Saturday, August 30, 2014

Before Five in a Row: Goodnight Moon

I was so excited to start Goodnight Moon for our third Before Five in a Row selection. This is one of Molly's favorite books; she loves to find the mouse on each page. Also, Reed had been pointing out the moon a lot lately and specifically asking why it changes shapes. I had seen a fun moon phase lesson using oreos on Pinterest, and chose to row Goodnight Moon as soon as possible.

We kicked off our week with a sensory bin, filled with Goodnight Moon-esque objects from around the house. Since it was a book we were already familiar with, I had Reed and Molly try to guess our book based on the bin. :)

We had a "bowl full of mush" for breakfast before we read together and played a memory matching game with some of the goodnight objects.

Next we busted out the Oreos! :) (We referred to this site). We hadn't ever talked about outer space that I can think of, so we kind of started there with a quick overview and then focused on just three things-- that the moon is made of rock, that it reflects light from the sun, and that the moon appears to us to change shape as it circles, or orbits, around the earth. We made an oreo of and talked about each phase, but mostly focused on the new moon, crescent moon, half moon, and full moon, kind of letting gibbous fade into the background and only mentioning the waning/waxing distinctions.

After naps on Monday, we went through a pile of books to find pictures of moons and identify the phase of each one.

Day two was painting day! The illustrations in Goodnight Moon are perfect for talking about primary and secondary colors, so we did just that, followed by some color mixing.

And then the little shirtless Picassos just went for it! Masterpiece!

After we read the story on Wednesday, we talked about the paintings of the three bears and of the cow jumping over the moon in the room, and then we read "Hey, Diddle Diddle" and Goldilocks and The Three Bears. They, especially Reed, LOVED this! I think I was begged to read Goldilocks three or four times... must have been my bear voices. ;) Reed also rocked a rhyming word match.

At the end of the week, we introduced clocks and time. We moved the hands on our play clock to match each clock in the book... did you know that the time advances in ten minute increments on each page? Reed is more familiar with his letters than numbers, so I had him make his own clock face. I wrote the numbers in highlighter and he traced over and named them. Annnnd we had more fairytales requested. :)

Fun kids, fun week :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Before FIve in a Row: Jesse Bear

The second book we rowed was Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

We've continued to start off the day with our chore charts and then morning board at breakfast, followed by our reading and activity, usually all before lunch.

On Monday we read the story for the first time, and did some tracing, a rhyming word activity, and sorting/counting with teddy grahams.

The second day we acted out the story as we read, and then followed Jesse Bear's day, getting dressed, playing outside, and we copied his lunch menu (no rice in the hair though!). We did some more cutting (always a hit), patterning, and a food sort. During Molly's nap, Reed did some extra cutting and counting, and we played memory with some images from the story.

On Wednesday morning, the kids had a sitter but we made bear masks in time to finish our morning board. After naps, we found the American flag patterns in the books, colored a flag, and talked a little bit about the USA and sang some patriotic songs. :) I'm always so amused when we dialogue about everyday concepts (like country) that are so new to little ones- fun! We try to revisit and review our address often and are still working on nailing it down.

On Thursday we just read our story, and then skipped town for a pool day in Newnan with our cousins! (And Reed and I started reading Charlotte's Web!)

On Friday after we read Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?, we played with our Melissa and Doug magnetic dress up sets, and talked about what we might wear to different places and in varying conditions.

Then we all headed for the mall to play and --surprise-- Reed and Molly each got to pick out a new outfit for their build-a-bear. Not so much educational as creating a special memory. :)

Reed and Molly each gave a summary of the book and cited their favorite part...

Reed's favorite part: ants in my pants... and rose in my toes
Reed's summary: he says ants in my pants sand on my arms bubbles to float and a boat celery crunch juice from a pear rice in my hair... carrots and peas... jesse bear my shirt of red pulled over my head, my pants that dance in the morning

Molly's favorite part: i think, ummm... pants that dance
Molly's summary: play in the sand

Friday, August 15, 2014

Before Five in a Row: Angus Lost

We completed our first full week of our new fall routine and of Before Five in a Row. Our first book was Angus Lost. The kids loved it!

Each morning, after our chore charts and breakfast and the morning board, we snuggled up on the couch and read the story. We crammed in all kinds of activities throughout the week for our first go! It still felt fun and relaxed. :)

Some things we did were simple, like tracing, helping Angus through a maze (I couldn't believe Reed got him out the first try), and some same and different puzzles. Molly colored up a storm.

On Tuesday, we discussed different types of dogs and looked up a pedigree chart. (Angus, a Scottish Terrier, gets outrun by a Collie in the book because he is built differently). Reed and Molly both got a kick out of the pictures of all of the different kinds of dogs. I thought it would be fun for them to identify familiar dogs, so we had some friends text of pictures of their canine pals. Reed identified Angus and the Collie pretty quickly, as well as Lisa's pug and "Pongo and Perdita" from 101 Dalmations. Some of the others were pretty tough, but we got close! We spread our ID-ing out through the week because it was intense work. :)

Mrs. Kristen sent us a picture of her Great Dane, Grace, and invited us over to eat dinner and dessert with the Larsons. Mrs. Kristen is so much fun, and the kids had a big time! Matt and I did too! :)

I found these awesome Monopoly gummies that have dogs that looks just like Angus, plus houses, and old-fashioned cars that match those in the story.

I decided we had to use them somehow! We put together our color puzzle and reviewed colors with Molly, then color sorted the gummies (and the milk bottles).

We pulled out the paint deck and talked about shades of colors too.

Last, we used the gummies for an experiment and to introduce the scientific process. I told R & M that scientists ask questions and make guesses. We asked what would happen to the gummy if we left it in water while we left for the evening.

On Thursday, we talked about Angus getting lost. We remembered that God is always with us and reviewed what to do if we ever get lost. (By the way, I love this: I read somewhere a couple of years ago to teach your young children that if they ever cannot find you, the they are to find a mommy with kids and tell her you're lost. That's a pretty good bet in pointing your kids toward a safe person to help!) We also practiced our personal information... We'll need to revisit that often, but we're getting there.

We did some cutting-- always a hit!

And Reed counted houses and worked with numbers 1-20, while Molly moved on to some light reading. :)

We made puppy chow together, and the kiddos wanted to eat it like doggies. :)

At the end of the week, Reed and Molly each summarized the story in their own words, and cited their favorite part. :)

Reed's favorite part: "the cave"
Reed's summary: "He starts chasing the dog, and he runs around the corner and then when Angus runs around the corner the dog is gone. ...the goat runs until he stops... He founds the car and then the car runs away.  And... he... finds a owl and then he runs runs to find his house but snow comes...came, and then he went in a cave.  Then he got out and then he followed the milk man... and then door to door until he finds his house."

Molly's favorite part: "owl"
Molly's summary: (looking through book) "Angus... snow... the goat stop... rattle clink clink!  it dark... this doggie's house... rattle clink clink rattle clink clink HONK..." (continues...) :)

*Many of the printed materials pictured can be found free at :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

End of Summer Family Pictures

We have some new family pictures!

This was the everyone-is-smiling-and-looking Christmas card winner:

We got some good ones of the kids too.
Molly, age 2

Reed, age 4

And some candid types...

It was so hot, and Reed and Molly were flat done by the end... Ha!

Love my people so!

*Captured Memories by Ashley Miller.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A New Year - Fall 2014

Reed, Molly, and I are all going to be at home together again this year.

In the last couple of years we've done some intentional learning at home, but nothing very full or formal. When Reed was two and Molly was a baby, we incorporated R's Big God Story lessons and remember verses from Sundays into our weeks and had a rotating "special" shape, letter, number and color. Reed did a gymnastics class (and Molly learned to crawl during the open play after each class!)  Mostly, we just played, met up with pals, visited the zoo and the children's museum and other interesting places, and we lived life.

Last year, we were even more laid back. We still did lots of playing, playdates, parks, and visits to our pass places. We added in a monthly art group and a music co-op turned craft and play and whatever (which was, more importantly, a mom's morning out rotation with a few of our pals!). Both kiddos had their Sanctuary Kids classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, and Reed played his first season of soccer in the spring.

I wrestled a little bit over what to do this year, but landed with us all here at home together. I'm sure there are days when I'll be going crazy, and I'm already feeling the free time crunch, but in the end I remind myself that I will look back one day and long to bask in these precious little years once again, being thankful for each and every one. (Partly, probably, because I won't remember the boogers on the walls and the mealtime meltdown parts as clearly as the laughter and learning and hugs, but that's okay too.) :)

Once I decided we were hanging at home, I clicked into my creating/planning mode and had a lot of fun thinking through what this year would look like, not just for "preschool" really, but more in a general sense of what do we want to focus on as a family at this unique stage of Molly being two and Reed being four. Below are some of the big ideas we came up with that we plan to highlight and implement this fall.

Sanctuary Kids- This year Reed will be in the PreK class at church and Molly will start the 2's class. Our church uses a great children's curriculum (wonder what good-looking guy picked it out!) that encourages parents to be the primary spiritual nurturers of their children.  Each Saturday we'll continue to use the Homefront tools to introduce our kids' lessons, and we'll try to highlight the remember verses throughout the week. We want the Gospel to undergird everything we learn and do, so we'll incorporate "The Big God Story" and seek to experience Jesus in all of our adventures. Our favorite Bible so far has been the Jesus Storybook Bible (see why here), but we've been through it several times with Reed already, plus he has started to study stories that aren't included. I'm in the market for a more complete children's Bible.

Before Five in a Row- This will be our main "curriculum" for the fall. It was recommended to me by a couple of friends, and I love that it is simple, relational, and the perfect age range for both Reed and Molly. Basically, we'll be reading some children's classics (one book each week, read five days in a row) and pairing various learning activities with each day of each story. I'm excited. The prepping side allows me to be creative and use my brain, plus there is limitless flexibility so our "plan" can be fun and fluid and whatever we need it to be. I'm hoping to document some of our days here, so check back!

Chore Knob Charts- Structure and routine are important to preschoolers, and Reed is no exception. We have been wanting to introduce some consistent responsibilities for some time, so this little Pinterest inspired gem is our effort in that direction. (And I found the printable graphics here). The "chores" are mostly morning and evening routine prompts, and have a few extra responsibilities included. I pretty much walk Molly through hers, but we will go ahead and celebrate that she gets some fine motor practice moving the clothespins. ;) Reed, though... you would think we got him a new puppy to take care of. If he is out of sight, we can usually find him in his room enthusiastically "working ahead" on his chart. It seriously cracks us up. Some of the extra jobs we decided on are watering plants, helping to empty the dishwasher (usually sorting the silverware), and helping Daddy on trash days. I love that all of the icons are interchangeable; most days I order them before I go to bed (for the morning) and during naps (for the afternoon/evening). Speaking of naps, that particular ritual is no longer part of Reed's days so we are also establishing a rest time/room time routine for the fall.

Morning Board- Along the same lines of order and routine, I also wanted to start a morning calendar time. We talked about the days and dates and weather last year, but I wanted something visual and hands on. After hours searching through ideas and products for classroom circle time, I had drafted a whole collage wall for the playroom that would include a pocket calendar, a weather wheel, color and shape posters, seasons, months etc. Then the heavens opened up and I found this Melissa and Doug Magnetic Calendar, breathed a sigh of relief, and hit "place order." It is simple and includes pretty much everything I want, including the seasons, months, days of the week, dates, holidays, activities, weather. We usually do it together during breakfast. It even has an emotions section where the kids can put up a yellow face that expresses how they are feeling. Yesterday Molly was having a meltdown, and Reed dashed into the kitchen and then came back to announce that he put up both the sad and angry faces for Molly. :) Ha! Later in the year when we introduce money a bit more, I also want to add a magnetic strip where we can "make the date" out of coins each day.

Other Activities- In addition to their Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Sanctuary Kids classes, Molly and Reed are both delightfully enrolled in gymnastics. Molly takes a morning GymTots class with four of her gal pals-- they are so funny, like herding cats! Reed takes an evening boys class and now uses the legit equipment in the back of the gym.  Reed is also pumped about playing his first season of Tee Ball!

Read Alouds- Another goal this year was to start reading some chapter books with Reed. We are especially excited about exposing him to Chronicles of Narnia, but have started with Charlotte's Web. So far, he loves it! There are a lot of good book lists out there with suggestions-- Here is one with fifty titles. On deck, we have Winnie the PoohMr. Popper's Penguins, and Junie B. Jones. I read a chapter with Reed at the beginning of rest time, and before bed. Usually he gets out of room time early and convinces me to read another chapter or two before Molly wakes up. :)

Joke Book and Family Jar- I read about both of these dinnertime ideas some time ago. First, share a joke from a joke book each night at dinner... what a simple way to laugh together and explore the nuances of language! :) The other idea is a jar of questions and conversation starters. We haven't made this (yet?), but we've been trying to model intentionality and reciprocity in our conversation. A current favorite is the question game, where each person chooses a question for the whole table to answer. It could be anything from "what was something that made you sad (or laugh) today" to "what is everyone's favorite zoo animal." :)

The Story of Me- We have a series of books by Stan and Brenna Jones that start as early as the toddler years to introduce kids to God's design for their bodies and for sex in a spiritual context.  Right now we're starting with The Story of Me, and I guess the goal will be to revisit it maybe once a quarter.  As crazy as it sounds, I feel like I'm already playing catchup because we haven't started with this type of resource.

Serving- I have been reading a great book that suggests that Reed (at almost five) is ready to be helped to focus outward, and that now is a great time to lay a foundation of service in his world. We've been wanting to sponsor a child through our friends Because of Kennedy, and this fall will be a great time to allow Molly and Reed to be involved in that process. I'm hoping to set aside intentional time monthly to let them help with projects, gifts, and correspondence with our sponsored child.

Other- We also plan to listen to lots of music throughout our days, get messy with creative art projects, and play a lot. Reed is always begging for a game on the phone or to watch a show, so I finally loaded up our extra tablet with a list of the best preschool apps I've found for (limited!) screen time for him. He also loves to do preK and K summer bridge books and flash cards every now and then. Potty training for Molly will be on the docket this fall. We'll get out of the house for plenty of library visits and to get good use out of our zoo and botanical gardens memberships. We also want to be intentional about individual time with our kids, so we've set a goal of special 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 time with each of our children at least once per semester (fall, spring, and summer).

I compiled most of these ideas from inspiration from other families shared in person or across the web. I hope some of them prove helpful and fun for you and your family too!

I'm super excited about a new year with my little loves! Here we go!