Sunday, November 12, 2017

Day One of Our Rainforest Adventures

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Day 1 was all about Jaguars.  I set the J is for Jaguar Make & Play craft up at the table for Adam.  But later that day we had a whole bunch of kids over and it started to get kind of loud, so I asked if anyone wanted to make a Jaguar.  Even though they were older kids, they were super excited and soon, it got a lot quieter in my house as they happily worked on their Jaguars.

I also got out the I Can Read book so that Adam and I can read through it all month long.  He often hears me tell his brothers they have to do their reading and he LOVES having his own reading assignment.
Every new theme with Mother Goose Time means they get a new name tag and every month on the first day we write our names.  I write Adam's name with a yellow marker and he traces over it. He was quick to finish his name this month so he decided to flip it over and try his hand at some free hand As.
The older boys were at the other end of the table doing an old fashioned spelling test.  I put a divider up between them, dictated words for them to spell and then we graded it together after.  They were both upset that they didn't get them all correct because that's what we are used to with homeschooling.  I quickly explained to them that getting only one or two wrong is really good!! Mommy used to miss a lot more.  This brought them a lot of relief.
The next lesson was called Circle Spots and the idea was to cover a large paper in circle's like the spots on a Jaguar.  They recommend we cover a tables surface in large pieces of paper and then provide cups and other circle objects to trace. I grabbed what I had handy and used that old printer paper that's all attached in one long sheet.  My husbands previous employer found a case of it in an old office storage area.  Jackpot!
I was very nervous to present this activity to Adam.  I knew he would like it and want to do it but I thought he might get really frustrated by the items sliding as he was tracing.
But here's the thing.  He surprised me again and he was successfully able to hold the items in place as he traced.  If he did have a little hiccup, he didn't get angry, just fixed it and kept going.
These are huge signs of development for Adam.  The social and emotional development to shrug off frustration, and the physical ability to hold an item in place while tracing.

Observing Adam as he works through a project is called Authentic Assessment. I have observed Adam enough times doing various activities using a variety of skills that when he "surprises me", I am actually observing and assessing a leap in his skills and abilities.  As a homeschool Mother in a state where no documentation of work is required for a preschooler I can do this assessing very informally.  But if I were in a state that required documentation, Mother Goose Time would make it so easy!!

In fact, I could look at the developmental continuum under Self Concept and see that under 1.3 Identifies and manages feelings Adam would be right at Benchmark D "Recognizes personal feelings.  Controls impulses with reminders."   Although, this time, he didn't need a reminder and was able to control those emotions on his own.  So maybe he's on his way to Benchmark E!!
Over the last few years I have been taping Adam's name tags to the back of our Circle Time display board.  This is another fun way of assessing Adam's growth.  And not to worry, if you don't know where to start with collecting work samples, Mother Goose Time will take you step by step through that as well.

But if you look closely, the name tags at the top have his name, written by me, and then scribbles all over the place.  As they get towards the bottom you begin to see mostly his name with very few scribbles because he has started to trace directly over the lines. Except of course on the rainforest one.  He seemed to have some fun drawing a few extra lines on that one, maybe they are vines in the jungle.
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into a "day" with Mother Goose Time.  We have incorporated it in so many avenues of our life.  Whether it be neighbors coming over to play or serious Preschool learning and work for my little guy so he can be like his big brothers.

I love to use this blog to document Adam's learning adventures.  I feel so blessed to have a record of all that he has done.  But it's also fun to sit down and reflect.  It was in this reflection that I realized these moments when Adam "surprises me" aren't surprises at all, but assessments in disguise.  The only reason I am surprised is because it's a skill or ability Adam was not capable of before, but now he is!  They are in fact observations of skills gained and growth made!

Monday, November 6, 2017

How to Set a Toddler Trap

Before you get worried, this type of trap won't hurt anyone but it will expand their mind and abilities!

**This post may contain affiliate links.

Sometimes it's hard to do an official "day" of Mother Goose Time lessons and activities.  When that is the case I have a lot of fun setting up "toddler traps".  I actually call mine "Adam Traps" because that is my intended target around here.  He is my 3.5 almost 4 year old little man.  So maybe, I should officially call him a preschooler, but I still struggle with not calling him baby Adam, so one step at a time please.

There are many names for what I call "Adam traps".  Some call them Investigation Stations or Invitations to Play.  It's a pretty simple concept, you set up an activity in a special location for the child to find and investigate on their own.  This is good for my Adam who has always been very independent.  When he happens upon an activity and he chooses to investigate it further you can just see him beaming with pride and he has a lot more commitment to the task when it was his decision.

Here is what you do.  First you set out an activity at one of their spots or you set it up on the floor or somewhere that will catch their eye.  Here is the first "trap" I set.  I put out this Mother Goose Time math activity.  We had done this once before so I knew he would know what to do.  The objective is to have them roll the pocket cube and then put that many "clouds" (cotton balls) in the sky on the paper.
The second trap I set was at the table.  I put his My Little Journal on the table with his name written in yellow.  We have done this a few times now, so again, I knew that he would know what to do.  I set the green marker next to the journal and he knows to trace his name.  I also included colored pencils so he could draw a picture on the cover if he wanted to.  You can also see his chocolate milk is sitting there and his favorite Wii controller.  I figured he might just climb up to the table to look for those items and discover his journal and I would catch him in my trap.
It didn't take long until the first trap was successful. Caught him!  I didn't want to scare away the toddler so I just took a quick picture from behind.  
Here is a side by side.
A little while later I was able to get him to participate in the second trap.  But I had to make it more enticing.  I sat down at his spot and asked him to tell me his favorite weather.  This was the journal prompt for the cover from Mother Goose Time.  He said the sun and I asked him what he liked to do in the sun and I started to draw a stick figure drawing of Adam flying a toy airplane outside in the sun.  He of course wanted to join in and then took it from there.

He wrote his name first.
Then he added his own touch to the cover photo.
The key is, I did not ask him if he wanted to participate because it's too easy for a toddler to say no.  I just got him intrigued and because it was his decision he was totally invested.  He did page after page in his journal.  He wrote beautifully!
 Big Cs and little Cs.
He did perfect #4s.
I love how these My Little Journals have the letter and then shapes or lines that, if practiced, will help in the formation of the letter.
On this page Adam drew his "heart beat" because we were at the hospital the weekend before because of a severe case of croup.  They had him on a monitor and we watched his heart beat.
On the very last page Adam was determined to write his very own A, with out tracing.  I gave him some step by step guidance through writing the letter on his own. "Line up, then down, then frog jump, and draw a line across."  He did a few that looked more like a triangle and then nailed his very own and very first A!!
You can find your own "Toddler Traps" on Pinterest, there are thousands of ideas.  Look for keywords of Invitation to Play, Investigation Stations, or Toddler Tray Play.  Of course, you can make it super simple on yourself and order a box of Mother Goose Time where all the Pinterest ideas are brought to life with stellar graphics, great printing, and delivered right to your door.  Not to mention the fact that they are guaranteed to be educational and easily adaptable to your child.  It's up to you of course and your budget, but I promise you won't regret it if you do decide to buy a box.  Either way, set a Toddler Trap for your little one, and see what happens!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why is Preschool Even Necessary in a Homeschool Family?

We homeschool our three boys.  The older two boys are only two years apart and Peter, the middle child, never saw any reason why he should not do what his older brother was doing.  So the two boys are at approximately the same grade level on many things.  I can pretty much teach the same thing to both boys with only slight adaptations for attention span.  You would think, that because I am only teaching children at two different grade levels (older boys and preschool) that finding time to schedule in preschool would be easy, but it is NOT.  I can't imagine, how a homeschooling Mom could do preschool and multiple other levels of teaching at once. When I get overwhelmed preschool is typically the first thing dropped from our schedule, I mean, is preschool really necessary?
Preschool is necessary and for me the number one reason is - timeOne on one time with my child.

I am so fortunate to receive Mother Goose Time in exchange for writing about our experiences.  However, even if I had to pay for Mother Goose Time, I would somehow find it in my budget to buy at least ONE box and here is why. 

My kids have never been ones to sit on my lap and enjoy a book, they were too busy for that sort of thing.  And we all know all the studies that show how important reading with your child is to their development.  Much of what I have heard from those studies is that it's not necessarily the reading part but the time of closeness with your child while building vocabulary.  This is where Mother Goose Time saved us - quality time together exploring, learning and building vocabulary.

When you buy your first box of Mother Goose Time you get a Welcome Kit with all you need to set up a stellar Circle Time display.  Every morning you can spend time with your child discussing the weather and what clothes they should wear, putting up the calendar piece, singing about the days of the week and the months of the year.
Just a walk down memory lane.  This is when Lachlan was little and we were having some fun with Mother Goose Time.
Then you get to dive into the Daily Discovery Bags.  There are 20 in each box meant to last you one month.  But you really can pick any topic you think your kids would be interested in and take as long as you want to work through it.  The calendar pieces can be used over and over again if you adhere them with poster tack so you can make the 20 Discovery Bags stretch as long as it works for you.

Each box introduces three letters, two numbers, a shape and a color.  So in your box you will have activities that really hone in on those things each month.  What this means is that if you just buy one box, you won't get the complete set of alphabet letters, and numbers.  But you can always buy a set of flashcards if that is important to you and use some of the teaching techniques you will learn from MGT to introduce the other letters and numbers.  This year though, you will get all the colors and shapes which came in the Welcome Kit.  You also get an alphabet strip to put on your Circle Time display. 
Tiny Peter learning about Alligators and the letter A.
But I personally, wouldn't be too worried about the letters.  There is so much more to preschool than learning your ABCs and 123s.  In fact, many homeschoolers choose to homeschool just to allow their children to be able to slow down in those areas and just enjoy being a kid and exploring.  That's what Mother Goose Time is so good at!!  They cover so many amazing and wonderful topics, far MORE than just letters and numbers. They follow all the current best practices and are constantly doing their research.  With this curriculum everything is explored through a multi-sensory approach full of fun and play. 
Learning about Vibration Pollination.
Now back to the goal of time with our kiddos.  We all want to spend quality time with all of our children, but it can be hard with so many demands on us as educators, homemakers, wives and mothers.  This is why, when the moment comes and you can grab a Discovery Bag and explore with your little one, Mother Goose Time will instantly be worth it's weight in gold.

I am speaking from personal experience here.  Life has been busy and hectic lately, who am I kidding, it always is.  We have been diligent at getting school done with the older boys but not very good at preschool with Adam.  But on this day, Adam hopped up at the table as his brothers were working on school and asked to do something too.  It was easy, I pulled out Day 1's Discovery Bag from the Weather All Around Us theme.

We jumped right into the Make & Play craft with the goal of making a sun.  Everyone became interested in the craft, some might say distracted.  But it was good for us to work on a project like this together and we still got all the other school done too.  Peter and Lachlan heard we were making a sun and had to make a re-creation of the solar eclipse which is still fresh in our minds.
 Adam colored his "sun" blue and then I showed him the technique they used on the example of using the small souffle cup as a stamp.
 Lachlan made a sun on one side and the moon on the other.
 Adam grabbed the large souffle cup and cut the edges.  He really enjoyed exploring every detail of the materials that were provided for us.

As they were working I got out the Circle Time display and got it all updated.  I grabbed the first letter from this month which was in Day 2's bag and put it up.
Then I made my letter station on the fridge.  This is the letter magnet set by Leap Frog and the Muscle Movement cards from Fundanoodle.  Adam loves to explore this station and really enjoys learning his letters.  I put up a new letter every few weeks following the MGT schedule, but you can easily do this on your own.  If he pushes on the magnet it sings a song that helps him learn the sound that each letter makes.  Then, if he wants to take the time he can trace the letter C.
 After that I said today's date and we counted to 9.
 At this point Adam went to the bathroom and I thought he just had to go potty.  But it turns out that what he was doing was washing the blue off of the souffle cup because he didn't want it to be blue anymore.  He came back to the dining room in tears that he had ruined his paper.  Poor guy.
Thankfully I had another large souffle cup that I was able to trim down to be small like he wanted.  Then he colored it red instead of blue.  He looked up to give me a nice smile but he was not going to stop coloring for nothing.
 The older boys were now done with their MGT craft and back to business.  They put their reading glasses on to get started and Adam decided he wanted reading glasses too.
He was doing his reading after all!  This I Can Read book was in last months box.  We love all of these little readers which have repetitive phrases easy for little ones to pick up and they each include some of the most commonly used words that the kids can pick up as site words, long before we realize they have the ability.

To make Adam feel happy and included, we got out an old pair of sunglasses and popped out the dark lenses.  I think it worked.
 Next he hopped up on my lap to read his book.  He grabbed a word pointer and he found the word "is" as we read through the book, which we did at least three times.  After the first time he would hush me as I tried to read and said "no, I read it."  Okay Dude, go for it.
When he reads it, the words aren't always perfect, but he tells one heck of a story and that is such an important part of the process of reading.

The last thing I did was to write his name on the provided nametag, in a thick yellow marker.  Then I left it at his spot at the table with a thin red marker sitting next to it.  He knows what his job is now, because we have done this a few times.  He follows the yellow lines with his red marker as best as he can.
If this was my one box of Mother Goose Time that I could fit in the budget, I would write his name in yellow, then laminate it and he could practice writing his name everyday using a dry erase marker.

Later Adam asked for another nametag and he drew a perfect square and then rectangle.  Inside the rectangle he drew a bunch of lines which he explained to me as "all of my family standing up!"
We had so much fun!  And it took me about 2 seconds to prepare.  Well I guess I haven't ever timed myself to find out how long it takes to cut open a Discovery Bag, but I think you get the idea.

Preschool is necessary for so many reasons but for me the most valuable of these is this quality time I get to spend with my children!  That's what being a Mom with a Dandelion in Her Hair is all about.  And I just have to give you a quick recap on me.  I am not a crafty person, I am not an amazing homemaker that makes all the other Moms jealous, my house is not spotless, my children are not always clean or dressed, I do not spend hours a day planning lessons.  With out Mother Goose Time, the reality is, my poor little man would be left out.  I wouldn't have the time to collect all the resources to do these things with my kids.  I mean, where does one purchase a souffle cup anyways??
Adam's souffle cup sun!