free printable CVC picture cards are available here.

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This salt tray has been on my to do list for ages. All you need is a tray of some sort with a brightly coloured but plain background. Rainbow stripes or large blocks of colour will work well, but avoid busy pictures and patterns. Place a thin layer of salt into the tray, provide a paint brush and let them at it. Allow plenty of time for free “painting” first and once the novelty has worn off somewhat, add some letter cards to copy. A cue tip/ear bud will work and some people suggested just using a finger but I didn’t think the salt felt very nice. My children don’t get to paint as much as they’d like so I figured the brush would make them feel like they were doing art!

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One drawback of the suitcase style was that my daughter closed the lid and picked it up by the handle to pack it away. Nope, not salt tight! Oh well, sweeping up mess is educational too.

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Starter Styles are a commercial educational toy that we purchased years ago. The older children remember them fondly and have all sat down for a fiddle at some stage or other since they came back out. The children sequence the number tiles then use them to answer questions in the book by placing them into the correct square. If their answers are right, the tiles will make a pattern when flipped over in the lid. The little books that go with them cover pre-number skills right on through to some more difficult concepts, as well-as pre-reading, reading and spelling. Not a must-have but a novel way of working on some basic skills. The logic required to work out how to place the tiles alone is quite difficult for little children.

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Threading is always good for fine motor skills. These blocks are numbered so it can be a sequencing activity also but as both my preschoolers are past this I won’t be worrying about whether it is in numerical order or not.

Last months preschool activities are here. The month before are here.

Coming up: The monthly overhaul of the two-year-old’s highchair activity cupboard.

What is your preschoolers’s favourite school-time activity?

Workboxes – homeschooling multiple ages

With many children in the family, juggling different levels of homeschooling can at times be a challenge. One of my long-term goals is for each child to become a completely independent learner, to be able to educate themselves in any way necessary to equip them for their future careers and life. Once each child is an independent reader, this becomes much easier and it is therefore the children in the 4 to 6-ish bracket that receive the most one-on-one parent directed teaching as they learn their basic phonics, reading and mathematic skills. As they progress through the next couple of years or so and become proficient readers, they begin to work more and more independently.

Workboxes are one method of encouraging independence and organising several different learners at different stages. They can take different forms; some families have a system of drawers whereby the child starts at the top drawer, completes the set task in it, moves on to the drawer below and so on until their daily responsibilities are completed. This allows them to see their progress and gives even non-readers a very clear indicator of what they are to do next. There is no wandering around collecting or organising supplies as everything necessary for the activity is in the drawer (other than a caddy or pencil-case of stationary items that is collected with the first drawer work.)

This kind of system is great for all children and is particularly helpful for those who like to know what is coming next, those who tend to argue or complain about what they do or do not have to do for the day and those who waste a lot of time finding books and supplies instead of working. Everything is black and white and dictated by the drawers. You are not finished until the last drawer is done. They can even include music practice, computer time, chores or any other kind of task a child is responsible for in a day.

I love the idea of workboxes set out in this way but didn’t want to have to swap out activities on a nightly basis. While the year one child for example does reading and phonics every day, they do not do exactly the same activity so the drawer system would require me swapping out the phonics drawer every night. The same applies for maths which is a daily activity, however the form that it takes changes daily.

Miss 3 1/2 year old’s cupboard – 1 workbox and 1 tray per day.

Miss 6 year old’s shelf – 1 workbox per day.

In the end I took the basic idea of the workbox (that is every piece of equipment necessary and every activity needing to be completed throughout the day is in the box) and tweaked it to fit our family. Our workboxes are simply a plastic crate containing every activity that must be completed throughout the day for each child within the one box (or in some cases a box and a tray for each day.) There is a box for each day of the week, apart from Wednesdays when our eldest son attends a homeschooling co-op and the girls have a more relaxed day of craft and cooking etc.

I set them up at the beginning of the term and only need to change them when content such as reading books need to be updated, rather than on a daily or weekly basis.

For those of you who are interested, here is what’s in the boxes.

Miss 3 1/2:

Monday: counting workjob, starter styles (Pre-number at the moment) and peg board. (She is learning the alphabet letter names and sounds but we do them everyday so they sit separately on the top shelf, rather than in any one box.)

Tuesday: Letterland phonics, counting workjob, puzzle and colouring in.

Thursday: Montessori style tong activity, book, counting workjob, pattern blocks and puzzle cards.

Friday: counting workjob, Montessori style spooning activity, diary writing and puzzles.

Miss 6’s work boxes:

Monday: Reading, 3 letter words spelling book, addition workjob, phonics & spelling starter styles and Montessori sight words picture match.

Tuesday: reading, handwriting, Montessori sight words picture match, phonics digraphs, number starter styles and subtraction workjob.

Thursday: Diary writing, Montessori sight words picture match, number starter styles, reading and geoboard activities.

Friday: Reading, calculations starter styles, Montessori sight words picture match, sight words activity book and base 10 activities.

Master 8 yr old’s school work is not in workboxes. He has his own desk with drawers and keeps his school book sorted into those. He does do some hands on work; however the morning session (which is when we use the workboxes) is when he does his book work. He has a weekly schedule to follow which tells him which subject to do on what day and  he works through this in order; a kind of “workbox on paper.”

He uses a mixture of Saxon Maths and Maths-U-See, Mystery of History, Exploring Creation, copywork, lapbook activities, Color the Classics and English for the Thoughtful Child.

We all have circle time together, with the focus on bible reading, character training, scripture memorization, catechism and prayer. I spend time with Miss 3 1/2 while Master 8 and Miss 6 work independently, then one-on-one with Miss 6 while the others work independently and finally time with Master 8 while both girls finish off their activities and head outside.

This is what is working for us at the moment, although as life changes and new challenges appear (such as the twins dropping their morning nap sometime soon!), everything changes again. But that’s life with little ones!