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!

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