Practice for Preschoolers

Rebekah does her cut-and-glue work

Rebekah does her cut-and-glue work

It’s school time…but what to do with the little ones? They want to have “school” too! They need activities to keep them happy and busy while you are teaching older ones. Here’s some of my preschoolers favorite “jobs” to do during school time:

1. Cut-and-Glue

Hands down, this is my preschoolers favorite fun at school! Simply take a piece of white paper and image-1draw a very simple outline drawing using big geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, squares, diamonds, etc. to make a picture. You could put a circle sun in the sky, a rectangle truck with circle wheels, a triangle teepee, and so forth. Then draw those simple shapes on different colors of paper. Give your child some child-sized scissors and a glue stick and let them cut out the shapes and glue them onto the matching shape on their picture. They can use crayons or markers to draw in details. This is lots of fun and great cutting practice! Stick it up on the wall for Daddy to see imagewhen you are done.

2. Pom Pom Sort

Glue several different colors of felt rounds into the bottom of the cups of an old muffin tin. Give your little one a bin of colored pom poms in colors to match the felt in the muffin tins, and let them use tongs to pick up the pom poms and drop them in the matching color space. Now that takes some coordination! Younger children can sort them with their hands or a spoon. This muffin tin is also great for noiselessly sorting buttons, beans, coins and more.

3. Lid Match

Save all kinds of plastic containers and their lids, plus jars and their matching lids, for a 4-5 year old who can handle this project. I kept mine in a computer paper box, and brought it out once a week or less to keep it novel. Just match the tops to the bottoms! A very challenging puzzle! This skill can soon be translated into the task of matching plastic containers with their lids in your kitchen storage cupboard.

image-24. Tracing Time

You can build fine motor coordination, so necessary for writing by using tracing to help your preschooler learn to control a marker, crayon or fat pencil. Just paper-clip a piece of tracing paper firmly to a coloring book page (torn out of the book) and have your child trace over each line. It’s exciting to see the image appear on the tracing paper! This is excellent practice to make a wonderful future writer.

5. Puzzle Dump Challenge

If your preschooler has mastered all the kids’ puzzles you have in your school room, you can give him a project to master by taking 2 or 3 (or more) puzzles and dumping all their pieces in one pile. Lay the puzzle frames in front and let your student figure things out.  Exciting and challenging!

6. Pattern Train

One of the kindergarten math skills requires learning to replicate a pattern. Preschoolers can learn this and have fun with it. Using big legos (buttons, game tokens, toy cars, color markers, dollar store poker chips or any other manipulatives), create a pattern for your child to follow. Start simple. You might set up a row of toy cars in a pattern: red, blue, red, blue, red, blue. Now it is your child’s turn to make a very long train following your pattern over and over. As their skills develop, make the pattern more complicated: red, blue, yellow, yellow, green . . . and repeat . . . red, blue, yellow, yellow, green…repeat. Let your little one take a turn making a pattern train for you to follow, too.

Keep ’em busy!


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How to Teach Preschool

My little Louisa rides her scooter!

Teaching preschoolers is great fun! If you’ve got little ones, your are in for a treat when it comes to teaching them “school”. They are curious and love to do things with Mom! 

You can teach your little one all yourself, or you can assign an older child to take charge some of the time. If you are teaching other older siblings, you can just have your preschooler join in for some of the school time for them, while you sing together, read aloud, do art, etc. and other whole family activities. Preschoolers will beg for their own workbooks and assignments. But if you are teaching just preschoolers, here is how I teach preschoolers.

Set aside an hour each morning for “learning time”. How do you take up a whole hour? It will speed by!

We begin homeschool with a flag salute. Even a 2 year old can say some of the Pledge of Allegiance. Then we have a prayer, and sing some songs together. If you start singing with your children at a young age, they will grow up singing, and it becomes a source of enjoyment rather than self-consciousness. I often teach my little ones new songs based on the upcoming holidays. Before Easter, we learned the song, “Jesus is Risen”. It is amazing how well a 3 to 5 year old can learn the words!

image-6Next, I teach a principle or skill with my child that would help him develop. This is just a simple concept taught with stories, songs, pictures, games and anything else I can find to keep his interest. Basic life skills for a preschooler are knowing his parent’s names as well as his address and phone number, how to use the telephone, dial 911, how to cross the street looking both ways (although I still require that someone walks them across), how to practice good safety habits, how to greet another person, and all the many other important skills for learning to function independently. I look for library books on courtesy, manners, proper hygiene, and safety…and also buy my favorites. I raise my children on the Standin’ Tall book/CD sets. They teach virtues such as honesty, obedience, service, cleanliness, and a host of others.

The 21 RulesMy favorite book for teaching little ones how to act is The 21 Rules of This House. It includes small posters that you can color and tack up to memorize and discuss. I print off two copies of the poster, and we have fun coloring together. I teach one rule at a time and post my child’s work. We talk about that rule until we have learned it well. I tuck my colored page into a page protector and add it to a binder, to be used to review the rules we have learned so far at the beginning of our learning time.  One way I use this book is to quiz my children by showing my colored page, and letting them try to say the short rule. I also point out times during the day when they are keeping one of the 21 Rules! Practice makes perfect!

Remember that training in good habits is essential at this age. Nothing can sabotage teaching your children faster than a child’s unwillingness to do what you say. If you have not taught your child to obey and follow your words the first time you ask him, then that is an important first lesson. I practice with my little ones, even role play giving them a command, having them reply, “Yes, Mother” and move quickly to action, Simon Says style. Teaching your children this pattern of “listen-respond-act” will serve them well their whole life and keep your homeschool happy and productive.

My homeschooled son Daniel is now a father, reading to his daughters Rebekah and Abigail.

Next comes one of the part of homeschool that everyone enjoys: read-aloud time. It is incredible how much children learn this way. An excellent book I have used for good reading recommendations at each level is Honey for a Child’s Heart. It describes wonderful books for read-aloud that promote Christian values. It has been an essential help in my homeschool and will provide you with many excellent book titles to find in your public library.

Children’s picture books make a great springboard to learning about the world! Library books can keep a steady supply of new fun, read-aloud books coming into your home, but do use caution as many of them contain black magic, monsters, disrespect to parents and God, globalism, rights of the child, etc. Whenever I don’t screen the books at the library before my children check them out, I regret it. One incident I remember well: my little son asked me if I wanted a drink of vampire’s blood? (Shock!) I suspected where he got that idea, and hunted it down to a library book/CD set, that I had not screened carefully enough. It is up to us as parents to make sure that our vulnerable little ones get only the best!

After reading a picture book, we work on pre-reading skills. Start preparing your preschooler for reading by playing with puzzles. The slight differences will train your child’s eye for future discrimination of letters. I like Lauri Perception Puzzles.

For very young ones (2 to 4 years), I absolutely love the Kumon workbooks which are excellent for tracing, cut-and-paste, imageand learning to control a writing implement. After Kumon, we progress to Adventures with Books (one of the Early Learning Workbooks series). Little ones will learn how to identify colors, count, color, write letters, and more from these fun workbooks.

7073When your little student is ready to learn his ABC’s and you want to start real phonics, please try Happy Phonics. I guarantee that your children will love to do phonics lessons and that they will quickly learn to read by playing this collection of tried-and-true simple games that teach reading, step-by-step. I think the Explode the Code Primers are the best way to teach the handwriting of each letter, as well as reinforcing and practicing the phonics sounds taught in Happy Phonics. The workbooks give lots of practice and are varied and fun. Using the Explode the Code primers and Happy Phonics, you will be able to give your child the gift of reading in a fun and happy game format.

thumbnailFine motor coordination usually develops faster in girls than boys. You can aid it by using tracing to help your student learn to control a pencil. Paper clip a piece of tracing paper to a coloring book page and have your child trace over each line using a fat crayon or jumbo pencil. As he practices tracing, he will learn control and be ready to start writing. Using maze books is another great way to gain fine motor control of that pencil!

An important first writing lesson for a preschooler is his own name. Write your child’s name (capital first letter, small letters for the rest of their name) on the top of a piece of lined handwriting paper in yellow felt pen and let him trace over your writing. When your student is learning to form letters, it is important to really supervise and watch carefully that you are not allowing mistakes to become firmly cemented habits. Show him that you start most round letters ( such as a, c, d, f, g, etc.) on the right side and then go “up over the mountain and around”. Eventually advance to have him try writing his name without tracing your pattern. Explode the Code has good instructions and practice pages. Holding a pencil incorrectly can be the beginning of writing problems, so pay attention early and help him get into a good habit. Get a handwriting tablet with wide spaced lines so that he can practice writing the letters he learns, and practice writing his name. Using the chalkboard is great for little ones working on their letter formations. You write the letter very lightly on the chalkboard, about 4″ tall, and have your preschooler trace over them.

image-1Doing a little math daily helps form a habit that will last through your child’s school years.  You can easily teach your child to count 0-10, which is the main skill for preschoolers. I make up flashcards (0-10) to play with. Have your child put them in order, or count out beans or pennies to match each card’s numeral. You can teach them to write the numbers as soon as they are ready. If you want a good program, I recommend Earlybird Singapore Math which is filled with colorful write-in pages that prepare your child to enjoy math. Just one page a day is plenty!

Draw a map of your home, highlighting his bedroom. Expand to a map of your block, complete with highlights of the neighborhood—the black dog lives here—an eventually your state. The main concept to teach a preschooler is where he is!  A USA map posted on the wall or a USA placemat to eat on is a good way to understand location and start state recognition. My 4 year old can locate our state plus both states where his grandparents live, which is exciting to me!

image-4Fimage-5or science, you couldn’t ask for better resources than the great outdoors. Grow a garden, care for pets, look at trees and leaves, take a nature walk—nature is the best teacher at this age! If you want some help, I would invest in equipment such as a bug viewer, magnets, binoculars, a magnifying glass, and the like.

Doing experiments has lots of appeal too: The Big Book of Play and Find Out has creative and fun hands-on experiments to help your little one get a first taste into chemistry, physics, biology, and more. Library books with drawings, photographs and information on animals and nature are a great addition.

14009Training your child to appreciate good music is a matter of exposure. Play fine music, such as the 25 Children’s Classics, during times when your little one is drawing or playing with Legos, so that your child learns early to love excellent music and hears a wide variety. As the child becomes familiar to music, introduce the Beginner Toddler Music Band and teach him how to keep time with the music.

Art seems to be the favorite subject of most preschoolers. At our houimage-2se, we love to model clay and paint with watercolors on scrap paper! I choose an art project to do from Scribble Art. (This is a good assignment for an older child in the family to teach and they enjoy it as much as your preschooler will.)

Dramatic play and dancing is exciting for preschool children. I browse yard sales and thrift shops for unique dress-up clothes. One pair of metallic gold elbow length evening gloves has been in our family for 20 years and every child has played with them, boys and girls alike. They have been robot arms, Cinderella’s costume, and part of many other imaginative creations. image-3Hand puppets are also good for dramatic play.

Teaching preschoolers is so much fun! This is when the basic habits are being formed and you have tremendous influence on their future values. Whether you have a very eager little one, who is anxious to read, or a happy-go-lucky type that is content to move along at a slower pace, there is plenty you can do to make these very formative years productive. I hope you enjoy teaching your little ones.


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How Do I Choose Resources for my Homeschool?

homeschooling curriculum

My daughter Louisa

Homeschooling is a big decision that takes much thought and prayer. For most of us, the move into homeschooling is a step into uncharted territory. We haven’t been brought up in this lifestyle and we aren’t quite sure just how to proceed.

Hopefully, you will take my hand and we can walk together for awhile and I’ll tell you about the mistakes I’ve made and what has worked for me, in homeschooling my seven children over the past two decades.

Once you have made the leap, you will find many, many (too many!) materials to choose from. Over our years of homeschooling, I have tried much of what is on the market. If I haven’t used it personally with my children, I may have reviewed it for inclusion in our store inventory. My purpose in writing this is to pass on my experience and hopefully save you from buying materials that are not useful to you.

Before you can choose what to use, you must decide just where you are going. What do you want your child to learn? What do you value, and in what order? When my oldest son Daniel was grown and left home, it became a time of deep introspection for me. I found myself considering the short span that we are given to guide and train these precious children. I looked at the long lists of what I wanted to teach Daniel and realized that, like most things in life, there must be priorities misty-272587_1280and there is definitely not time to do it all. When Daniel and I parted, I fussed over my mental checklist to determine if he had learned the most important things. I assessed his religious training and he had strong convictions (√ whew!) He had been obedient and respectful of authority (√ ). He could read very well (√ ). He was a good writer and speaker (√). He was socially at ease and had a positive influence on others (√). He knew how to find information that he didn’t know (√ ). He could mend his pants if needed (? not sure). He could accompany any hymn on the piano (NO!) . . ummm. . . and so it goes, on and on forever.

Take a minute to jot down what you think is important. Actually, take a week to jot down what you think is important as it comes to mind. Of course, you will want to consider each child’s special interests and talents as they often are a clue to his “mission in life.” You will end up with an enormous list, I know. My list for my boys goes from having strong Christian beliefs to being able to build furniture! Mothers naturally wish the most and the best for their children. You will also want to consider what the world expects our children to know because they will live in a world that has been educated in public schools. When your grown child is ready to give the world the gift he was sent to give, it will matter what he has learned, how prepared he is, and what skills he has.

Most schools follow the same general curriculum (reading, writing, math, science, etc.) but if you feel concern, you can check with the school district to review their educational plan from kindergarten through college preparation courses. Starting about 9th grade, it helps to plan your studies with regard to the college entrance requirements. Most universities will accept students that have graduated from the 2 year program from a local college. Local colleges will generally accept students without high school diplomas. This may be a convenient way to avoid all the grade and credit hassle!

flag-587062_1280After your wish list is made, try to categorize each thing you want them to learn under a heading. You may find that they fit into the categories that I use for my children. Your priorities may be different, although if you are also a Christian, we probably value the same things. Our goals will include a desire to teach our children to love the Lord and to know Him as their personal Savior, their help in time of need and their model to grow to be like. We will want them to love the Constitution and their freedom more than their lives. We will feel a desire to teach them that they are on the earth with a gift to give to mankind and that it is their responsibility to discover that gift, their life’s mission, and to make it their life’s work to give it. We want them to know that they can be a far more useful instrument in the Lord’s hands if they are clear-thinking and articulate. We want them to learn to be self-sufficient and live providently.

My Priorities:

#1 Testimony of Jesus Christ
#2 Character (self-discipline, integrity, punctuality, dependability, cheerfulness, etc.)
#3 Life Skills (being able to take care of one’s self: cooking, laundry skills, finances, etc.)
#4 Basic Academics (3 R’s):
-English: Reading, Penmanship, Grammar, Composition, Spelling, Vocabulary
#5 Other Academics:
-American Government
#6 Cultural Refinement:
-Foreign Language
#7 Personal talents and interests

With everyday problems, it is very easy to just survive instead of living your plan. Setting educational goals will help you have a definite aim in mind. There are times, such as when a new baby arrives, that I have only been able to maintain the first few priorities in our homeschool. Having a plan has helped me get back on track as soon as possible. Once you’ve decided where you are headed, now it is time to ask how you are going to accomplish this great responsibility in the short 10-14 years before your child is launched into life out from under your tender tutoring.


Complete Curriculum Kit for 4th Grade

Round up all the resources that you have that would be useful in any way. List your books, movies, projects, kits, equipment, CD’s, the Scout merit badge handbook, magazines, computer programs, and even names of people. We have met many wonderful people that willingly share some of their knowledge and skill to teach what we are interested in (such as ceramics, gardening, ham radio operation, survival skills, etc.) Now, step back and take a good look. Get rid of all the educational clutter that you thought you might use sometime––it just takes up shelf space and gets more dated by the year. All the stuff that I have dragged home from school district sales or clearance bins usually ends up going to the thrift store. (It looked good when I bought it, really!) The market is rapidly changing, and new technology is bringing us unbelievable resources. Even books from 5 years ago look outdated and often truly are. Since time is so limited, I personally want to use the best that I can afford to educate my children. The exception is very old history books and readers, which are often more accurate than modern books.

I use the library extensively, as well as the internet, but I also plan to spend money for home school materials, because I feel they make this important business of learning all the more exciting. It is easy to interest your children in studying electricity if you have a fun science kit and a book of gorgeous full colored photographs on the subject. Good resources take a lot of the teaching load off Mom and keep the students enthused about learning. Hopefully, you will be able to get ideas that you can use with things you already have, or discover a resource that would fill a gap in your program.

Once you’ve made your inventory, you can assess what you have and what you need. What you use is very important, as it will be the foundation of your child’s education. Write out your educational goals, and by each goal, write in your goal and the resources you will use. I look at our educational goals weekly as I write up my children’s assignments in their planners. It helps me to stay focused.

Ammon (13)

Ammon (13)

Even the best materials and goals don’t work on a child who has not been trained in good habits. Your child must learn to obey, first and foremost, or you can never serve as his teacher. This is best done in toddler days, but if you are beginning homeschool with a son or daughter that has never been taught to obey you, then that is the first lesson or there can be no other lessons! Teaching your child to obey, to do his work and stick with it, to follow instructions, not to interrupt, and much more requires your diligent supervision and follow-through. That is the work of parenting, really. Until my children learned to listen to my directions and follow them, it really didn’t matter how fabulous my resources were! We have all witnessed a wonderfully prepared Sunday School teacher have his excellent lesson wasted because he couldn’t discipline an unruly class to listen and be involved! The same will happen in your own home until you teach your children the first and most important subject, good behavior born of self-discipline. I call it Character, the schools call it Good Citizenship and grade such characteristics as obedient, shows respect for authority, follows directions, is polite, works independently and is prompt.

imageRemember, as you choose books and other materials to teach your children, that every person learns differently. Public school methods are geared largely to a visual child, the child that absorbs information through the written word. Thus, assignments are given to read the chapter, take notes from the words written on the chalkboard and write out answers to questions. If you have a child that is an auditory learner, it could be very difficult for that child to learn if you only present the written word. Instead of analyzing my children and trying to figure out what type of learners or combination of learning styles they respond best to, I prefer presenting information using a multi-sensory approach. That way, you’ve covered every learning style. So, if you are studying birds: watch a video on birds (visual, auditory), read about birds (visual), listen to bird calls (auditory), gather bird feathers to classify (tactile), set up a bird feeder (tactile). It is exciting for everyone to learn if all the senses are involved!

As the year goes on, re-evaluate occasionally so you can be sure that the materials you have chosen are meeting your educational goals. Don’t lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish! I saw a need for one of my children to have some grammar skills reinforced. I began a program, thinking that I would just take him through the first 5 lessons for review. Life got busy, and as the weeks went by, it was easier to assign the next lesson than to evaluate what to do instead, even though it may not be working. It can be easy to just go with the flow once you have started on a program, and you can drift off track from your goals. Keep checking that you are on course!

What about unit studies? Unit studies work for science, history, literature and cultural refinement and can be exciting and fun for everyone. They do not work as well for math and most subjects of English language (phonics, spelling, handwriting, grammar, vocabulary) because children are on such varied levels. The way unit studies work best is to choose your topic and do some basic groundwork by reading in a reference book, hawaii-volcanoes-518763_1280encyclopedia or textbook. Then add projects such as viewing a movie, doing science experiments or working on a geography map with all ages together. Each child can glean whatever he is able at his level from the group activity. Most importantly, assign individual reading, writing, or research on that topic for each child to do independently so he can be challenged at his level and make progress, but without unnecessary frustration. If the whole family studies “volcanoes” at the same time with only your lesson as a foundation, you may find the older children restless and the younger children struggling to understand.

I highly recommend having a student planner for each child to put the whole matter of educational goals down on paper along with weekly assignments for your child. All his work also goes in this 3 ring binder. When you choose a planner, it helps to be able to look at your educational goals right next to your weekly assignments so you stay on course. I like to see the subjects in priority order so the most important things always get done. Keeping each year’s planner contents serves as an excellent record of work done in case any school official is interested to see that you are “really doing it.” As your children get into high school, their planner can help in creating a portfolio from which to receive high school credit.

plant-600496_1280Don’t forget that your plans need to be made with prayer, because God has a plan for each of your children. They each have their own special mission in life, and have talents and interests that will lead them to prepare for it. If we get too busy achieving educational goals to keep that perspective, we may prepare them in everything except that special purpose. Look for their special gifts, which are a clue to their mission. Allow time and supply resources so that a child’s interests can be followed and developed. They must have basic skills, but beyond that, it doesn’t really matter whether they study botany or astronomy in science, for example. There is room for individual preferences.

“When you take the very first step on the road, you also take the last.” Take the time to make sure you are on the right road so when you’ve been retired from homeschooling, you can look back on your years with your children and feel confident that you’ve taught them the things that really matter and prepared them for life with your best effort.


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