Archive for April, 2011

April 27, 2011

The Joys of Parenthood

This is a column that I wrote for The Barrow Journal.  It’s my favorite kind of column to write — one in which I can simply write a few details from my boy’s lives.  In this one I list some of the reasons why the daily grind of parenthood is worth it.  That is, I reflect on the tiny moments during the day when my boys amaze and delight me.

Click here to read the column.

I hope you’ll read it and then tell me what some of your favorite moments have been with your children.

April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

April 20, 2011

The Best Part of Homeschooling: the Field Trips

The best part of homeschooling is the field trips!  There are countless venues and opportunities out there where children can explore and do hands-on learning.  Once I met a homeschooling family that went only one place for their vacations.  Though there’s many places I could visit again and again, it baffled me that they would do that while homeschooling.  There are so many places to take kids, if you are able!  As homeschoolers, especially, I believe we should take advantage of historical sites, national parks, and the wonderful venues that cities offer us.

We are very lucky that we live within driving distance to a large city.  My in-laws are visiting right now, so last week we all went to the Georgia Aquarium.  My 4-year-old is obsessed with ocean animals.  Though it’s an expensive venue, we have been able to get some very good coupons in the past, so we’ve taken him a few times.  With my in-laws, we realized it might be a better deal to go ahead and get a family membership, especially since we are thinking of taking my son there for his upcoming 5th birthday too.  (Shh!  Don’t tell!)  So it wasn’t planned, but we took the plunge.  They also offer some homeschool classes there, so I’m hoping we can take advantage of those next Fall.

I do my best to visit free places, but when my child loves and is so interested in something like this, I think it’s worth it.

My four-year-old was in heaven.  He had to go to the area where he could touch sting rays, sea urchins, star fish and other sea creatures about three times!  I think my 20-month-old is finally at an age where he could benefit from the stimulation too.  It was a fascinating experience for all!

Where are your favorite places to take your kids for some fun, learning and wonderment?

April 14, 2011

Online Resources for Homeschooling a Preschooler, Part 3

My youngest is ready to get at that computer too!

This is the third part of my 3-part column series that I wrote for The Barrow Journal about homeschooling a preschooler.  In it I focus on our online learning.  Click here to read the full column, and scroll down to find all the links I mention in the column plus more!

www.starfall.com — great for teaching kids their ABCs and phonics –>  and Free!

www.time4learning.com —  a full, online curriculum for Pre-K through 8th grade; includes reports (except for Pre-K portion)  –>  $20 per month (But they are having an April special for $4.99, so you can check it out for cheap, if you want!)

www.khanacademy.org — I didn’t mention this in my column because we have not used it yet, and I think my son needs to get a little older before we do.  But it looks awesome, and it’s FREE!  It’s great for math and science.

A few other sites that I have found, which look great, but I haven’t used them much.

www.preschoolexpress.com

www.janbrett.com —  (My sister, the first grade teacher, tipped me off to this one as well as starfall.com.)

We also use applications or “apps” on my iPod Touch.  You have to download iTunes to access these.  (http://www.apple.com/itunes/) iTunes is free to download, and it works on a PC too.

These apps were all under $2 to use.

“Letter Tracer” by Niftybrick Software

“First Words: Vehicles” and similar apps by Learning Touch

“TeachMe: Kindergarten” by 24x7digital LLC

“Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Wheels on the Bus” and similar apps by Duck Duck Moose

Last but not least, my son and I LOVE YouTube.  I only gave it a paragraph in my column, but I wanted to go on and on about it. Sure, YouTube has a lot of junk on it, but you can also find many gems.  In the past, we have used it to look up different kinds of music and musicians because my son likes music, especially classical.  (“Play something with no words, Mommy.”)  Mostly we use it to look up videos of animals, especially ocean animals.  In fact, every time we make a paper animal as I mentioned in my earlier post/column, we always look it up on YouTube to see a video of the real animal in action.

If you are interested, here are a few of my son’s favorite videos on YouTube.  I have bookmarked them and taught him how to retrieve them, so once in a while, he watches them by himself.  (By teaching him to use the bookmarks, he goes down the list, and I don’t have to worry too much about him clicking on something I don’t want him to watch.  But I do check on him often, if I let him sit and watch by himself, just in case.)

Hermit Crab Shell Change — This hermit crab is a pet for a Kindergarten class in Florida, and in this video, you can watch it get a new home.

Lobster Migration —  Narrated by David Attenborough.  A BBC production.  For some reason, I think this is my son’s favorite.  Go figure!

Swimming with a Manta Ray —  Such beautiful creatures.  Another BBC production.

Army of Sea Urchins — Part of BBC’s Planet Earth.  (We are planning to watch that whole series sometime.)  This is a cool video because you can watch the sea urchins and starfish move in fast motion.

Shark vs. Octopus — by National Geographic.  Not for the faint of heart.

Stingray — by National Geographic.

Of course, you can watch lots of videos for kids at National Geographic for Kids!

These links are only a drop in the ocean of what is available to our kids today.  As long as children have a good balance of play time, outdoor time, and other activities, I strongly believe that it’s okay to let kids use computers, television and gadgets to learn, and I believe they enhance learning and the imagination too!  When our kids are adults, the world will be even more technologically sophisticated than it is today!  If a parent is able, why not let them start using these devices?

More Preschool Posts:

April 7, 2011

Homeschooling a Preschooler, Part 2

As promised, here is the second column that I wrote for The Barrow Journal on homeschooling a preschooler. In it I write some specific examples of what I do to teach my son, such as activity books, games, puzzles, and some of the arts and crafts we do.  Next week I’ll post the third column, which focuses solely on the online resources that I have used with him.

Click here to read the full column, or you can scroll down to see some related links and photos.

One of the activity books we have used….  It’s probably the most “school like” thing that we do.

My son and nephew playing a game together.  We love games and puzzles, and we use a lot of them.  To learn more about the benefits of playing puzzles, click here. To learn about an easy sight word game I invented, click here.

When I first began to wonder what kind of arts and crafts I could do with my son, I discovered that he didn’t like to paint or draw, but he liked using scissors!  He cut up small bits of paper, so I began to use those scraps to make paper animals.  This is the first one I made.  He calls it his “rainbow fish” after the popular children’s book of the same name.

I try not to spend a lot of money on homeschooling, but not long ago I invested in a laminator.  I got this one on Amazon for about $30, and a packet of 50 laminating sheets for about $11.  The sheets will last a long time.  I’m very happy with it, and I think that it’ll be very helpful over the long haul.

This is one of the projects we did with the paper animals.  We learned all about what kinds of animals live in trees.  On our first day of making the tree, we took a white sheet outside and shook some branches over it.  At that time, the trees in our yard yielded only an ant and a spider, but we knew all sorts of animals live in trees.  We made a new animal every few days.  :)

Now we have an ocean on the wall.  However, I have not taught my son what lives in the ocean because HE TEACHES ME.  This kid is obsessed with ocean animals, and we already had a full supply of paper ocean animals to fill up our ocean.  (And some of them are not on the board because he likes to play with them.)

For a long time, it was Mama making all the animals, and my son refused to help.  This was a little frustrating for me, but I didn’t pressure him to change (too much), and over time, he started to help make parts of the animals (like the teeth of the saw shark above), and now he will even make the animals by himself!  Hooray!  Sometimes he gets busy making animals while I’m busy doing something else.  Double Hooray!!

I really think having an activity room helps encourage him to create and learn on his own.

This is the first animal he made:  a whipnose.  They are fish that live in the very deep parts of the ocean and have fishing-pole-like noses.

Here is his lion fish.  He likes to look in the animal encyclopedia that my nephew gave him for Christmas for new animals.

And I’m happy to say that he also likes to paint and draw now too!

What kinds of things do you do to help your children soar?!

More Preschool Posts:

April 6, 2011

How I taught my son his ABCs, 123s, and a little bit of my philosophy too

Soon I will post the second in my series of columns about homeschooling a preschooler, but first I thought it might be appropriate to start at the very beginning….That is, how I taught my son his ABCs and 123s.

I believe that learning happens all the time, and as Maria Montessori said, it begins at birth.  There are the kinds of things we teach ourselves, such as learning how to walk, talk, love and explore.  Then there is the “school” kind of learning:  learning the language our parents speak, our history, math and critical thinking.  Every kind of learning is important.

Of all the things I want to teach my sons, what I hope to teach them above all is to love learning. This world is beautiful, distressing and complex.  I hope to instill in them the desire to discover, and I want to teach them how they can find answers for themselves.  I also want them to know it’s okay to keep asking questions and how to embrace mystery, if need be.

That may sound lofty, but it’s for those reasons that I try to take my son’s lead with learning, especially now when he’s only four years old.  If I push anything on him, he’s going to balk.  As long as he’s inquisitive and thinks what we’re doing is fun, I’m going to roll with it.  (We will re-evaluate this method as he gets older.)

But I don’t sit back and wait for him to pick up a book either.  I show him books, and I introduce new ideas to him.  Usually he thinks my suggestions are pretty cool. After all, he is FOUR.

My eldest son learned his ABCs very early.  By 21 months, he could correctly identify each letter.  That is, I could say, “Point to the M,” and he would point to the correct letter.  I taught my son his letters in a variety of ways, but I think what helped him the most was our lessons in the bathtub.

I bought those letters that you can use in the tub, and we would play with them, and I simply stated the names of the letters as we moved them around.  Sometimes we would line up three letters on the edge of the tub, and I would say their names as I pointed to them.  For a while, I thought that what I was doing was pointless and that he was probably too young to get it, but then one night I asked him to pick up such and such letter and he did it!  And then he did it again!  I was amazed!

Nowadays Daddy usually gives him a bath, but not long ago I did, and that night he wanted to try to “build words” like they do in the PBS show “Word World.”  (I also credit and thank educational television shows for teaching my son the basics better than I can!  If used properly, T.V. is not bad for kids!  You can read a column I wrote about children and television here.)  You can see one word we built above.  I had to assemble it on the toilet because his younger brother kept grabbing and throwing the letters around.

Another fun activity we did was writing the alphabet on the sidewalk outside and then walking along and saying the letters.

I also used the chalk to teach him numbers.  I wrote the numbers with the chalk on the sidewalk, and I drew dots under each numeral…..1 dot for the number one, 2 dots for the number 2, etc.  Then we would find objects to put under each letter:  2 acorns, 3 leaves, etc.  I think this really helped him to understand what the numbers meant.

These are simple exercises, and they were simply part of our routine.  I did not do any planning.  I just took advantage of the moments when my son was focused and willing to learn.

Moral of the story:  Teach when child is willing and you have the energy!

It should not go unmentioned that my youngest son, the 19-month-old, is a completely different character!  Even if I had the opportunity to spend leisure, uninterrupted one-on-one time with him like I did with my first child, I’m not sure he would learn the same way.  He never sits still.  In the bathtub, he’s a fish flipping from one side to the other, and he chews on the letters.

I have not tried to teach the 19-month-old anything because I just don’t have the time or energy, but I’m not worried about him.  He is vibrant, curious, and he loves books.  He loves nothing more than sitting in my lap with a book and flipping through the pages.  Sometimes he’ll point to the images and say, “ugh!” which means I need to tell him what it is.  He will definitely learn differently than his older brother, but as you can see, he has already taken the lead on how.

If you have any other fun, easy methods for teaching toddlers the basics, please leave a note in the comment section!

April 5, 2011

Thank You for Subscribing

I wanted to take a moment to give a heartfelt thank you to whoever noticed my recent post about homeschooling a preschooler with a baby in the house and then put a link to it on simplehomeschool.net.  My daily life with a four-year-old and 19-month-old is so busy and chaotic that I don’t have time for much blogging or to promote this blog, but I felt very warm and fuzzy to find out that some people have found it and are subscribing.  Thank you.

I write a weekly column for a small, local newspaper on motherhood, homeschooling, daily life and other stories.  It comes out in print each Wednesday, and then they post it on their website sometime during the week, usually over the weekend.  I link my columns to this site, and whenever possible, I write other blog posts on homeschooling.  I have so many ideas, but oh so little time! I whittle away at my ideas each night during my precious “hour” of me-time and snatches of time I get here and there, and I’m always surprised at how much I can accomplish by using my time wisely.  I think I accomplish more now than I did when I had time.

This blog has gone through many incarnations, and recently I moved it to WordPress and decided to focus it more on homeschooling, (though my columns are not all about homeschooling).  There are a few people who I met online long ago when I had only one child (who blessed me with long, three-hour naps!) and when I had more time for blogging, photography and writing fiction.  For those of you who are still visiting me (you know who you are), I thank you too.

Please leave me comments sometime so that I can get to know you.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle and a journey, and we can all learn from one another!

April 1, 2011

Homeschooling a Preschooler with a Baby in the House, Part 1

As promised, I’m posting the first of my (what is now THREE-part) series of columns about my experience homeschooling a preschooler.  It’s been a challenge to do anything that looks like learning with a high energy one-year-old in the house, but after writing the columns, I have realized that we’ve managed to do quite a lot.  This is a good testament to keeping some kind of record or portfolio of your children’s work, if you choose to homeschool.

In the column I mentioned that I used the World Book Typical Course of Study (UPDATE: Unfortunately, World Book has removed this page from their website, but About.com put it on their website. You can access it here.) to give me peace of mind about the “academics” side of the equation, although at this age, I really do feel it’s more important for children to have free time to play and explore their worlds more than anything else.  I wrote a column about the importance of playing make-believe a while back, if you are interested.

Above you can see my son’s “Learning Box.”  He and I decorated it together, and I fill it with the things that I want us to work on when we have time.  This is a huge help because I don’t have time for any kind of “planning.”

I keep the box in our “activity room.” It’s been a big help to have a space we dedicate to activities and learning.  All the tools are very accessible to my son, and he is increasingly going in there to use them.  Much of the learning we do is done spontaneously when he gets interested in doing it!

Click here to read the column, and please sign up for my RSS Feed so that you won’t miss the upcoming columns in which I write about what we use for learning and some of our favorite activities!  These columns will definitely have more “meat” about how to homeschool a preschooler.

As always, thank you for stopping by, and please leave your own insights about homeschooling during the preschool years!

***

UPDATE: To make it easier for you, I’m including my Table of Contents for Preschool here:

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