Our Classical Education/Charlotte Mason Homeschool with Weekly Wrap Up: Homeschool Preschool Week of Sept 25 2013

This past week was fun (I always say that, don’t I?!)

We worked on fine motor skills a lot, writing her name, and our memory work.  We also spent a LOT of time outside, and cooking in the kitchen.


first she traced it, then she wrote her name.  the bottom is her dictation of what happened in the story “Play with Me.”

Again, we got our printables from
Homeschool Creations.  We caught up on some printables that went with Play With Me, from the week before.  And we started our apples study! (but I don’t have any pictures!!!)

beginning letter sounds and writing

We haven’t really done a lot with apples yet …  We have read lots of books we got from the library, and we made fresh apple sauce (baked apples, really).  Which Lexie didn’t like because they were mushy, but Max LOVES them.

And we did some fun printables that went with the apple theme.  Somehow I did not get pictures like I meant to of everything we did …  =/  But I have a few.

swinging in her boots

We played outside a lot because of this wonderful fall weather.  Lexie got some new “galoshes” (a word from several Lexie’s favorite books- the Little Grey Rabbit series, Beatrix Potter collection, and A.A. Milne’s Pooh series..) from her Sue Sue, so we had to break those in!  =)  She looves rainboots!

She has been doing great writing letters, and that along with her name is basically her “copywork.”

We are leaning more towards a classical/Charlotte Mason style homeschool.  It is more “old world” to me, and less “froo froo-ie.”  It is slow, gentle, developmentally appropriate, and yet has a great structure and depth.  I am still learning about it, but so far it fits our family perfectly.

Plus, it is how Lexie learns.  

Here is an excerpt (a rather long one) explaining classical education from The Well Trained Mind (an amazing book that I highly suggest reading.  it is so much more than a book).

The first years of schooling are called the “grammar stage” — not because you spend four years doing English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for language. In the elementary school years — what we commonly think of as grades one through four — the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So during this period, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts. Rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics — the list goes on. This information makes up the “grammar,” or the basic building blocks, for the second stage of education.

By fifth grade, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically…. the “Logic Stage,” is a time when the child begins to pay attention to cause and effect, to the relationships between different fields of knowledge relate, to the way facts fit together into a logical framework. A student is ready for the Logic Stage when the capacity for abstract thought begins to mature.

The final phase of a classical education, the “Rhetoric Stage,” builds on the first two. At this point, the high school student learns to write and speak with force and originality. The student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses his conclusions in clear, forceful, elegant language.

A classical education is more than simply a pattern of learning, though. Classical education is language-focused; learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos, and television).”

That last paragraph is one more reason I LOVE classical education.

I had been praying and praying over what “style” of homeschool we would (loosely) use, what would fit us best, what curricula to try, and how to prevent the dreaded burn out.  

I mean, praying for like 2 years!  

Then one day a few months ago, as Lexie asked me for the BAZILLIONTH time to re-tell her a story, so that she could in turn re-tell it to me including the details I forgot, I was reminded of a method I had read about several times.

Classical education- memory work, copywork, and dictation.  It is how she has learned since she was a baby, and how I have taught her everything from simple everyday objects to the days of the week and spelling.  

It’s just how we naturally do things here.  

I have done the same thing with Max, unknowingly.  There is wiggle room in all styles of homeschool, of course.  The best part about any homeschool is going at your child’s pace.  If they don’t get something, you stay there and focus on it, or come back to it, or whatever your family needs to do.

{Of course our family’s main reason for loving homeschool is the time JTom and I have raising our children ourselves- what we can offer then every day in God’s classroom- the world!}

OK, sorry- back to classical education.  It isn’t as stick-in-the-mud as that excerpt makes it sound.  It is so gentle, yet so deep.  It is thorough and is not full of junk.  Just because she is 3 doesn’t mean Lexie can’t learn about the globe.  Just because she is 3 doesn’t mean she can’t learn about how leaves change color.  It certainly doesn’t mean she should be watching elmo all day and learning how to make snakes out of playdough.

Don’t get me wrong, there is value in playing with playdough, and yes, even in elmo to some extent.  But her world can be made up of much, much more than that.  It can be deep and fun at 3 years old.  So when I say we are reading the same story for the second week in a row, it’s because we are taking it easy, but what we are learning is meaningful.  And it works for us.

Will this style work for us forever?  I have no idea.  You may be here, reading our blog in 4 years and we are un-schooling.  Who knows?! (well, God knows, but I don’t know …)  So we will see.  But for now this works for us.

Here is a quote from a wonderful blogger, Edie from Life in Grace, on classical education:

It requires that you and your children read the great classic works of literature, math and science and then discuss these works together. It assumes that when children are inspired by parents or teachers or mentors, they will want to learn and will do the work necessary to gain the knowledge they seek. The end result is a student who is a self-learner, who is motivated by the love of knowledge itself—not for some secondary gain of grades, treats or approval.

…….For days, weeks, and months, there seems to be very little to ‘show’ for all your labor. You’ve read all kinds of books, you’ve fallen in love with stories, authors and characters. The books you’ve read have changed you; the stories have become part of the fabric of who you are, you dream of the characters, you call them to mind in certain situations and you feel like you know them . You are becoming part of the ‘great conversation’. You are starting to realize how you ‘fit’ into this big wonderful world and its’ story.

But that rich inner life that is developing cannot be measured or tested. It’s like a fire that needs careful feeding, lest it be quenched. And that fire is what will motivate students to educate themselves—to be lifelong learners. Learning is hard work and if you push too hard and demand ‘work’ for the sake of work—they learn to do the least amount that’s necessary to avoid conflict. But if you inspire, nourish– ‘feed’ the fire, if you will—they will be driven by something strong and unquenchable inside themselves and there are no limits to what they will do to learn. I wish there were an easier way; but this form of teaching succeeds most assuredly when you lead by example.”

So beautifully and well written!  Thank you, Edie!

Another reason homeschool is amazing.  When we need a break- we hit the great outdoors and take one!  (oh, and we wear nightgowns all morning on cool blustery fall days!)

Just needed a rest
Our delicious apples!


writing on the dry erase board


we decorated for fall


Lexie loading up the truck with our buckets of rocks.


playing outside


we played with bubbles and playdo- Max LOVES bubbles and that is now his favorite word!


we watched a storm roll in (believe those are called morning glory clouds?)


we harvested tomoatoes

We love homeschooling.  Every Sunday night I put together our activities for the week, print off things for the coming weeks, work on memory verses and character traits we need to focus on.  And EVERY morning Lexie says at breakfast, “I want to do activities!  What learning do we do today?!  Can I cut?  Can I glue? …” and then starts reciting memory verses we have learned.  It is wonderful for us.

Something I have come to learn is that some people will never approve of how you raise your family, unless it is on their terms.  But we all need to know, that the only One whose terms matter is God’s.  He isn’t going to give you all the tools you need (or lead you to them), and watch as you live life to His glory, only to say “Oh, never mind!  This was a bad idea!”
I have complete faith in what He has laid on mine and my husband’s hearts for our family.  You should feel the same about what He has laid on your’s, no matter how differently it may look from ours or anyone else’s family.

What did you do this week with your littles?  What will you be doing in the coming weeks?

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Weekly Wrap-Up Sept 20, 2013- Play With Me by Marie Hall Ets

This last week has been a LOT of fun!

We started each day off with Bible time at beakfast, like always.  We also did our memory work here- Lexie has learned Matthew 7:12, and a poem about the wind over the course of the last few weeks.  I thought about doing a weekly verse and a weekly poem, but at this age I feel like maybe that’s just too much.  So I think we will do one or two a month. Oh, and she has both memorized already.  We will just continue reviewing them.

Then we did a few chores and went down stairs for calendar, and story time.  Here is when Mister plays with us, we do a little circle time, and
Pooh series by A.A.Milne.  We are reading The House At Pooh Corner.  

And Lexie just loves it.  She asks to read the chapters over and over, and retells the stories.  She likes t be sure she gets every detail correct.  Maybe she is a future writer?  =) 

We also have my original collection in one bound book, I think it was what I got on my first Christmas?  Or maybe later, but I know I was young.  It is my favorite book. 

Each day we read our weekly BFIAR story, which was Play with Me by Marie Hall Ets

Lexie LOVED this story, and the activities we did with it (we used the pond pack from Homeschool Creations and Homeschool Share).  She had me read it over and over and over …  while I read, she colored or we snuggled.

The activities were a lot of fun, and included a “Who Am I?” clue word game, and gluing which is Lexie’s favorite!

(this is actually a tracing activity we didn’t get to last week for our BFIAR story, and she wanted to do it)

We also went to the library to play and get our apple and fall books for this week.  (YAY!)

One day we went to the park and played.  There, we collected tiny pine cones, talked about what animals might live there, climbed a tree, blew dandelions … you know the typical nature walk kinda things.  =)

Friday we packed up and went camping at Neobrara State Park.  It was awesome, and a much needed family weekend.  I will write about it another time.  =)

This week we finished (FINALLY!) our thank you cards from Bug and Mister’s birthdays.  Now I just have to get them addressed and in the mail ..  

We also had a wonderful playdate at a friend’s house, played outside a ton (LOVE fall weather), and worked in the garden.  Lexie is such a great helper in the garden and enjoys finding what we have on the vine each morning.  

Her Great-grandaddy Payne would be proud of his littler gardener.

Protector of the tomatoes (Scarlet likes to eat them off the plant ..)

Playing outside with Lilly

Mister and his favorite person- “dag dag!” = dog dog!

Sweet bear at the park, just hanging out and climbing on the slide.

he was actually tasting leaves … 

The result of her big morning at the park.  First day of a nap in 2 weeks- AAAAH!

Since she took a nap, she got to go to walmart late with mama- check out the sundress and camo boots!

Some of the last few days’ harvest- what are now fermented tomatoes!

He just loves to eat

waky waky sleepy Lexie!

Loves for his dog dog

What did you do this past week with your littles and family?

Weekly Wrap Up: 9/13/13- our first preschool week

Here is our weekly Wrap Up for this week.

We really started our homeschool preschool the week of September 3rd, so this is a back track of the last 2 weeks.  It has been so much fun.  Each Sunday I prepare everything for the coming week.

We always use This Reading Mama’s Reading the Alphabet curriculum for our letter of the week and sight words (and some great activities).

Then we also use lapbook printables and activities from Homeschool Creations, that go with our story of the week from Before Five In A Row.  She has great printable packs by theme also (we use them for seasons and science). 

Last week we began our Nature Studies as a weekly activity we do on Fridays.  I put together Lexie a science kit to take with us.

Library and the park 2 weeks ago

From our nature walk- it’s Old Wise Owl’s hole, from The Little Grey Rabbit series

Collecting dandelions to blow

It has taken Lexie quite a while to begin enjoying drawing pictures, and scribbling.  She has always been anxious about it because she didn’t think what she drew looked like anything.  now that she has begun enjoying drawing and writing more, we practice it more to build those fine motor skills, and she is doing a great job writing letters and drawing pictures!  I am so proud of her.

Writing her name- she would write a letter, then I would write one for her to trace, then she wrote a letter, etc.

Apparently, this is MY thinking face, and Lexie has now adopted it…

Really thinking about this ..

She drew her daddy- looks like a person to me!  yay Lexie!

She got an art easel for her birthday from Granny, Grandpa, and Mia- and she LOVES it!

Her rainbow- they’re her favorite!

Making squares and rectangles

We have also been very busy in our little garden the last week.  The tomatoes have all decided to turn red at once- we have a lot of fermenting and putting up to do!

“My sweet daddy, with big hair, in the sun.  With clouds.”

Practicing cutting out strips from the Reading the Alphabet activities

“let’s sort them!”

making patterns

being adventurous- in the rain!  Mama’s girl!

Max LOVES going down the slide with Lexie


Building with Mister- my sister in law and her family have sent the kids another set of unit blocks to add to ours!  We are so excited because now we can make some really neat structures!  One set isn’t quite enough to do much with, but two will give us hours of fun!

Lexie is obsessed with kites- and especially the kites in Mary Poppins.  =)  So on our first beautiful, cool, windy, almost-fall day, we flew the kite.  She was determined to do it herself!  She did a great job!

Using her magnify glass to look at our roses.

J.Tom has been gone this week to Luxembourg- so for his coming home we made homemade chicken and dumplins’ for the first time.  It is SO good!  We also made fresh whole wheat bread to go with it.  We can’t wait to share with daddy, but until then, Lexie is enjoying them!

helping mix the dumplins’

She approved!

Reading this morning while I get breakfast together (and coffee made!).

So, that’s a two and a half week update!  I am going to really do better about updating weekly, hopefully each Friday for the Weekly Wrap Up Linkup at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.  =)

Lexie now has responsibilities that we keep on a chart.  She has always had them, but now they are scheduled/routined into our day.  I will make a post and link to the awesome chart I used. 

So this is what our days look like now:

7am- kids up, milk, snuggle and wake up good
7:30 breakfast and Bible
8:00 Max independent play, Mama and Lexie do morning chores- make beds, brush teeth, comb hair, empty dishwasher (if not already done), get dressed (haha- sometimes)
Max comes out of IP at the 12 minute mark for now.
8:30 play time as family, reading, building blocks, train set, etc.
9:00 Max down for nap- I think this is going to change soon because he is shortening his naps, I think he needs a longer wake time.  We are extending in 15 minute intervals
After Max goes down Mama and Lexie do learning time for about one hour or less

Learning time includes (and not all in one day.  We don’t do all of this every single day- we mostly play!):

  • Calendar
  • Reading BFIAR book, lexie can color during this time
  • Memory work- Recite memory verse (Matthew 7:12) and poem of the month (Wind)
  • Copywork- letter of the week and name
  • Activities from Reading the Alphabet, BFIAR lapbook activities (If Jesus Came to My House)
  • Singapore math sheets/concepts, math activities with manipulatives- same, different, matching, identifying numbers past 10, more, less, just whatever math stuff we want to talk about really  =)
  • Geography- (***Lexie is obsessed with this because of her daddy traveling, so we thought we would add it in) She is learning about the compass rose on a map, countries on her globe, and North, East, South, and West.  This is really just a conversation because she wants to learn about it, nothing “formal.”
  • Science is based on whatever we want to learn about and nature studies.  This week we didn’t really do anything, but next week we begin with apples and fall, which will last a few weeks I am sure.
10:00 Lexie Independent play in her room- 30 minutes-1 hour
11:00 Max up, bottle- errands, play outside, go to park, library, etc
12:00 lunch with daddy
1:00   More play time, prep dinner, etc
1:45   Naps for all!
3:00  Everyone up, Max bottle if Lexie slept she sleeps until she gets up (about 1.5 hours), snacks
play until daddy comes home, run errands

So this is our “real preschool” schedule, if you consider a 3 year old in need of preschool?  We think it is fun learning time; if she were not interested, we would not have learning time this young.  Obviously it isn’t rigorous or set in stone.  Our days are spent playing, reading, and being a family!

What did your week look like this week?  

We are also linked up at: ”http://hammocktracks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/savannahbutton2.png”

Homeschool Preschool:What we are learning this week

This week (and last week) we have been rowing The Big Green Pocketbook.  Like with all our BFIAR books so far, Lexie LOVES this book.  We haven’t done a lot of paper activities with this one, mainly because it’s hard to find any.  I don’t know how to create files for activities, but I want to learn!  I have so many ideas and applications in my head; I just need to get them on paper (or screen, rather).

This is such a fun book, and there are so many real-life learning opportunities for it.  It’s about a girl who takes her big green pocketbook while she runs errands with her mama.  They ride the bus from their house in the country, into town.

Many families who have rowed this book took their child on a real bus ride … but we don’t have a bus system here in York (ha!).  So, I am thinking if we have time, when we visit Memphis we may ride the trolley!  I know she would love that.

This week we have sorta changed up our routine.  We have been doing our Bible at breakfast (like always) but then do our BFIAR story (and other favorites) followed by calendar.  She has been wanting to read in the big chair downstairs, vs the rug.  I love that time together.  Max either sits in my lap, or plays on the floor.  Since he is crawling now, he is much more into the floor than he is sitting in my lap.

The great thing about schooling at home is learning doesn’t have to look like it does in the public school classroom if it doesn’t fit our needs.  As a trained teacher and product of a wonderful public school, I naturally gravitate towards the order and routine of a classroom.  But we don’t stick to it like a schedule.  We do what works, some days we don’t do it at all and just read books all day, play with manipulatives, etc.  

I’ve mentioned before, Lexie LOVES the routine of “school.”  She has (on her own) started putting on her little backpack for our learning time, so we can do “school.”  I never wanted to put a label on what we do, but I guess because she has been in preschool before, she put the similarities together?  I know not all children just love learning, reading books, or doing “activities,” and that all of mine won’t be.  That’s the great thing about homeschool- we can modify and adjust to fit everyone’s needs easily.

But Lou is like me, she’s type A and loves school and learning.  We will do what she enjoys, so her love of learning doesn’t dwindle.

Our very loose learning plans/activities for this week included:


Fruit of the Spirit lessons from Raising Arrows (Lexie is loving this!); Galatians 5:22
Luke chapter 15
The Parable of the Lost Coin- originally just a one day reading, she requests this every single day!

Fruit of the Spirit chart


The Big Green Pocketbook– We did a few rowing activities with this book, but just for coloring/fine motor practice.  Everything is just for fun at this age  =)
Introduced “No, David!” (this is not my typical type of book to read or enjoy, but when I worked in childcare my 3 & 4 year olds LOVED it.  and I know Lexie is old enough to understand the character lessons in the book as “not good choices” vs things we should do).  


Talking about the short vowel A sound (very loosely, nothing formal)
Tracing letters P and A- tracing in shaving cream, on ipad app, with crayons, etc
Building letters with letter construction set
Rhyming words


Growing lettuce and our KiwiBox (which is planting seeds)
water beads/absportion


making green paint by mixing colors
water beads with shaving cream on light table- we also mixed food coloring to make everything orange (her favorite color) … as it turns out it colors the water beads, permanently! 
oobleck in the bathtub


Sorting by size and color (with sorting bears)
making numbers with playdough
building with magnatiles (as always …)

Life Skills

Talking about good manners while on outings (like the girl from our BFIAR story)
Table manners (she tells me “I can’t talk, I have food in my mouth … haha)

We have done a lot more indoor activities this week because it has been cloudy and damp outside.  We need the rain, so complaints here!  Plus, we didn’t do much last week because we were outside so much.

Putting the goodies from out story in her Big Green Pocketbook

Having a picnic with Bubby

Messy fun

What fun did you have with your littles this week, at home or out and about?

Before Five in A Row: The Little Rabbit

You can find all the printables we used this week at Homeschool Creations.

We had a great week this week!  We really rowed The Little Rabbit for two weeks, like we did the other books we have done.  We really enjoy taking our time.  =)  The great thing is, this is all for fun for us at this age, so there is NO need to hurry.

Lexie really enjoyed doing our activities for The Little Rabbit; later in the week when I told her it was time for activities, her table in the living room suddenly looked like this:

That’s how much she enjoys it!  At the beginning of the week, we began with the tracing sheets.

tracing the word “rabbit”

(I showed her how to trace on the first one, then she did the rest)

so serious!

 We do the tracing sheets for fine motor practice.  At 2.5 years old, I don’t expect anything we are doing to be perfect.  But I do expect her to try, and always do her best.  Here is my favorite activity we do with each book:

Beginning letter sounds.  She got the ALL this time.  I was really impressed; I said I don’t expect the things we are doing to be perfect or correct … but that’s kinda not true.  I do expect the things she has already mastered to be done correctly, or close to it since I know she can.  We all have moments we forget things, or confuse things.  (especially me!)  Anyhow, she got all the beginning letter sounds correctly on the capital sheet, and on the lower case I think she confused the letters b and d.  I have a picture, but I can’t find it anywhere… I may have lost it when I moved it from the phone to the computer.

 This is the matching game… the printables come with several different pictures from the book, some have the name under them, some do not.  They have different activities to go along with each set.  We don’t always use the sheets for their main purpose, simply because she may not be ready for that skill.  But we do use them, even if it is just for identifying the letter, etc.

Add caption

 This was a sorting sheet.  I cut the squares, she glued them in place, either under “flowers” or “animals.”  We talked about each one along the way, and where/if they were in the story.

 This activity was labeling the parts of a turtle.  So, I was really proud of this- I had cut each part out, and laid them out neatly.  Then I touched each one and read aloud what it said.  SO like, I would say “head” and point to the word head.  Then, we looked at the turtle and I asked her what part of the body I was pointing to.  She replied with the correct answer… but then I asked which label we needed and SHE ALWAYS CHOSE THE CORRECT ONE! And after she picked it up, she would say, “/h/ /h/ This one says “head!”  Shut. up.  I was so proud of her.  Some she remembered from me pointing to them, but she identified the ones she didn’t remember by sounding out the first letter and matching it to the body part with the same beginning letter sound.

We also practiced cutting this week.  She got scissors in her spring basket, so we decided to put them to some (more) use.  While getting my B.S.E in early childhood education, we were taught you always put the pencil, crayon, scissors, etc in front of the center of the child’s body.  This way they can grab the object with the hand they prefer to use, versus you putting it in their right or left hand, when that may not be the one they are naturally inclined to use.  Lexie is still on showing a hand dominance.  Looking at the pages above, you may think she is obviously right handed.  But often times she uses her left hand for things, and gets a much better result than when she uses her right.  The pictures below are from her cutting paper using her left hand.  When she used her right, she couldn’t quite get the feel of opening and closing the scissors, and her cuts were short and choppy.  When she used her left, this was the result:

I tried to get a picture of her mouth (but couldn’t)  When she opened the scissors, she opened her mouth as wide as she could, too.  Very cute.

Usually by 2 or 3 children start showing signs of hand dominance.  I am still unsure which Lexie will use.  When handing her a crayon or scissors, I always put them either on the table in front of her, or hand them to her at the center of her body.  Sometimes I even have her put her hands by her side, then take the object from me, to see which she will use.  Sometimes she uses her right, sometimes her left… and sometimes she will grab something with her right, but then move it to her left.  So we will see.  Handedness is an important part of formal writing, which isn’t a stage we are remotely close to. But before a child can be expected to write correctly, or neatly (which is required in kindergarten in public school), they need to have established consistent handedness.  We have quite sometime before she has to be ready for all that.

The book itself was a wonderful little book about a girl who gets a pet rabbit.  She names her buttercup.  Buttercup has seven baby bunnies (which are oh. so. cute) and the little girl names them after the days of the week.  Lexie and I thought this was very creative- we love the days of the week and months of the year!  What’s different about the book, is it’s all done in real photographs instead of hand or computer illustration.  For a little over $2 brand new on Amazon, it is a good addition to your library, we definitely recommend it!

Beans, Beans

With Spring in the air, Lexie has bee learning all about plants and how they grow.  So, we decided to plant some beans!  I wanted her to see how the beans change from a seed to a plant, but didn’t really want to do the baggie thing.  SO I did a little googling, and I  I found this great idea over at The Imagination Tree.  (People like to make fun of my glass jar obsession …)  But she used a glass jar and cotton balls to grow beans!  Genius!  The best part is, it is easy, not messy, and Lexie could do it all on her own.

So I grabbed one of my many jars a jar, and gave her the cotton balls.

She put them in the jar..

Then she added the beans to the side of the jar, so we could see them.  
Next we watered the beans.  And this is what we have a few weeks later!

The great big bean didn’t do anything for a week, then one morning it had started growing!
It is going at a slower pace than the other.

This one is really taking off, and is probably ready to be planted.  I am not sure why it took them 2 weeks to grow this much?  They are in an east facing window, so maybe that is why?
Lexie loves telling everyone about her beans, and checking on them every day.  She does so good not to touch them, but likes to pick up the jar and stare.  =)  This was a very fun project for her, and for me!
Hopefully this week/end we are going to get our herb seeds planted!  

Our first Before Five in a Row Activities

A few weeks ago we began our fun journey with Before Five in a Row.  The first story we did was, “Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?”  We bought it from Amazon; you can get it here.

Jesse Bear’s bathtub and rubber ducky counting game

I found a ton of printables online for many of the books.  I really like Homeschool Creations.  She has a TON of great resources on her sites.  Some of the activities are too old for Lexie, like writing her name, or retelling the story.  But what I did was asked her how to spell her name, and I wrote it for her.  Then she could trace it if she wanted to.  I also had her retell the story, and wrote it down for her…  She liked all the activities, and every day wanted to know what we were doing next!  She doesn’t like to draw pictures, I’m not sure why?  She likes to color, but she rarely will just “draw pictures” of things.  I know she has the imagination to do it, she doesn’t want to.  So I don’t push it.  But what she LOVES to do, is just color/scribble on a piece of paper, make marks, etc. then tell me “look, i made a ‘blank.'”  Usually it is the letter V, O, I, L, or a number like 7.  And she is right, whatever it is looks exactly like what she drew.   Maybe a love for drawing will come later.

Lexie now knows all her letter sounds.  She still confuses G with J, U and Y … and that’s about it.  She likes to walk around while playing and say a letter, then the sound and a bunch of words she knows that have that beginning letter sound.  So her conversation (with herself) may sound like this, “B is for /b/, /b/, Bubby. or ball.  Or bounce.  Or banana.  Or bean.”  And she will do that with lots of letters.  She is definitely going to be my early reader, but I really don’t want her to start too early.  Research has shown that early readers don’t progress any faster than a later or “on time” reader.  So really, good readers all end up on the same level by the age of 8 or 9.  Whether she reads at 4, or 6 doesn’t matter to me, as long as she gets a good, solid foundation she will progress at whatever rate she is developmentally ready for.

Here are some of the activities we rowed for our Jesse Bear week.

This was beginning sounds, and the first sheet we did.  Notice how BIG and uncontrolled her circles are on this page, compared to the next page.  I gave her “shirt” since it is actually a blend sound /sh/ and chair, since it is also a blend.  Towards the end she just wanted to circle all the letters.  haha

She was to circle the ending sound.  I said the word and the sound like “bear. /r/ /r//”  Then she circle what sound she heard at the end.  I gave her “rose” because the E is silent

We really enjoyed our first BFIAR book and activities.  She LOVES doing them, and I have to distract her when I run out of planned activities for the day, because she just wants to keep doing them.  =)  She has such a love for learning, and has no idea we are doing “pre-preschool.”  I wish I had taken more pictures, and this week I will!  We are actually spending more like two weeks on each book, because some days we don’t get to the activities.  Some weeks we only do 3-4 days a week, and I don’t like to jump from book to book each week, especially if she is really enjoying it.  She likes to read books until she has them memorized, so we take our time with each one.  Next we are doing “The Little Bunny.”

Our Learning Room and Routine

I’ve really been trying to wait to do this post, because there are a few more things I have on my to do list for this room. But, after uploading some of the pictures, I just can’t wait anymore! I will just do an updated post when I finish my other projects.

As you know we are planning to homeschool for preschool. We have started Before Five in a Row, just for fun to get her introduced to doing some learning activities. I will post what our “learning routine” consists of below. JTom has been just as excited as me to get our room put together. He is all about us learning at home, and having fun. He is amazing and just as excited as I am about teaching Lexie. He has supported me in getting the materials I want/need for the kids, and our learning room. My kids really enjoy learning and I’m considering sending them to www.littlethinkerscenter.com, a place my friend recommended to me. My mom has been a school teacher for 20+ years, and has TONS of great material. I’m so excited she will be retiring in the next few years, and we will get lots of wonderful learning tools then. She has already started helping us on our journey with some reading rods, patterning blocks, etc. Next time I go to Memphis we are going to go through all the older resources she doesn’t use anymore. I can’t wait!

“playing” with the reading rods

Lexie loves playing with these. She connects them, sorts them, reads the letters, says their sound, etc. I don’t really direct her play with the manipulatives. If she asks me to play, which she always does, then I will. But I follow her lead.

making a heart with her blocks

This is our room! Well, part of it. Across from all this is her “pretend play” area. It isn’t completey finished yet, and some things have changes since this picture. The gray filing cabinet came from JTom’s old work; we bought it from them for like $25, I think. It holds all the children’s books that I rotate out. Lexie has been really improving her reading recently so I’m needing to replace easier books with some that are longer. She is a creative child so the main thing that draws her to a book is the one with the best Children’s book illustrations. I have to bear this in mind whenever I’m browsing for new books because I want them to be informative while also being engaging with the pictures. The big cabinet is a china cabinet given to me by my grandmother, it was her mother’s. It holds my teaching books that I find useful, and thematic units that my classmates and I did in college, some of our art supplies, and our BFIAR books I don’t want Lexie reading yet (because I want them to be a surprise when we start them).
In the bottom are my empty binders, folders, and other supplies, along with coloring books. We LOVE doing calendar; it’s our favorite part of the day. The calendar is this one, it came from Amazon and was one of her Christmas gifts. Hanging on the calendar is our ABC bible verses; we do a new one each week. The posters came in a big tote full of thematic units given to me by a friend. The bottom one is an ABC chart, which we do the letter sounds song to. The top is a number chart that goes to 20. Lexie can (usually) successfully count to 16 on her own. The poster to the far right is a diagram of how a bean grows, with pictures of different plants and their seeds. We are currently talking about spring and how plants grow, so this fit perfectly with that.

The rug was for our old house, but not used. Choosing a rug can be quite a difficult task, but we certainly made the right choice. If you’re looking for a new rug but want a few tips before you buy one, visit https://info.bazaarvelvet.com/rug-design-guide-how-to-choose-a-luxury-rug. I have since cleaned it and it works great for our “circle time.” Max usually plays on the quilt while we do calendar, then we read together.

My favorite part of the room (right now) is probably the BIG table! Yes, I know! I love it. I found it on craigslist; the ad had been up for a while and I just knew it was already sold. When I emailed her, she said it wasn’t and to make her an offer! So I did. $40 and a trip to Lincoln later, we have a huge learning table and 4 chairs! It is great for the felt board (as you can see), manipulatives, coloring, puzzles, playing pretend, etc. It is just perfect for Lexie. Lexie likes to pretend it is her eating table after she cooks a delicious meal in her kitchen.

After we get the bathroom put in (not any time soon) and we have access to a sink, we will put a plastic office floor cover under the table and use it for painting and messy play. But with no sink down there, it doesn’t make sense right now. So we do that stuff upstairs.

Here are some more pictures:

I really want to get two of these Closet Maid Cubicles for all our manipulatives, puzzles, and other learning materials. I would pull the table out a bit and put them behind it, but horizontally so Lexie and Max can reach everything.

They also have these awesome drawers that go in them:

I would put a few of the green ones scattered throughout the shelves. All of this isn’t in my budget right now, but in due time. =)

Guest bed area

Pretend play area

On top of the cabinet is our laminator (woo hoo!), the cricut, our weekly binder and our BFIAR journaling binder. In the cabinet are puzzles, manipulatives, small blocks, and lacing cards.

I would like to eventually put everything that’s inside that cabinet on the closet maid cubicles, and put some of my supplies like laminating sheets, cricut cartridges, papers, etc in the cabinet. I have childproof locks for it so it would be off limits for little hands. The big chair doesn’t look in place where it’s at, but it’s perfect for all three of us to cuddle up and read in.
I also want to add one of these in the natural color to hold the books we are currently enjoying:

I am in the process of making something that is very special to our family for the walls. I began my journey as a stay at home mom because I felt truly called by the Lord; I truly felt it was my responsibility as my babies’ mama to raise them, and God just put it in my hear that is where I needed to be. I feel the exact same way about our time spent learning together. Maybe even more so now, than I ever did before. It’s just amazing to be with her when she learns something new, or makes a connection of two different things we have learned, read, or talked about.
A few weeks ago we talked about how God gives us gifts. I asked her an example of a gift God had given us, and she said, “Baby Max! From you belly!” (then proceeded to squish my muffin top belly. Then today it was pouring down rain and sleeting (Yes, in April!) on our way to gymnastics and she said “Rain is a present.” Puzzled, I replied, “a present?” She said, “From God! Thank you God, for the rain,” in the absolute most precious, melt your heart voice. It’s just one way God is working more in my life, to be a leader in hers. I love it, and although it is hard, and many days I feel like a failure, it’s a conversation like this one that reassures me if we keep doing what God is calling us to do, our mistakes will not outweigh the positive imprints we are making each day. So, all that to say, that what I am working on is definitely going to be my favorite part of the room, and a special part.

As we update, rearrange, and organize the room some more, I will do a post. =)
In the meantime, here is what out “learning routine” looks like.

After breakfast and a few chores, we head downstairs for what Lexie calls, “calendar and activities!” We begin with our Bible verse and a prayer.
I have this http://keepingitpersonal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/31-Biblical-Virtues-InfoGraphic_8.5×11.pdf which I found over at Raising Godly Children, laminated and hanging next to our calendar. I also have one in my Bible. We pray, then do our ABC Bible verse for the week. Next we sing the days of the week song, months of the year song, and do our calendar. Calendar includes the weather and season; eventually it will include a place value chart like this one. I too is on our wish list.

I plan on adding a few pocket charts for sight words, Bible verses, pictures, and other things we are learning about. The great things about pocket charts is you can change out whatever you need to, and it is always there for the children’s reference when they need it.

Anyway, after calendar we do the number chart, ABC chart, and talk about the seed diagram (which I will change out for something else when we are done talking about spring and seeds growing). Then it is time for reading! Lexie’s second favorite part… she gets to choose if she sits in the floor, in my lap, or if we all snuggle in the big chair. She really likes to sit in the floor with Max. I let her play with the blocks or hold something in her hands. It helps her sit still and she soaks in every word. The second time we read a book, she can fill in random words all throughout. We read our BFIAR book for the week, and a 2 other books that go with what we have been learning about. So this week it is “The Little Rabbit,” “The Tiny Seed,” and “Ping Pong Pig.”

Then she practices her gymnastics (mainly to get the wiggles out for the rest of our morning …) This includes tip toeing, walking backwards, forward rolls, hopping, skipping, galloping, bear walking, kicking, walking on her heels, cartwheels, frog hopping, walking side ways, running, back bends, bridges, hand stands on the wall, etc. After that she gets a sticker, picks a special toy or book if she wants, and it is time for independent play! Whew, you tired yet? 😉

(in there somewhere, Max goes down at 8:50 for nap- sometimes we are done with “learning time,” sometimes we put him down and go back downstairs to finish.)
She does independent play in her room for 45min-1hr. During that time I pay bills, prep dinner if it’s a crockpot night, do laundry or other chores, take a shower … just whatever needs to be done that morning.

So, we don’t do her BFIAR activities until the afternoon, usually. Sometimes we may do a few things before gymnastics practice, but usually we do it after nap (so between 2-3pm). This isn’t ideal, but for now it’s what works. I can usually do a few things with her, then she has a game or coloring she can do quietly on her own. This is time that I pick up, do something with dinner, play with Max one on one, etc. Lately we have been doing some Bible reading from our family Bible; it was given to J.Tom and I when we got married by my Granny and Grandpa (thank you!). It has been in it’s box in the China cabinet for a long time. We each had our own Bible that we made notes in, etc. Now I am so excited to share our family Bible with the kids! Lexie really likes reading from it. I haven’t found just the perfect place in our day to do this on a daily basis. I would really like to do it at breakfast and then one other time in the day… we are just going to play around with it and see.

And that’s it! That is how we use our learning area and play room! We don’t do that every single day, probably 3-4 times a week. But I can tell you, our day (Lexie’s behavior) is MUCH better when we start off with this routine. I guess it gives her brain the stimulation it needs, her the attention she needs, and the fun she needs at the beginning of the day. On days we don’t do it, she is like a little wild animal all day. She definitely enjoys the play, learning, and structure of it all. And I feel very blessed to be part of it. =)

Homeschool Preschool

Lexie and I have so much fun playing and learning.  As you can probably tell from my posts about our typical day, we just use everyday life for learning; reading, crafts, playing outside, outings to the library, park, museum, etc make up our learning experiences.  After the move, Lexie will be 2.5, and she is so advanced in so many areas already, I feel like maybe we could start doing more in-depth conversations about the books we read, add more structure to some of our days, more sustenance … Basically add a little more intention to how we spend our time at home.  Obviously I am not going to fill every minute of our days with stuff to do- after all, just playing is how young children learn anyway.  But I think this spring and summer we are going to do Before Five in a Row.  

Five in a Row is a small, traditional learning platform (I wont call it a curriculum, because it isn’t) that uses great, classic children’s literature for teaching children ages 5+.  It includes books like “Corduroy,” “The Carrot Seed,” and “Make Way for Ducklings.”  Each story is read for 5days and you discuss a different part of the book each day, and do a learning activity (if you want to).  The BEFORE Five in a Row (or BFIAR as it is shortened), is the same thing, with books for younger learners; both platforms include daily Bible study along with the story activities.  Here is the description from their site:

“Dedicated to protecting and nurturing the early years of childhood, Before Five in a Row opens up the world of learning through great books and creative play, and builds a solid foundation for more formal education to come.”

  It is just a great, informal way to start introducing preschool or school in general.  Although I am not sure I believe in “preschool” as it is today, I know my Lexie; I know she thrives on learning and loves reading.  Sometimes we read the same book 7 times in a row until she is satisfied she has seen everything in every picture and has asked as many questions as she can.  She just loves to learn; not all children are this way, and I am sure not all of mine will be.  But she is, so I want to encourage her love of learning and help it flourish.

I could very easily choose my own books, my own Bible verses that go with the story’s “lesson” or theme, and find my own activities to do with them …. But this requires a lot of planning and is rather time consuming.  For $35 I can buy the BFIAR book with the ideas in it, and then enrich it with our own touch.  We already have a lot of the books on the list (there are 24, but one is out of print, though I am sure we can find it used somewhere) and what we don’t have I will find on amazon used or borrow from the library if we have to.  I’d like to buy them all, so we have a good collection of classic literature to always go to on our shelf; plus we can use it with each child.  I also plan to create a lapbooking journal for each book.  Lapbooking is a whole other topic in itself, but it is basically a project based way to “assess.”  Really, you just use a file folder to glue, write and keep together all your activities for whatever topic you are learning about.  Since she is a little young for that, we will keep a binder as a “journal” or portfolio, to put all the activities.  It will also act as a memory book.  The best thing is, the children can go back through it and recall what we did and what they learned.  As a teacher, I know this is a very important part of literacy and education.  Plus, Lexie Raye will love that!

After we do BFIAR this summer, and probably through to Christmas since it will take about 6 months to complete, I would really like to do Son Light P3/4.  It is a bit more expensive at $200+, and is very similar to BFIAR.  The difference is it is a little more intense.  I really think she will enjoy it; many mamas that homeschool for preschool use both BFIAR and SonLight together.  Sonlight is $269 if you get the included story books on their list, but we have some of them, and with some serious planning ahead, we can get all the books used.  Then I will only need to get the instructors guide; it isn’t very expensive.

I have been reading and researching preschool stuff since lexie was born ;). J.Tom and I have always known that if circumstances provided, we wanted to homeschool for preschool, and beyond if we are able. I will do an entire series on reasons why, because the reasons are too numerous to list or discuss in one little paragraph here.  But we believe we can give our children a Christ and family centered education, that is much more rich than any public school can.  Education simply is not what it used to be; an older, wiser homeschooling couple made a very valid point: you send your children off to school, to be raised by someone else for 8+hours a day, submerged in a sea children that don’t share the same family values as you.  Then you get them back 18 years later and winder, “what happened to my child?”  For so long children were raised at home, with their mothers who also taught them.  The family was a unit and we did not depend on the government or anyone else to raise out children and teach them all they need to know.  Honestly, I know where education is, and where it is going and I don’t want my children in it.  We want them at home, and with other families who feel the same way.  It doesn’t mean we shelter them from the world and all it’s ugliness; on the contrary. it means we teach them everything we can about the world and how to be Godly in it.  It means WE get to do it as a family, in God’s way.  It is something that we have a lot of prayer invested in, and will continue to do so, because who knows right now where we will be or what we will be doing.  OK!  Anyway, I will stop here on this topic before I get too far off track.  I will do another post about that later.  🙂

Back to preschool.  Sonlight is supposed to be a great program that is a little more like a curriculum, and is more intense that BFIAR.  After that she will be turning 4 and I’m not sure what we will do.  If we love SonLight, we may do their P4/5 program.  If not, we will try something else.  But at least by then we will know a little more about her style and how she likes to learn.

I am looking forward to it because I think it will be fun for her.  If she weren’t showing interest like she is, I wouldn’t even consider it yet.  I think it will be a great way to build on what we already do; and it may actually not even be as much as we already do on our own … but for $35 we will find out.  =)

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