Saturday, October 25, 2008

Preschool Curriculum - Learning Opportunities

The following items do not fall in a subject category, but are other ideas for important learning opportunities for the preschool-age child. I think exposure is the key for this age. You will find some things will be of real interest and understanding. Others, not so much...yet. But having seen or done something once, when the time comes that the child is ready to see or do again, it will be much more meaningful.

Visit the State Fair.
Take a gymnastics class (10 weeks).
Go to the library (once every week or so).
Practice Cutting Skills.
Build a bird feeder at a Lowe’s Clinic (I ended up doing most of this, so unless your preschool child already has experience with a hammer and nails, I’d wait on this).
Computer games – there are several free games on sites such as Noggin, Playhouse Disney, and PBS Sprout. We also bought 3 Reader Rabbit Preschool games and he got a Zoboomafoo game as a gift.
Learn to make scrambled eggs.
Collect shells on vacation.
Visit an art museum, a science museum, zoos, and a turtle rescue center.
Decorate Christmas cookies.
Attend various story times at local bookstores, including a cooking class storytime.
In March, I signed him up fro swim lessons and told him if he finished the session, I would take him to the pool at least once a week in the summer. He finished two sessions of 10 weeks each and became quite a little fish by the end of the summer, the second session was his idea alone.

Preschool Curriculum - Art and Music

We read the Katie books by James Mayhew (one example is Katie and the Impressionists)
Quiet Time with Cassat (a board book we found at the library)
Museum ABC (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Little blue and little yellow, Leo Lionni
Lots of coloring and painting with watercolors
Book-making – we made an ABC book, a color book, and a nutrition book (one page for each food group with magazine foods cut out and glued on the appropriate page)
From Hearts and Trees Fall Kit 2007 – worksheet on warm colors, study of Van Gogh’s The Mulberry Tree, made a leaf print necklace from clay, and did a watercolor trees painting
Project #1 in the Usborne First Skills Starting Needlework book (running stitch)
From Hearts and Trees Winter Kit 2007, we did the worksheet on cool colors

For the following artists and works of art, I had checked out a book of art (any would do) and asked Samuel to pick out his favorite each week and then I tried to find that picture or one by the same artist to use as our computer wallpaper.
William Glackens, Summer House, Bayshore

Albert Beirstadt, Oregon Trail

Stuart Davis, New York Waterfront

Frederick Edwin Church, Horseshoe and American Falls, Niagara

Henri Rousseau, Sleeping Gypsy and Exotic Landscape

We listened to various styles of music, including disco, folk music, jazz, and classical.
Sang Christmas Carols at a Retirement Community
Listened to Vivaldi’s Winter and made up a winter story that the music told.
Carnival of Animals by Camille Saint-Saens (our library had a video of this performed at a zoo and narrated by the man who played Radar on M*A*S*H with poems by Ogden Nash…this is when we checked out that book of poems to read)

Preschool Curriculum - History and Geography

History as a formal subject is not typically recommended until first grade, and we were definitely not formal.

I checked out Story of the World, Volume 1 for my own research purposes. Samuel wanted to read it so we ended up reading the first 13 chapters. Then we went on to study Holidays and ended with The House on Maple Street which gives a fun perspective of the passing of time on one piece of land. Our main history this year was through reading the Beginner’s Bible.

This Is Thanksgiving, by Jack Prelutsky, plus various other Thanksgiving books
I did not write down all the Christmas books we read, but we own and checked out a total of 24 Christmas books. I gift-wrapped each book and let Samuel open one each night to read.
My First Passover Board Book
Easter by Gail Gibbons
The House on Maple Street by Bonnie Pryor

We have US and world wall maps and US and World placemats. We use these to find places we read about in books from the Literature and Science section.

We also looked for the smallest and largest countries on the world map. Geography is not formal, but I use the “map words” consistently (continents, countries, rivers, states, oceans, etc).

We read a book called Christmas Around the World, but I didn’t make a note of the author. However, I am sure there are several books like this out there.

Preschool Curriculum - Science

Mostly we study science by noticing something and then trying to find out about it. We take Nature walks along the horse farm fence line near our house; we make note of changes and when we find something new, we usually try to find it on Wikipedia.

Amanda at Hearts and Trees sells seasonal nature study/art study kits. We purchased the Fall and Winter kits and did some of the activities. She also has free seasonal scavenger hunt nature walk forms. These are a lot of fun for a smaller child.

Her mother, Barb (aka Harmony Art Mom) of Handbook of Nature Study began an Outdoor Hour weekly challenge and we did 5 of them.

Samuel is very interested in animals and we check out a lot of books on them, as well as visit the local zoo quite often. Some of the books we read are:
Backyard Birds, Jonathan Pike
All About Owls, Jim Arnosky
Our Animal Friends, Provenson
What’s Under the Sea (Usborne)
D’Aulaire’s Book of Animals
Buffalo Sunrise: The Story of a North American Giant, Diane Swanson
Old Mother West Wind by Thornton Burgess (we also used Wikipedia to look up our favorite animal friends in these stories)
Crinkleroot’s Animal Habitats by Jim Arnoski
“The Great Kapok Tree”
Crinkleroot’s Guide to Walking in Wild Places (Arnosky)
I Love Our Earth, by Martin and Sampson
My Spring Robin by Anne Rockwell
Starting Life Ladybug by Claire Llewellyn

One day on the way to the library, we saw two vultures scavenging on a skunk. When we got to the library, Samuel wanted to find a book on vultures. I found one by Sandra Markle that was part of a series on scavengers. We started with Vultures, and moved on to Jackals, Wolverines, Hyenas, and Tasmanian Devils. They are good living books because she writes these books about one animal of the species following it through a season or two or life.

We started a subscription to Your Big Backyard magazine, which I highly recommend.

We got a set of free posters from International Paper and studied the Leaf, Bark, and Seeds/Nuts posters. I just checked the link and didn't see these posters anymore, but they did have something called Coins for Kids with some lesson plan links.

We performed the following experiments –
Duplicate what the crow did in the fable The Crow and the Pitcher (after we read that fable)
I made color ice cubes and then we observed what happened when they melted.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Preschool Curriculum - Math

I actually purchased a curriculum from Making Math Meaningful, but we only did 7 lessons. I just felt like a more informal living book approach to learning math at this stage worked best for us.

I was a math major in college and I just think in "math", so I am always counting aloud (even when he was a baby I would count the steps as I carried him up and down them) and doing word problems (for example, "We have 4 cookies. How many would you have if I gave you one more?" or "There are 6 pieces of pizza and three of us. How many pieces does each person get?"). We cook together and I show him measuring. I talk about what time it is and show him the clock. We count down the days on the calendar to an anticipated event and I teach him the months and days of the week. I fold laundry and let him sort the socks and teach him sets and counting by twos. We also have a wonderful CD put out by Discovery Toys called Sounds Like Fun, which has many learning songs on it, including an addition song and a counting by tens song.

Living Books (no order to this – the whole idea was exposure to math concepts, and most of these we read multiple times)

Stuart J. Murphy books -
§ Sundae Scoop (combinations)
§ Polly’s Penpal (metric measurements)
§ All Aboard Animals
§ A House for Birdie
§ A Pair of Socks
§ One…Two…Three…Sassafras! (serial order)
§ Rabbit’s Pajama Party (serial order)
§ Every Buddy Counts (Counting)
§ Animals on Board (Addition)
§ Seaweed Soup (sets)
§ Earth-Day Hooray! (place value) – we really only checked this out for Earth Day, but Samuel loves it
§ Best Vacation Ever (collecting data)
Math Fables by Greg Tang
How Hungry Are You? Donna Jo Napoli
Me First by Helen Lester (serial order)
Mary Clare Likes to Share by Hulme (Fractions)
One Monkey Too Many by Lynn Munsinger (Addition)
One More Bunny by Paige Miglio (Addition)
Hetty’s One Hundred Hats
One Hundred Hungry Ants
Hello Math Readers (Monster Math, Monster Math Picnic, Monster Math School Time) Eggs And Legs by Michael Dahl (counting by 2’s)

Preschool Curriculum - Literature and Poetry

I think books are one of the most important tools for early education and developing a love of learning. If you can foster a love of books, your children can learn almost anything they want to learn later in life when you are not there to teach and guide them. Very few days have gone by since Samuel was born that we did not read at least one book to him. Most days we read somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour.

We did begin chapter books during this year, quite by accident. I was surprised that he could hold his attention from day to day (and sometimes even skipping a day or two) on the same story. I would now recommend trying out chapter books, but not pushing it if your child isn't ready. There were several books I checked out and ended up not reading after a few chapters due to lack of response.

Here are the books we read during Samuel's preschool year that I would consider the "good" books (or non-twaddle in Charlotte Mason-speak...we probably read double or triple the number of books on this list, including "twaddle", or as I like to call it "just for fun"). There is no order to this list, other than this is the order we read them in, mostly because of which books I became aware of during the year and when the library had them. Whenever I would see a list like this on someone else's blog, I would request as many as I could from our library. The *'s are Samuel's favorites.

*The Littles by John Peterson (we also went on to read other books in this series)
Steig books (Pete’s a Pizza, Toy Brother)
*Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter
Five Chinese Brothers, Bishop
Musicians of Bremen (Grimm)
*Always Room for One More, Sorche Nic Leodhas
The Ant and the Grasshopper (Aesop)
Goose that Laid the Golden Egg
Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary
*A Color of His Own, Lionni
The Elves and the Shoemaker (Grimm)
Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky
Frogs Wear Red Suspenders CD, Prelutsky
*Animal Tales CD, read by Jim Weiss
Iron John (Grimm – Kimmel version)
*Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
*Officer Buckle & Gloria, Peggy Rathman
Nanny Goat & Seven Kids, Kimmel
*Fables by Arnold Lobel
Little Lions by Jim Arnosky
Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Rosenthal
*Strega Nona, DePaola
The Art lesson, DePaola
Horton Hatches the Egg, Seuss
Four Friends in Autumn, dePaola
*Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, dePaola
*Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Richard Atwater Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, dePaola
*Big Anthony, dePaola
A Twist in the Tail (Animal Stories From Around the World), Mary Hoffman
*Sam and the Firefly, PD Eastman
The Bee Tree, Patricia Polacco
Rumpelstiltskin, Paul Galdone
The Secret Staircase, Jill Barklem
Three Aesop Fox Fables, Paul Galdone
The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper
The Owl and the Pussycat, Edward Lear
Once a Mouse, Marcia Brown
*A Three Hat Day, Laura Geringer
*A Necklace of Raindrops, Joan Aiken
*Capyboppy, Bill Peet
The Amazing Pig, Paul Galdone
Stone Soup, Marcia Brown
Inch by Inch, Leo Lionni
The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf
*The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, Beatrix Potter
*The Tale of Two Bad Mice, Beatrix Potter
Tale of Peter Rabbit, Potter
Classic Illustrated Aesop’s Fables
*Winnie the Pooh, A.A Milne
The Tailor of Gloucester, Potter
Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden
Mystery in the Stable, by Flinn and Younger
*Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Mary Englebreit
One Splendid Tree by Marilyn Helmer
Here’s a Little Poem Collected by Jane Yolen
*It’s Snowing! It’s Snowing! Winter Poems by Jack Prelutsky
*Maurice Sendak – “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Chicken Soup with Rice”, “Alligator Alphabet”
Ezra Jack Keats – “Snowy Day”, “Pet Show”, “Louie”
*Pocket Poems (published by Dutton Children's Books, c2004)
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Stuart Little by E. B. White
The New Oxford Treasury of Children’s Poems – Catch a Little Rhyme by Eve Merriam; The Piper and the Echoing Green by William Blake;
*Billy and Blaze by G.W. Anderson (we also went on to read 3 more from this series)
*Lighthouse Family: The Storm by Cynthia Rylant (read the rest of the books in this series)
*Ogden Nash’s Zoo (this in conjunction with listening to Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens)
Something BIG has Been Here, poems by Jack Prelutsky
*Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (also read other books in this series)
Eric Carle Treasury of Classic Stories for Children

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Preschool Curriculum - Bible and Phonics

Samuel's birthday in at the end of July, and this curriculum started just after he turned 4. He said he wanted to learn to read. We had been playing around with a magnetic letter tile set I bought at a Learning Store, although I wasn't really trying to teach him to read. I told him most boys don't learn to read until they are 5 or 6, but he said he wanted to so I added phonics to this year, although I still believe most kids would be better off waiting until at least 5 for anything other than letter recognition and letter sounds.

Bible – We read through the entire Beginner’s Bible (Zonderkidz). I plan to use this again as a reader when he is at that level (as of now, I'm thinking age 6). In December and January, we took a break from this bible to read the Christmas stories and the book of Matthew from my NIV bible. For memory, he joined a local Awana club. It turns out he has a gift for memorizing verses.

Phonics – After checking out both Phonics Pathways and Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading from the library and trying a few lessons in each, I found Progressive Phonics. By Christmas, he had made it through all five short vowel readers and when we started the first intermediate reader (with beginning blends, like “fr” in frog), he was getting bored. So, from January on, we read through Sonlight’s Fun Tales books and I checked out different Level 1 readers from the library and asked him to read me a few pages every couple of nights at bedtime.

The Preschool Years

The first formal type of curriculum I tried was when Samuel was 2 ½. I really like the idea of using living books since that’s kind of what I had already been doing, and I discovered Sonlight. I bought most of the books for the Sonlight Preschool curriculum (even though it wasn’t recommended till age 4 or 5), later called Core B, book list. I joined the yahoo group for SL PreK and downloaded “Amy’s Schedule”. Using some of the SL books and some from the library, we did a unit on nutrition from Amy over a few weeks, and then a unit on India of my own design. I found that a structured daily schedule didn’t really work for us, and then we went a few months with nothing official, but I would read some of the books and stories on the SL list for our bedtime reading. I kept doing this pretty much through to his 4th birthday, adding in books I found from other preschool lists and from various preschool yahoo groups.

Cutting and pasting from various lists and curriculums, I made up my own curriculum for what I called K4 and scheduled it by weeks. I felt that learning should just happen naturally, but I wanted ideas for activities and books to read. By the end of the K4, I gave up the idea of even trying to schedule things by weeks. Instead for K5 (“official” Kindergarten), I instead made a master list by subject that I will share on the next post, along with how we are doing.

I’m going to share my preschool curriculum with you, but as I started typing it from my weekly record, it was too long for one post. I’ll post it by subject in future posts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


There's me, Hubby of 7 years, and our beautiful Samuel who was born the day before our 2 year wedding anniversary (for the math-impaired, that makes him 5 as of this post).

When I was in college I took some education courses, thinking I would teach high school math, and while researching for a paper on math anxiety in girls, I found one lonely book on homeschooling in the stacks. Being the procrastinator I am, I read it instead of the books for my paper, and became an instant homeschooling advocate.

When I was in college, before I found out life doesn't always happen as planned, I had these plans -

  1. Graduate and teach high school

  2. Marry my high school sweetheart

  3. Have my first child by 25, preferable twins

  4. Homeschool my 2 children

  5. Live happily ever after

Ahh, the dreams of youth...notice I didn't even make it past 30 in this plan! Well, I graduated from college, married Hubby at 32, had Samuel at 34, and here I am at 40 (again, for the math-impaired, plus I tricked you because I just had a birthday) still working on the happily ever-after.

Since one of my basic philosophies as a parent is that parents are the most important teachers, I believe I have been homeschooling Samuel since infancy. But please know that this isn't the flashcard/teach-your-baby-to-read kind of education. Mostly it has come from reading extensively, singing songs, and playing games. I did send him to a preschool - first, two-day two's, then 3-day three's, then 4-day fours (the "days" being mornings only). He learned some things I hadn't thought to teach him yet, like his last name when he was 2 and the pledge of allegiance when he was 4, but for the most part, I felt like his primary teacher. He learned to read and knew some basic math. I had a curriculum, kind of, but mostly it was lists of books which I checked out of the library. When I learn more about blogger, I may post my "preschool" curriculum.

And that pretty much brings us up to date, with Samuel starting Kindergarten in September and us beginning our first year of "after-schooling".