Friday, September 21, 2012

Learning at Home: Moon and Stars

Hey ya'll! We completed our first official week of a full preschool lesson plan at home and it was a big hit. We actually did more activities than I originally planned, and I've included those as well. I tried to include photos for most things, because I get most people are more visual.

People ask me a lot where I get my ideas. It's a combination. Some of them I've done before as a former preschool teacher. A lot of them I just make up. They are basic concepts of early childhood learning that once you understand are easy to think up ideas for. A lot of these ideas aren't new as well. I find stuff on pinterest, montessori sites, by googling, and on early learning blogs. A really great blog, I pulled some activities from (and tweaked a little) is No Time For Flash Cards. Seriously, so many ideas and activities there.

On to the lesson plan! We usually do our "school time" at the beginning of the day. We always start off with an alphabet activity and one math/logic activity. After that, we either read a book, play a game, and sing some songs, then we are done. Or instead of following it with books and songs, we will do an art or sensory activity instead. Or we will just save the art/sensory activity for the afternoon. The whole idea behind early learning is learning through play, so it should be fun for your child and not forced. If they don't like something or quickly get bored or frustrated with it, move on to something else. Adoration absolutely loves her school time, partly because it is one-on-one play time with mama, and because these activities are stimulating for her. And we don't do different activities every day. A lot of the time we start off with the same activities. As long as they are still interesting for Adoration. So try a few of these ideas, or copy the whole lesson plan, whatever works for you!

Theme: Moon and Stars.
Letters of the Week: M and S. 
Songs: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, ABC's, Going on a Bear Hunt. 
Books: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown; Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle; And if the Moon Could Talk by Kate Banks; The Jesus Storybook Bible (creation story.)
Any books that go with the theme would do, just search on your library's card catalog. We just added these into our before naptime/bedtime book routine.

Letters of the Week Coloring ( on the chalkboard.) ----> Alphabet, Art
We started off everyday with this activity. I just drew the letter on the chalkboard. Adoration would name the letter, then she would color away.


Letter Recognition Game ----> Alphabet
Place three letters before your child. Ask them to find/ pick out one of the letters. Repeat until it gets old. We do this with magnetic letters usually, but sometimes we will use some Trader Joe's letter cookies that we have (When Adoration finds the letter, she thinks it's really fun to get to eat it.) 

Counting 1-5 (one-to-one correspondence) combined w/ Marshmallow Toothpick Game. ---> Math, Small Motor Skills. 
*I made a sheet, drawing 5 circles, with the corresponding number above (we used this all week.)  
*For the marshmallow game portion, Adoration placed a marshmallow in each circle. Then together, we counted the marshmallows as she pointed at each marshmallow. By the end of the week she was doing this by herself. After counting, she used the toothpick to pick up each marshmallow and place it in the bowl and well...some went into her mouth too. ;)
PicMonkey Collage5

*Using the same number sheet, we also counted fruit snacks one day (minus the toothpick pick-up.) Another day, we used pennies. After counting the pennies she placed each penny in her piggy bank. Really....any small object would do.

Shape Sorting Manipulative ----> Math, Shapes
Any kind of sorting/puzzle falls into the Math category, because it uses logic. 
So together, we played with her shape sorting toy. I would have Adoration name the shape before putting it in. If your child doesn't quite have those verbal skills yet, ask them to point to a triangle, square, etc. 

Sorting Found Nature Objects ----> Math
Using feathers and shells we have collected in the past, I had Adoration sort all the feathers into one cup, and all the shells into another. We already had these nature objects, but you could go on a nature walk with your child, collecting leaves and sticks THEN do the sorting.
PicMonkey Collage

Puffy Paint Moon ----> Theme, Art, Sensory, Alphabet, Shape 
(from No Time for Flashcards.)

You will need: mixing bowl, spoon, measuring cup, black poster board/cardstock/heavy duty construction paper, white crayon, glue, and shaving cream.

*On heavy duty black paper (we used poster board,) draw a big circle for the moon in white crayon.  I also wrote "moon" on the sheet and the letter "M." I emphasized how "moon" starts with the letter, "M." I also had her name the shape (circle.)  You will eventually cut this circle out, but I wanted Adoration to have the letter visual as she was doing the activity.
* Mix together 1/2 a cup of glue and 1 1/2 cup shaving cream. Let your child help with the mixing.
* After it is mixed, let your child explore, spreading the goopy mess on the poster board, over the circle moon.
PicMonkey Collage2

*When they are finished, let it dry for a couple of hours (2-4.) Cut out the circle and glue onto another piece of black heavy duty paper. Hang up where your child can see it! (I like to keep our projects where Adoration can see them for at least a week after they have been completed. It helps them remember what they did, plus, it's a source of pride.)
Before and After: 

PicMonkey Collage4

Shaving Cream Color Mixing ----> Sensory, Colors
This activity was not originally planned, but my daughter was already messy and shirtless, and I already had the materials needed at hand. She enjoyed the moon activity so much and was itching for more.

*In a baking pan, squirt some shaving cream. Have your child help you squirt a couple of drops of food coloring onto the shaving cream. We did "red" and "blue" to make "purple." As Adoration was mixing it, she said, "a new color, mama!"
* Let your child explore, mixing it all together, using spoons, their hands, a paintbrush, etc. We also drew shapes, pictures, and letters into the shaving cream. PicMonkey Collage3

Constellation Craft ---> Art, Small Motor, Math, Alphabet
(from No Time for Flashcards.)

You will need: black construction paper, white crayon, star stickers.

*On the construction paper draw either a real constellation (we did the big dipper) or make-up your own (a shape or an object.)
*Draw dots on the constellation, as a guide for where the star stickers should be placed.
*I encouraged Adoration to stick the stickers over the dots for small motor practice. After the constellation was completed, we counted the stars. We also talked about how it looked like a spoon and that we could find that same shape in the sky at night.  And we talked about how "stars" start with the letter "S."
* After the constellation was completed, I let her go to town, sticking stickers wherever she wanted just for fun.

Sensory Play (with lentils) ---->Sensory, Small Motor

Using scoops, spoons, cups, and bowls, let your child play with dry beans or lentils.
(This can get messy. We did it where I can easily sweep up the mess. Or you could do it outside.)
PicMonkey Collage6

Extra/ Just for fun:
*  Make a fort in the dark with start turtle or flashlights (we have a turtle nightlight that projects stars onto the ceiling.
* Take a trip to a Planetarium.
* Stay up past dark and go star gazing.  

Hope this is a good resource for learning ideas! Next week, our theme is "The Human Body."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Cozy, Little Home: Living Room

Here is a peek into our current residence: a cozy, little 1950's house. We will be in this house until May. Then things are a bit up in the air. We are ready to buy for economical reasons...but also to be settled in a home for the next couple of years of our lives...but we aren't quite sure what state that will be in yet. ;)

For now this little house is our home. It is by no means perfect. It has little bedrooms, one teeny bathroom, and closets the size of my pocket. And the real dishwasher. Which causes me no end of frustration until, inevitably the thought of children in India sleeping in vegetable crates or African children scavenging through dumps, or the memory of a homeless pregnant woman pan handling on the highway in my very own town pops into my head as I'm cursing dishes.  And the cursing turns to thanksgiving because when thoughts like that pop into your head, how can I not be thankful for my abundance??

But this house... it is charming, cozy, and sweet. And being inside it just feels good to me. Sometimes, when we sit around our kitchen table, in front of the big window, I imagine a 1950's family eating dinner. The thought always makes me smile. I have a feeling this little house will always hold a dear place in my heart, because such precious memories are being made here. 

On to the tour:
This is our living room. I'm not quite sure how to describe my style but I guess I would say I like things to feel fresh,light, airy, and uncluttered. I like things a little on the rustic side and I'm drawn to pretty, beachy colors. Sometimes I desire a little more edge, but I think deep down, I'm just more of a romantic, southern girl at heart. For example, I originally wanted some edgy, modern fabric for throw pillows, and ended up getting a water color inspired floral. Not edgy at all. But it was pretty and apparently my heart just wanted pretty.

There are always little changes I am wanting to make decorating wise, but I am pretty anti-hoarder, and with all our moving, we've kept our furniture and decor to a minimum. Sometimes when thrifting, I'll see a really cool chair or interesting frames that I end up passing over because they would have no where to live. Or because replacing something we already have just doesn't warrant the expense. But I would love to add a pop of bright, punchy pink via some throw pillows for the couch. ;)  The walls are this light lemon yellow color, and I really wish they were white....or a light dove grey. But oh well, they are neutral enough. We've done the paint the whole rental thing before and when it was time to move out and had to paint it all back, I wanted to shoot myself. 




IMG_0950 IMG_0960



Well, that's the living room!

You can find the first part our our home tour on Mandy's blog, She Breathes Deeply.  Featured, are the playroom and Adoration's room. We've made some changes since. We moved the flokati rug into our living room. We got a low pile rug, better suited for playing. And it was only $20! Which is a great price point for a play rug if you ask me! And we added a rocker to Adoration's room.

New rug in playroom:


We also added this little table in a previously empty corner:


I was on the look out for the perfect pink rocker to go in Adoration's room. And I found a vintage, velvet rocker for a steal. Here it is, in it's new home:


Next up on the tour....our dining nook. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 14, 2012

School Time!

     We have been having more intentional "learning time" around here.  Adoration is two, and I feel like that is the age where they can really start grasping more and are able to do more planned kinds of activities. Adoration needs lots of stimulation right now, so I've found having an arsenal of experiences at the ready for her makes life better for both of us. I am not naturally the best planner, preferring to go with the flow, making things up as I go. But children thrive on structure. And I thrive when my daughter is structure it is. We are basically full on doing home school preschool right now. I have the next 10 weeks roughly planned out as far as Adoration's preschool goes. With another baby about to enter the picture, and knowing we will be at home more, I've been motivated to make sure Adoration's days will be stimulating, so I won't be tempted to let her watch Curious George all day long. ;)  She will also be starting a Mother's Day Out Program in October that is one day a week for just about three hours. Mostly for the consistent social experience...and so I can get some laundry done or grocery shopping done. ;)  

These days, after Adoration wakes up, eats breakfast, and is dressed we have what we call "School Time." We go into her playroom and we usually sit at her little table and do a couple of activities. Then read some library books and sing some songs. She gets to pick out a sticker at the end for a job well done. It really doesn't take long at all. After school time, we still have time to get outside and play/go on an outing/ have a play date/run errands or whatever we need to do that day before lunch and nap time.  Adoration LOVES "School Time."  She is excited to do it every day and wears her stickers proudly for the rest of the day. It's pretty adorable. She always wants to show or tell Daddy what she did in school time too.

This year we are mainly focusing on letters/letter recognition/beginning phonics, counting/number recognition, shapes, colors, etc. Adoration has a good grasp on letter recognition and the alphabet, basic shapes, and colors, so we will just be reinforcing those things. But also moving on to more complicated things like lowercase letter recognition, letter sounds, more complicated shapes, color mixing...etc.  She is good at reciting her numbers all the way past 12, but actual number-to-object counting she tends to rush. And recognizing the symbols that go with the numbers is pretty new to her so we will focus a lot on that this year. And all through games, playing, puzzles, and fun activities that she enjoys. I don't push her and if she doesn't like something or is over it we just move on to something else. 

Aside from the basics, I'll have weekly themes for her, with corresponding library books that we will read. With the themes I will plan corresponding activities/art/games/ etc.  The plan is to post our lesson plan after we have completed it, so any one can use it, pull from it, or get ideas. I'm not sure how on top of it I will be with posting it to the blog...but I will do my best. ;) 

A peek into some of our recent activities:

Practicing letter recognition. "Adoration what letter is this??"
"Dat's an X!" 

Inspired by a book, Adoration wanted her daddy to help her reach for the moon.

A shape game, counting squares, an object permanence game, and coloring/stickers.

Practicing her hopping skills. 

Painting a birdhouse.....and her entire hand.

A color sorting game.

Counting with gummy bears/number recognition, the letter "C," and super
excited about School Time.

A sneak peak into our lesson plan for next week.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

thoughts and a letter.



Asa's arrival is drawing very near. I've had a mixed bag of emotions...mostly excitement. But to be honest, I've felt really overwhelmed as well. Nesting is in full swing and I've found myself struggling to tie up all the loose ends that I desire before he arrives AND have productive, interactive days with my daughter AND try to get the rest I need. Inconsequential things fill my list that, in nesting mode, seem like a very big deal: 

vacuum car.
install car seat. 
keep up with laundry so I won't have to worry about it when we get home from hospital.
wash all the baby things.
sterilize bottles and pump parts. 
pack Adoration's bag. 
pack my bag. 
paint top coat on bassinet with low VOC paint.
find dresser for office/baby room. 
keep house as clean as possible. 

and until JUST recently:
work out a babysitting plan for Adoration when I go into labor.
(We had no plan, had no idea who would do this for us until just recently, a new friend,
a part of our small group, graciously offered.)

Other weightier thoughts, besides conquering my to-do list, sneak in, threatening to overwhelm me. For example:
Knowing James only has one week off of paternity leave. 

One tiny week. Two days of which I will be actually birthing the baby and be in the hospital.
Then back to the busy season of work he goes. And I will be physically recovering, and not sleeping, and breastfeeding (and dear God, please don't let it start off hurting so much this time), and taking care of a newborn and a two year old. And it feels like a lot. And one week seems oh so short. 
I know James will be supporting me as much as he possibly can because he really is the best husband/daddy out there and I am so thankful for who he is and all he does with every breath I breathe. 

But I can't help but feel a little anxious. I think: Can I do this? Can I handle it? 

And I know it will all be fine. It's all going to be okay. Women do this every day, all over the world. And a good number of them are doing it all by themselves. 

But this anxiety I'm having, it is unbidden and new. And when I really think about it, ridiculous. These things are not the end of the world. Yet it creeps in anyways. I didn't have it with Adoration. I was as peaceful and calm as one could hope. It was so easy for me to enter into that place. This time, it is such a struggle. And I think how odd, when praying over this baby boy we felt like he would carry with him Peace and Trust (thus his name: Asa Trust,) and I am struggling with such opposing emotions. And they say how the woman is feeling while the baby is in the womb has an effect on the baby's emotional state. And I think how can this boy be full of peace and trust when I've been struggling in this area?? But from the beginning we felt like God was saying this was our Asa's identity.  And it comforts me, almost like God is saying, "You are going to be okay. Baby boy is going to be just fine. It's just a part of who he is. I AM bigger than all your anxieties."

This verse has been my great encouragement lately:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  2 Cor 12:9

So I lean in to grace. Instead of trying to rationalize my anxieties (which just makes me feel guilty.) I take a deep breath and say, "I am anxious. Give me peace. I am weak. Be my strength." And there I am, in the boat where Jesus is sleeping. And with a word, the storm has stopped. 

Dear Asa,

Sweet boy, I can't wait to meet you. You were a dream in my heart, and knowing I will soon stare into your eyes, and kiss your forehead brings me so much joyful anticipation. God is creating you to be a calm in the storm. And I know when I look at you I will see the promise of Peace when we but trust in Him. And God is love, and love is covering us, and growing inside of us. And we were made for love.

And from your conception to every day you have on this earth, my highest prayer is that you would know in the deepest part of you that you are loved, your are loved, you are loved. 

All my love,

your mama. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

DIY: Cupcake Liner Garland

cupcake PicMonkey Collage

Okay, so this is such an easy and cheap DIY. We added a little table to Adoration's playroom and that corner just needed something to spruce it up a bit. I knew I wanted to do a garland and I knew I wanted it to be easy. It dawned on me, staring at the colored cupcake liners in the baking section of Target, that they would make a really pretty garland. Now I am sure that this has been done before (as is everything, right?) but it was the first time I had ever thought of it/seen it. I think cupcake liner garlands would make such great party decorations. You can find so many different patterned/colored liners out there or I even like the idea of the simple white and metallic for a grown-up party...or you know...for just because. 

What you need:
cupcake liners
(I used embroidery thread because it's what I had, but any kind of string would do. )
glue stick.

Fold the cupcake liners in half over the string.
Glue in the middle to hold in place.
Hang it up.
....and you're done! 

Other ideas:
Have your child watercolor paint white liners....artwork AND a garland!
Dip dye for an ombre effect (cause ombre is so hot right now.) 

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