Sunday, February 07, 2010

Preschool Homeschool Resources Year 2

When my husband and I decided we wanted to homeschool, we decided to 'practice' to see if we could do it.  I think we are more comfortable now with the idea as this would be year 2 of our practice run (course it gets harder, but we now have researched extensively and understand the basics).  For all our friends and family who ask what we do everyday - here it is!  Our 3 year old son enjoys his days (except for some - or most? - of the habit training)!

And why don't we wait till he is 6 years old?  Ummm... I was once a believer in unschooling, but because we listened and our son just led the way and we have simply found the activities he enjoys - here is where we ended up.  Our thoughts on formal education here.

FREE TIME (lots of this)

Lots of FREE TIME to play.

We also now try to incorporate Play Plans daily which we learned from NurtureShock (look at Chapter 8) and read from the Tools of the Mind - which starts with our son writing his name, drawing what he wants to do in play and dictating to me what I should write underneath the drawing.  He then plays uninterrupted according to his plan for about 30 minutes or more, depending on his interest.  Today our son chose to act as Elmo playing the evil sorcerer in Swan Lake...

We also have done a Star Wars 'curriculum'.

NATURE STUDY (an hour or so daily)
We watched a Woodpecker at work today

We enjoy the outdoors everyday.  We wouldn't know what we would have done if we lived in a city.  Our son needs to be outdoors a lot - or rather we need him to be outdoors a lot, otherwise behavioral issues increase.  It is amazing how much one can learn from observing nature.  Every week we learn something new.  We supplement with YouTube, our Audubon Regional Guide (Thank you Glennda!) and The Handbook of Nature Study, the latter is such a good resource for parents! Nature study inspires some Science work too (look below).

HABITS (continuous)

The BEST book on parenting I have found is Children: The Challenge. Written in the 1960's, but still EXTREMELY effective!  When the terrible 2s arrived at our house, I was getting increasingly panicky because I felt I wasn't doing a good job with solving behavioral issues (I'm not the disciplinarian type) - and they were getting worse by the day and increased in intensity in public.  After searching and researching, reading one parenting book after the other, I found the suggestion of Children: The Challenge from a book on how to homeschool gifted kids called Creative Homeschooling.  The basic premise is that children want to be able to make choices - they don't want to be told what to do as this belittles and disrespects them.  The day I got Children: The Challenge, I could not put it down.  Although I don't agree with a few things, on the whole it is an amazing book on parenting.  The next day, I practiced what techniques I learned/remembered from the book and my son and I got along beautifully.  Although we have our bad moments, my son and I continue to make negative issues into wonderfully educational experiences because of this book.  I have read it twice now and very highly recommend it to everyone!

The Self-Awakened Child Series by Jonathan Wolff - This series helps young children develop the qualities of character essential for “normalization.” Each of the 15 books focuses on a specific quality and includes parables, role plays, affirmations, self-awareness and self-assessment exercises that help children learn to make respectful and responsible decisions: includes Acceptance, Assertiveness, Compassion, Courage, Creativity, Forgiveness, Honesty, Kindness, Loyalty, Peace, Respect, Responsibility, Self-Discipline, Trust and Unity.  We've only done Acceptance, Assertiveness and Compassion, but our son asks for the stories from this series and he enjoys discussing situations the books suggests.

MUSIC STUDY (hours daily - most of the time in the car or while having a meal or in the background)

The Nutcracker and The Broomsticks
(mix of The Nutcracker and The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

We study 1 composer for 6 weeks, listening to works during different parts of the day - even if it is background music.  Our son particularly loves The Children's Group Classical Kids Series, especially Mozart's Magic Fantasy, Tchaikovsky Discovers America and Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery. We have shared this series with other homeschool families, who equally love it.  Our son also loves Little Amadeus.  We just listened to The Constellations A Guide to the Orchestra and he was engaged throughout.  It is also a good introduction to Greek Myths.  We supplement with videos or live performances or web resources such as Classics For Kids (they have lesson plans, free music files, information on instruments and composers, etc).  Our son also loves creating art to music too. We have studied so far with great success: Magic Flute, Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Peter and the Wolf.  We play a varied array of music at home from too. We supplement with Music Together classes and other methods.

Other activities: Learning Greek Mythology Through Music

READING (an hour or more daily)

We are readers here.  Honey For The Child's Heart  and Read Aloud Handbook are wonderful booklists and discuss why reading is so important.  Also we use our Local Library a lot - with 3 library cards, that's 180 books we can borrow at anyone time!!!  We do use it and we love our librarians!!!  Other booklists include The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Your Children, Some of My Best Friends are Books, Early Reading List on Simply Charlotte Mason and the Ambleside List.

The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud - a great compilation for the kindergartener!  If there is 1 book you can buy, get this all in one!
What Your Kindergarten Needs To Know by Core Knowledge -  a complete book for the basics: stories, poems, maths, art, science, history, etc.  And a natural progression from the Core Konwledge Preschool Activity Books.

ART STUDY and ARTS and CRAFTS (5 - 20 minutes daily)
Warhol Study (paint)  
Kandinsky Study (collage)

We study 1 artist for 6 weeks, looking at a work of art once a week.  Instead of just 'looking' at a piece of art, I sometimes make it fun by creating an Arts and Crafts project.  We have studied so far with great success: Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Wassily Kandinsky, Rufino Tamayo.  We supplement with lots of arts and crafts during the week using varied materials: collage, clay, paint, pens, pencils, etc.

MANDARIN (5 - 30 minutes daily)

Better Chinese: My First Chinese Words - I cannot say enough good things about this curriculum!  It allowed me to teach my son Mandarin - he LOVES it.  I am not fluent, but have studied it in the past.  I have put a group of homeschoolers together whose parents don't speak Mandarin at all and the children are all reading and trying to speak Chinese.  What is great about this curriculum is that it teaches through stories, 1 book/week.  You can  also purchase game cards, the on-line lessons and free downloadable activities.  Caution: we don't like the music CD, so we don't recommend it.

MATH (5 minutes/4 days/wk)
Kindergarten Singapore Maths Textbooks A and B - our son finds book A too easy, but I like to think we're not missing out on the basics.  He likes it enough but I write out all his answers for him or else he gets bored.  We have lots of mathematical toys too and count while playing.

LANGUAGE (5 minutes/4 days/wk)
Modern Curriculum Press Phonics Level K - basic phonics that continues where Core Knowledge Preschool Books left off.  Our son does not want to do all the writing required, however he likes the phonics work in this book - easy after Core Knowledge Preschool Activity books, we do 1 letter/1 or 2 days.  When we are done with the above, we will start Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Interesting note, I looked into the British National Curriculum - their workbooks for 3 - 4 year olds are at the same level as that of the US Kindergarten books!

COPYWORK (5 - 10 minutes daily)
Alligator Drawing
(learning O's, M's, W's, V's, A's)

Activities which help build fine motor skills: stickers, playdough, tools, blocks, art work, etc.  We have a few Kumon books (our son loved it in this order: Color 1, Color 2, Color 3, Maze, Trace), which make learning to write/writing fun and easy!  Our son also enjoys writing  'notes' on anything and everything.  And we draw play plans every day (look under Free Time).

SCIENCE (2x/wk)
What will the ants eat first?  How?  How long?

We love our local zoo classes! We supplement with some experiments from Mudpies to Magnets and More Mudpies to Magnets and read the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia of Animals.  We have also done a Human Body lapbook, which I think I enjoyed more than our son did.

Cave Painting Project

We try to get to know local history through field trips.  We use travel and food to learn geography.  We also love The Story of the World though we have censored a few chapters.  For 1st graders, but our son loves the art activities and the literature that are recommended for each chapter.


Buddhism - Our son asked a lot about death: where do we go, what happens to our skeletons, what happens to our flesh when we die, etc?  Along with kindness and other gentle philosophies, Buddhist stories helped our son understand more about death.

SPANISH (1x/wk)

Click here.


The Well Trained Mind Forum is a great resource.  You can compare different curricula after some research from people who have actually used them in a homeschool setting.  Of course, there is also The Well Trained Mind, which is a great resource to have at home.

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