Sunday, September 4, 2016

Our First Week of Homeschooling ... Kind Of

... I say "kind of" because we did our P.E. for the year during the month of August and a bunch of cool educational-ish activities all throughout the summer. But, starting this last week, preschool is in full swing and we're loving it!

First, like I said, all during the month of August we did our P.E. portion of the schoolyear when I got a one-month swimming pool pass and did my best to teach Ellie her first swimming lessons. I had to pay for the pool membership either way, and the formal lessons weren't scheduled at the most convenient times for someone who doesn't have a car available every day, so I read through the beginning toddler's lesson description - 'blowing bubbles, kicking, mostly having fun' - and I figured, "well, I can at least do that." It went ... ok. She didn't drown. Just kidding - it's not as if I would trust her around the water by herself yet, but she's had a decent introduction, which is all I was planning on. We spent more hours with more one-on-one time than she would have had in their group lessons without having to pay for them. And she's gotten more comfortable with it. It's a work in progress, but she got a good start.

I don't have any pictures from the pool, but here she is at the splash pad in the bathing suit I made for her this summer. (The skirt didn't turn out how I wanted, but I think the top and the bottoms under the skirt went well!) She usually wears this one in the indoor pool and has another one with sleeves that she wears outside.

 This last week we started preschool in earnest, and she's loving it!

I set it up so that we do only about 1 1/2 hours a day, 3x a week. For preschool I think that's just about right. And then we just try to check out a lot of good library books and attend as many good events in the area as we can, mostly for her to get to socialize (I want to take her to the Provo Library's weekly preschool activities and the Bean Museum's science reading for kids on every Thursday, but this week she was still getting over a cold so we didn't get to go).

For this first year, each week we'll focus on a letter of the alphabet, and then the last few weeks will be alphabet review, vowels vs. consonants, matching capitals with lower-case, writing her own name, etc. for a total of 32 weeks (starting in Kindergarten in 2 years we'll do the average school year of 36 weeks if we're still homeschooling by then). Each week also has a math and science topic as well. This week's topics were the letter A, the primary colors and how they mix to make secondary colors, and counting review (although some of the letter activities covered more science & math skills as well, as you'll see).

Each day at 9 AM we start out with an opening prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the song of the week (this week's song was "Our Primary Colors" from the LDS Primary Children's songbook). I'm debating whether I want to add a scripture of the week or wait until Kindergarten for that. After doing all those things, we get out the fantastic Dollar Tree workbooks I got (no, really, the Dollar store has AWESOME educational stuff, especially for preschool!) and we practice writing the letter of the week with Mommy's help (we have four workbooks on the alphabet - a Winnie the Pooh one, a Mickey Mouse one, a general Disney one, and a Little People one, plus I also got some worksheets from online, and we spread those out over the three days so she gets 1-2 pages of writing practice each day of school). Then after writing practice, we break out some fun activities - mostly around the letter of the week. I found so many great ideas online! This week we did a lot of activities around the theme "A is for Apple." Some of the things we did:

We went "apple picking" around the room for red, green, and yellow "apples," and then we used them to practice counting, sorting, making patterns, & making a bar graph.

We did two separate apple science experiments: first, we cut some apple slices to leave out during school one day and we put lemon juice on one half of them to see how it keeps apples from turning brown. Then, we tried putting an apple and an apple slice into a bowl of water to see whether they would float or sink (they both float).

We also read Dr. Seuss' Ten Apples Up On Top, and then we counted and glued red pom-poms on top of the heads of the three characters from the book (a lion, tiger, and dog that I was able to print out from online). We also did some "apple prints," where we painted apples sliced in half with red tempera paint and stamped them on paper. You can see that project in the corner of this picture - I thought I had gotten a separate picture of the stamped art but apparently I didn't (and no art piece lasts very long around here these days before someone has ripped it up for fun - it's as if the toddler and the baby have decided to take turns with that duty). And she also practiced some cutting by coloring and cutting out an apple, too.

I didn't get pictures of some of these other activities, but we also read a book called Watch Apple Trees Grow from the library and then labeled a picture of apples with the seeds, the flesh, the stem and leaf, and the skin. And we also did another activity where we rolled dice and counted the number we had rolled and then got to count out that many "apple seeds" (chocolate chips) onto a picture of an apple and then we ate them. :-)

For our primary colors experiment, we copied yet another idea I found online where we put a few drops of food coloring hidden inside baking soda and then squirted each container with vinegar and you could see it fizzing in different colors. After the first time we added drops of a 2nd primary color to each container to see how blue turned into purple, red turned into orange, and yellow turned into green, etc.:

We also did a fun random activity where we used Lego duplo blocks to practice symmetry and talked about "balancing" the two sides (pre-algebra, anyone? :-) )

And for math we just did some count-and-match worksheets, some patterns worksheets, and some one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others worksheets that I found online. That's all we'll do for math the first couple of weeks, and then I plan to start her on the other Winnie-the-Pooh and Mickey Mouse workbooks I found at the Dollar Tree on shapes and on writing/counting the numbers 1-10 and so forth.

There were some other coloring pages we did as well, like practicing writing the word "apple" and doing a dot-to-dot that made an apple, and a coloring page of "A is for Animals" as well. And I also have some good preschool memory card games I got from the Dollar Tree (that practice colors and shapes and letters and Bible heroes) that we used for filler when she was getting antsy. But that pretty much sums it up.

This next week we have some good "B is for Bee" and "B is for Bridge" and "B is for Banana Bread" activities lined up. :-) But don't worry, I don't plan to go this much into our curriculum every week - I don't want to make this a homeschooling blog simply because everything I'm doing I got from other wonderful homeschooling blogs or from the Dollar Tree, so I don't really have anything new to share. But my sister-in-law Serena has a great toddler homeschooling blog she's starting up (, and I'm really looking forward to using her Fossil Cookies idea she just posted for "F is for Fossil" in a few weeks!

In case anyone is wondering, here are some of the other blogs and websites where I got my ideas and worksheets and clip art (this list is by no means exhaustive - there are so many out there! I can get a more organized complete list if anyone's wondering): (you can search just for the free stuff)

... basically I started with pinterest and it grew from there. And, like Serena mentions on her blog, Kent's older sister homeschooled her boys and gifted all her curricula to Serena and I, and I'm planning on using some great ideas from her too. I've been putting stuff together for months and I'm still working on filling gaps in the curriculum a few weeks ahead as I go ... and I still need to add in calendar stuff and possibly a scripture for the week at the beginning part of every day. But so far, so good. :-) She's loving every minute of it! And I'm pretty proud of myself - after doing a TON of research as to what other people are doing and what's expected at every age level, I think I pretty much nailed it as far as getting activities just at her level of what's challenging enough and short enough to be interesting but not challenging enough or long enough to be frustrating. I know some days will be better than others - Day 1 this week went spectacularly but then Day 2 she got a little bored, but we saved it. :-) We're happy with it, and we're learning a lot together!

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