Sunday, September 5, 2010

Preschool Days 4-8: Letter I

We had a busy school week and I felt good at the end with all we had accomplished. There is still a lot of improvement to be made, but I am happy with our overall plan.

This week we focused on the Letter I, using a little of this and a little of that. We stick close to our Raising Rock Stars Preschool curriculum but I add in items from Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve and this week I began adding in activities from Confessions of a Homeschooler Letter of the Week curriculum.

You can look here to see our new school room set up and our new routine. Our new set up is really working for us and so is the routine.



Tracing the "I" on the vocabulary cards

Cutting out more vocabulary cards

Coloring the color sheet

The finished coloring sheet and her taped verse

Alliteration book: We will be doing this every week from now on and will make a book with it after we go through the alphabet. We looked at our vocabulary cards from RRSP to get ideas then came up with a silly sentence using only letter I words. Our silly sentence was something like Izzy Inchworm is inside Iggy Iguana's island igloo. Then Abby drew a picture to illustrate the sentence.

Confessions of a Homeschooler:

Inchworm Graphing

Big and Little I Sort

Inchworm Building

Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve

Ice Cube Melt: we wrapped ice cubes in a variety of materials and timed them to see which melted first

Igloos: built igloos out of mini marshmallows

Praying for...: this week we prayed everyday for two people in our church whose names begin with I and for missionaries in India and Indonesia

Sand Tray/Paint Bag Writing: trying out new ways to practice handwriting skills, neither worked out very well for us but I will try these again

Non I Activities

Fish Count Game


Magnifying Quilt Match

Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes & Lullabies CD: this came with our Sonlight P3/4 package and we love it! We listen to it very often


Every morning we read 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible (part of Sonlight P3/4). About every other morning we read the "I" story from My ABC Bible Verses (part of RRSP).

Other Sonlight books we read:
Make Way for Ducklings
Katy and the Big Snow: The day after reading this, we were outside and heard some loud noises coming from down the road and decided to check it out. It was a bulldozer (just like Katy!) We sat and watched him work for a long time.
Busy Timmy
Guess Who Lives Here: They loved this book! It is from Eloise Wilkins treasury (Golden Books). They love all the pictures in this collection but they really loved this story.
Baby Listens

This week we went to visit my dad. He lives on our family farm owned by my grandmother who is about 85. He raises cattle and keeps up the place with help from my uncle and other various family members. It is beautiful there and I love going to visit him, my stepmom, my grandma, and my great aunt who all live on the farm.

The girls love to see all the cows and horses and wildlife in the area. We spent the day riding around in the farm truck and eating treats from our family (grapes, cookies, ice cream sandwiches, etc.)

The weather was so nice this week so we were able to spend lots of time outside. We went for walks and picked flowers. It was great for both the girls to be able to run off some energy outside!

We worked with Abby on being a better helper for me and being patient while waiting for me to do something for her. She wants it done NOW and since her baby sister will be arriving soon, we have been trying to help her learn the value of waiting patiently.

How was your school week?

Linking up to Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tot School: Days 6-8

Things didn't go as well this time as last. Lyla really wants to do what her big sister is doing and hasn't really cared for anything on her trays. She just sits at the table watching her sister or crying and trying to take sister's stuff. I am going to try to focus on her more in the coming days and see if I can figure out some things that will keep her attention.


Puzzle: She did the puzzle every day (and somehow I didn't manage to take a picture of it).

Small spaces: I put out colored popsicle sticks and the tall ice cube tray. She did this two times, kinda. Both times she put in about 5 sticks and then was done.

Stickers: This kept her attention for a while. She was able to do the stickers all by herself which surprised me.

Spooning: I put mini pom poms in a bowl and gave her a scoop (for coffee) and a muffin tin. She did this twice.

Clank can: I put out the clank can again because she likes it so much but she barely touched it. Again, no picture of this.

I know I had another tray out, but can't remember what was on it.

I tried to incorporate her with her sister's activities as much as possible. She helped make igloos out of mini marshmallows, colored a memory verse page, and played with her sister's tangram magnetic shapes.

She also sang really loud every day during our calendar and RRSP board time.

Lyla made big strides this week in becoming a big girl. She went to sleep by herself and stayed in her own bed all night for 5 consecutive nights now. She slept with us until a few months ago. When we finally moved her to a bed in her sister's room she had to have someone lay down with her until she fell asleep and even then she would wake up 2-3 times a night and try to get in bed with us. I was exhausted from taking her back to her bed that much. So we bit the bullet and prepared ourselves for a fight, but there was none. She cried for 30 minutes the first night and got up several times crying during the night. But the next night, no crying, just getting out of the bed. During the night, she did not get up a single time. By the third night, no fussing, no getting up, YEA! Now we have to work on getting rid of the pacifier!


We went to visit my dad this week. He lives out in the country near my grandma and great aunt. His wife runs a small restaurant there. He raises cattle and takes care of our family land (about 300 acres or so) and of several leases for my brother who also has cattle. Anyway, my girls love going up there. My grandma (who is about 85) always has grapes and some kind of treat for them. My great aunt also keeps cookies for them. My step mom fixes them whatever they want from the restaurant. Then they get to ride around in the farm truck and look at cows and deer and turkey. It is so peaceful up there and I always leave wishing we could move farther out. Our area is rural but we have neighbors and a small yard.

That was our week, how was yours?

Linking up to Tot School at 1+1+1=1!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Days 1-3 and Letter H

School started back in our area August 19th and it got me motivated to really buckle down and establish some routine at our house. This was the first week that I actually stayed consistent for more than one day! Yea! And all went fairly well. We had been working on Letter H for RRSP but finished it up this week. This post contains activities we did August 18th through 20th (I am behind).

RRSP-Letter H
Both of my girls love the RRSP curriculum. I love hearing them recite scripture!

We had already done some of the letter H on other days. Here is Abby cutting her cards apart.

Both girls working on their mom and dad craft. Lyla is only 2 but she enjoys most of the activities too so I now print out 2 copies of the coloring sheets and craft projects.

Here is Abby's completed mom and dad-she even wrote our names "mom" and "dad"!


Perfection: I found this at Dollar General and both girls really liked it. Kinda like a shape sorter but works on fine motor skills since the pieces are so small.

Ladybug Visual Discrimination Game: You draw a card and make your ladybug's spots match the ones on the card. One day she did not want to do it, the next day, she did and really liked it.

Lacing Cards: I bought several sets of these a long time ago from various Scholastic book orders. She didn't want to learn how to do it until I told her it was the first step in learning to sew (like I know anything about sewing).

Counting Cows book: I think this came from Scholastic too. It has animal and number magnets. You read the story, find the animals, and the right number. Too easy for her, I guess. She did a few pages with no problem and then gave it to her little sister who was crying for it.

Cloud Math Mat: This was a fun game that led to a science experiment and art project! First, the game. You roll the dice and add that number of clouds (small cotton balls or pom poms) to your mat. The first person to cover all their mat wins. She loved rolling the huge dice!

After that game, she wanted to play with the cotton balls so I got a dish of water and told them about the water cycle. I had read this somewhere else and it stuck in my mind. I am sure I could have explained it better if I would have been prepared but I did my best. Anyway, we talked about how light the cotton ball was and how heavy it got when wet. In fact it gets so heavy and full of water that the water has no place to go but down, exactly what happens to clouds and water and rain. Both girls loved playing with these in the water.

We also "weighed" 10 dry cotton balls and 10 wet cotton balls and talked about why the same number of cotton balls weighs more when wet.

While they were playing with the water I dug through our books and found two about clouds. I thought one of them explained the water cycle but I was wrong! They enjoyed them anyway.

After reading "It Looked Like Spilt Milk" we decided to make our own clouds. I got out paper and white paint (all I had was acrylic). I let them put a glob in the center of the paper, fold it over, then we opened it and told what we thought it looked like. They had a blast with this! We kept making clouds until we ran out of paint.

When they dried (which took a while) Abby wanted to make them into a book so we stapled the pages together and we made our own Spilt Milk book, copying the wording from the book but changing out the cloud labels. I don't have a picture of the final product but it is cute.

Life was interesting during this time. All of our family started back to school. My confidence in the decision to homeschool was shaken. All of the talk of back to school, school buses, first days, new teachers, etc. made me wonder if I am keeping Abby from something that is important. I got over it pretty quickly but wondered if other homeschoolers struggle with the same thing.

My stepdad had knee surgery that week and the girls and I "checked on him" every day. My mom and him live across the street from us so we walked over every day to make sure all was well. One day we made him cookies. This was the first time they had used the mixer. I hardly ever use it and they were a litte unsure about it at first.

We also made our "every 3 month" trip to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for a round of appointments and an MRI. Abby has a brain tumor. It is a miraculous story that you can read about here (at the bottom of the post) and at my other blog, Abby's Army, which documents the full journey (I have a condensed version on the sidebar). Praise God-she is doing great, this MRI revealed no change to the tumor, and we go back in 3 months to do it again. She really is a walking, talking miracle and proof that prayer works.

I forgot my camera on our trip to Memphis but we managed to squeeze in some fun while there, visiting the Children's Museum of Memphis. This was the first time during all of the craziness around her diagnosis, surgery, appointments that I forgot my camera. I was so mad at myself!

That is our first few days of official school at our house-what were the first few days like at your house?

Linking up to Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations!

Our New School Room and Routine

The Room

I wanted to share with you all the changes we have made to how we do school around here. Not long after we got started with tot school and preschool, I took pictures and put together a post of where we worked and where I stored things. Most of that has changed now. Before you read on: I did not clean up before I snapped these pictures. Sorry for the overflowing trash, the messy shelves, etc.

Our “school room” is now in our laundry room. About 4 years ago we built an addition to our house and this laundry room was part of that. It is about a 12x12. I wanted it big because our house is so small, I knew I would need the extra storage. It stayed a mess most of the time. We moved our computer and office stuff in here when Lyla was born to make more room for her. After doing school in the kitchen and dining area, I knew I needed a dedicated space for all of our stuff with a kid sized table so I went to work cleaning out and setting up.

It is now an office, school room, and laundry room! I am happy with the new space and the girls love it! Laundry can’t be done while we are in there but I have never been good at keeping the laundry up anyway, at least now I have an excuse! The lighting is not good in there and my big person chair is not comfy at all. I would like to install a storm door on the outside door so we can get more natural light in and look outside while we are working in there.

I leave the tot trays and workboxes out all the time (except for scissors, glue, markers, etc.). It has been a problem a few times but I gently remind them that our school stuff stays in that room only!


I have a large shelf in the laundry room where I keep supplies (in the corner in the picture). Anything that fits in one of my boxes goes here.

I keep odd sized supplies in a closet in our hallway. My husband just installed the shelves and it makes it so much easier to find things!

Books are still in their room except for our Sonlight books, which are kept out of reach on a built in bookcase in our living room.

The Routine

Our usual routine is to get to work shortly after breakfast. That is why the girls are in their pajamas in most pictures. They are usually eager to get started and it helps eliminate excuses and distractions. A few days we got dressed, went outside, etc. and it was really hard to get them in there to do anything.

First thing we do is our “circle time” board and RRSP board. The circle time board has a calendar with removable month, calendar, and day. I write in the date with dry erase marker. There is a seasons chart, days of the week which we mark as today, tomorrow, and yesterday. I try to talk about what we did yesterday and what we will do tomorrow to help with these concepts. Next we do the weather. We go over our address and phone number. All of these components are from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Then we talk about who we are praying for and what countries we are praying for (part of Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve curriculum). I point out the countries on our world map.

Then we go through our RRSP board (somehow I don't have a picture of this but you can see it in other pictures).

Next we pray then read a bible story from 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible (part of Sonlight P3/4 curriculum). Then we read a story book from Sonlight. We always read one but sometimes more, depending on their attention level.

Then we move on to tot trays and workboxes. I have Abby work through her boxes in order. I fill them with various activities. Some go along with RRSP, some with Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve, and some from various sources.

Then we are done! We read and learn throughout the day but that is the routine in the school room. They go in there during the day to color and play but they aren’t allowed to take anything out of the room and they have to clean up what they get out, no matter what time of day it is.

That’s how we do school now!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tot School: Days 1-5

I have already changed our plans! We moved into a new room and started a new plan with my preschooler so tot school is taking place there too. We are counting the days of school so I think from now on I will tell you what days we have done instead of what week or month or whatever. So these activities took place over 2 weeks but we did 5 days of school.

Our new "school room" is in our laundry room. Both girls have loved the new set up and everything is running pretty smoothly. I will post pictures of the space as soon as I know it is going to work. My tot tray method has changed a little too. I am trying to leave out as much of the same thing for the whole week as possible. I am only changing out what did not go well (too hard, too easy, etc.) and I leave the trays out where she can get them out and put them up by herself. I have had a few occurences of sneaking in while I am not looking and playing with the trays but so far it is working out well (but it has only been 5 days). I do not leave scissors, markers, glue, paint, etc out.


Do A Dot

She loved this! I love it too because it is not as messy as regular paint.


She is getting so much better at puzzles!

Matching Bears

This came with our Sonlight P3/4 curriculum and both girls like these sturdy bears.

Snipping Paper

Big sister was working on some cutting, so she had to also!

Color Sort

I tried this two different ways. Sorting into the plastic cups was better than sorting on the circles. She really liked the colored popsicle sticks, I got them at the dollar tree.

Dry Erase

This is probably her favorite thing to do. I have several different boards and markers and she loves them all!

Spilt Milk art

This was an impromptu activity for big sister that Lyla got to help with. Both girls absolutely loved doing this. I used a whole container of white craft paint. We would have been making these pictures all day if we would have had enough paint! Basic directions: glob of paint in center of paper, fold in half, open and see what it looks like. We did this after reading the book "It Looked Like Spilt Milk". After all the papers were dry, I stapled them together, and we made our own Spilt Milk book. It turned out great!


I don't have any pictures, but we were able to spend more time outside thanks to a dip in the heat and humidity. We also went to a pool party (again, no pictures) and The Children's Museum of Memphis (where is my camera?).

My preschooler (Abby, 5) has a brain tumor and is a patient at St Jude Children's Research Hospital. She was diagnosed over a year ago and despite all the doctors predictions, she is doing great. We have not had to undergo any treatment (she did have brain surgery and they removed a portion of her brain) and the tumor has remained stable (has not grown). It covers about 30% of her brain but she has no side effects (other than seizures which are controlled by medication). We travel to Memphis to St Jude every 3 months for an MRI which tells us if the tumor is growing or not. Last week we had to go back for an MRI, and thankfully, the tumor is still stable.

Lyla went with us this time and was wonderful! We usually don't take her with us because it is a time of great anxiety and it is hard to listen to all the doctors and nurses with a 5 year old and 2 year old running around. I am so glad that she was able to go. It put her sister at ease and they both had a great time together. St Jude is an incredible place and there is so much for the kids to do while there. The city of Memphis also is great and we get discounts on lots of attractions, including the Children's Museum. It makes our trip so much better!

Lyla worries about her sister and shows so much compassion for her. After the MRI, Abby was very groggy and couldn't hold her cookie, she kept dropping it. Lyla picked it up and fed it to her. She stroked her hair and talked sweet words to her. My heart melted. Lyla had to be left behind a lot during the initial diagnosis and surgery and everything that went along with it. She still seems to get left out because everyone asks about Abby wherever we go. We try not to make that difference at home, but I know that God will use this to make her a strong, compassionate person. She already is! If you want to read more about our journey, go to my other blog, Abby's Army. And please pray for my sweet girls!

That's how we did Tot School! Go check out the other entries at 1+1+1=1!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Catch Up

What a busy month! My last post was about our activity bags and all my planning. Shortly after that life got extremely busy. We had a vacation, birthday party, record heat, trips to Granny's, and a lot more going on! I will try to do a brief catch up. Both tot school and preschool were sporadic. These pictures and activities are from the past month (or longer). I have become more intentional with school lately but still not in a groove. I am beginning to think a groove may never happen for us!

Tot School
Lyla is 28 months old

Lyla has been very cooperative with her activities. Our only conflict is that she wants to do whatever her sister is doing and vice versa. So I try to find similar activities for her that she will be successful at. Here is the run down on her tot trays:

small spaces with a pringles can (mini) and chenille sticks

sorting with pom poms and star ice cube tray


sorting, I got these animal erasers and tray at Dollar Tree, the tray had a busy pattern on the bottom so I taped some pink paper down

color file folder game, I made this when I was in grad school, all children love it

Lyla knows most of her colors, some still trick her up though

sticking toothpicks in a styrofoam circle, found the toothpicks and sytrofoam at Dollar Tree

Abby did this activity too but I tried to encourage her to make patterns or shapes with her toothpicks

matching objects to pictures, these are actually patterning cards that I found in a Scholastic book order ages ago, she likes to use it for matching

Abby is 5 years old

Abby has been more defiant with her activities. She doesn't like to use the materials the way they should be, she wants to make up her own. I like that she is creative but I also want her to learn to follow directions. I usually have to make a deal that if she will do it "right" first, she can play with it any way she wants after. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Here is what Abby has been working on.

Raising Rock Stars Preschool, she loves reciting the memory verses

"cooking" with a recipe book

Lyla was in on the cooking too!

sorting colors and shades with paint chips, found here

counting cards, found here

a puzzle she completed with very little help

pom pom game, huge hit, found here

see and spell she got for her birthday

patterning, found here, she isn't a huge fan of pattern activities but she really liked this one

measuring activity, found here, she did not enjoy this at all

She didn't enjoy it because it was too easy for her. I am going to make her a game where she actually uses a measuring tape. I will save this for Lyla to use soon.

ABC train puzzle, she got this for her birthday, everyone had fun with it

I had Lyla find the pictures I named and Abby had to find the letters I called out. Lots of running and giggling went along with this.

farmers market game, found here, this sparked her imagination and she played farmer's market all day with our play food

popcorn sensory activity, made a huge mess, my blood pressure went through the roof, the girls loved it

Our area has been under heat advisories for weeks. It does not cool off, even at night. It is hard to keep little ones cooped up for so long but I think we dealt with it fairly well. A few things we did to burn off energy included:

ribbon dancing

ballet, I found a ballet video for her birthday and both girls love to do "ballet class". It is called Baby Ballet. I highly recommend it.

Abby turned five this month. She wanted a ballerina birthday. I had so much fun planning and hosting this party. It was in my mom's garage and it couldn't have went any better. She loved it.

We also went on vacation this month. Branson, Missouri is close to home so we took the girls for a long weekend. It was extremely hot but we still had a great time.

That wraps up the last month (plus some) at our house. We have started a new routine in a new room this week. Can't wait to share the details with you next week!

I am linking up to the Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations and Tot School at 1+1+1=1. Go see what other kiddos are up to!