Leaves and Gravity

Preschool Rascals met this week and we made a big mess of leaves. The leaves are just beginning to turn and fall in our area, so there weren’t a whole lot to choose from on the ground and I had to *gasp* buy fake leaves for this weeks lessons.  However, this week also happened to be Leaf week in our nature study curriculum so my Kindy hooligan also go to do some fun projects with leaves.

Booklist:

Main title: Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert

Supporting titles:

Resources:

 

For Preschool Rascals, we started our day with instruments and ABCs, as usual. We then read Leaf Man and looked for the shapes within the pictures. The kids really enjoyed finding animals made of leaves. We used that interest to transition to our sorting chart and review shapes and sort them into categories. We did some beginning patterning, too. After that, we needed to get some wiggles out so we read our Emily Bronte poem (the shortened version) and at the end we threw our piles of fake leaves into the air. This elicited some wide eyes and big giggles! I’m pretty sure they were surprised I encouraged a big leaf-y mess INSIDE THE HOUSE.

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The abridged version of Emily Bronte’s Fall Leaves Fall.

I set out cardstock and glue sticks and we gathered the leaves up and prepared to make Leaf People of our own. I had the laminator on standby and once they were done arranging and gluing the fake leaves into leaf people on their paper, we put them in laminating pockets and sealed them. This may have been their favorite part. Once the leaf people mats were cooled, we marched to the big table to make our snack- Leafy Spinach smoothies! Each Rascal helped to load the blender with the ingredient of their choosing (strawberries, spinach, a banana and almond/coconut milk) and then chose a straw to slurp through.  Once their tummies were full, we trekked outside for a science experiment and leaf ABC hunt! The Rascals did a great job of seeking out and identifying the leaf letters I had hidden throughout the yard.

We started learning about gravity by climbing into the playhouse to read our book about gravity and then we briefly talked about gravity’s job of pulling all things DOWN. To illustrate the point, we dropped our leaf letters from the top of the playhouse and watched them fall to the ground like leaves fall from trees. I had gathered various sizes and weights of baseballs, foam hockey balls, giant inflated balls and balls of all kinds prior to class. Then each rascal got to throw a ball from the playhouse while we watched it fall down to the ground, even if it did go UP first. It was a chaotic and interesting experiment. Further discussion will be needed for sure!

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We wrapped up the day with some name practice art on big felt maple leaves. I simply wrote each child’s name on a maple leaf and provided fabric paints with which they could trace their names… or, as most chose, simply decorate the leaf as they wished. This was super messy, but really fun to watch them get creative. This activity was also great to help with dexterity and building fine motor skills, as well as hand strength- Those little fabric paint and glitter glue bottles were tough to squeeze!

For my Kindergartener, we added some leaf science experiments about Cholorophyll and further exploration under a microscope. We read My Leaf Book (I highly recommend!) and completed the That’s My Leaf worksheet for several different kinds of leaves. All of this tied in nicely to the week’s lesson from our nature curriculum! We read the complete version of Emily Bronte’s poem and used the first lines (pictured above) as our copywork for the week. Then we illustrated it using these great leaf  stamps and mailed it to Grandma, who is an eager recipient of any projects and mail we send. I also found this blog post to be a great resource for ideas, and a good reminder that knowing and being able to label the parts of a leaf is pretty key knowledge.

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Kindergarten Curriculum

The time has come for my oldest hooligan to officially begin reviewed schooling. In our state, we meet with a representative from our county twice a year so they can check in and make sure our kid is making progress. So, I combed through homeschool groups, websites, blogs, curriculum stores and reviews and finally decided on our courses.

Since we school secularly, a lot of the boxed curricula are not an option for us. My kids love stories, so I chose a Charlotte Mason-based program called Build Your Library. I purchased the Kindergarten Around the World, a world culture based program that incorporates studies of ecosystems, animals and native habitats, a LOT of geography, some awesome beginner writing projects and tons of reading out loud. Essentially, it is the “spine” of our studies as it covers everything but math and phonics.

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For language arts, we use Explode the Code phonics books, BOB books combined with Usborne readers & phonics workbooks, as well as the Teach Your Monster to Read app an hour or two spread throughout a week. Each morning, she completes a section in her Lakeshore Learning Daily Sight Word Journal and a page or two of Zaner-Bloser handwriting. On Fridays, she completes a page in her Lakeshore Learning Writing Prompt Journal. There’s always writing throughout the day in other ways as well. Of course, reading out loud happens often through the day.

Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Math (standards edition) is a well curated program we’ve thus far enjoyed. The lessons are challenging without being discouraging and I love the spiral style of the material. She’s building a lot of confidence as she completes the first half of the curriculum (“A”) and is on track to begin the second half (“B”) in January. Paired with a hanging Numbers and Counting chart and a selection of manipulatives, its been really successful and I’m happy with our choice.

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I think it extremely important that our kids have the opportunity to study nature and be outside as much as possible, and so Exploring Nature With Children has become our guide in focusing our time outside. I love this program because it includes a poem (many by Emily Dickinson) and an artwork recommendation for each week that compliments the study. There are extension activities, journaling suggestions and a book list for each week as well as detailed instructions for discussion during the nature walks. This program is so flexible, which fits nicely to our busy days. I have seen elsewhere that this curriculum isn’t considered secular but I haven’t happened across anything questionable (yet).

As for art study, I’m finding that easiest of all. This is a study close to my heart and I am incredibly passionate about the place of art in learning and life. For now, we do a lot of looking through books of well-known paintings and artists, reading biographies, listening to classical composers, studying and creating sculpture. We participate in an art class at one of our local art museums (taught by a most talented educator who breathes such vibrant life into the subject) and it is the highlight of our month. I often try to link the region which we are currently studying with a artist (Mexico and Frida Kahlo, for instance) and make a strong effort to highlight female and indigenous art. We use a wide variety of art medium and always have supplies available. When it comes to art study, they are in charge of how their art is created. We provide materials and maybe a little guidance or an example, but ultimately don’t interfere with their process.

For Spanish, I utilize a teacher’s guide for Kindergarten. It has worksheets and black line masters of posters and other materials that I can copy and we color or use throughout the week. I also stock books in Spanish (Goodnight Moon, Where’s Spot?, and other classics) as well as a few “first” dictionaries for looking up vocabulary. We love Salsa Spanish episodes for some downtime. Endless Spanish app on the tablet is also great for long car trips and reinforcement.

Cosmic Kids yoga on YouTube is great for physical activity and mindfulness when we need to be indoors, but otherwise we play outside as much as possible. Both my oldest kids ice skate, the kindergartner learning how to play hockey as well.

As I detail our unit studies upon their completion, I’ll try to include links to specific sites or resources I’ve found particularly helpful as well.

September Preschool Rascals

Making a renewed effort toward diligence in documenting what we do and the lessons plans I create, as well as the materials and resources I’ve found to be helpful.

My middle daughter is now three and so I’ll begin creating lesson plans for her using the same unit-based learning that has worked so well for us in the past. As my oldest now has a slightly more rigid routine she must follow for Kindergarten, my preschooler is left eager to learn as her big sister does.  So, September is for apples!

Booklist:

Main title: 10 Apples Up on Top by Dr Seuss (writing as Theo LeSieg)

Supporting titles:

  • Secrets of the Apple Tree, Carron Brown
  • Apple Picking Day, Candice F. Ransom
  • The Apple Pie Tree, Zoe Hall
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Marjorie Priceman
  • A Seed is Sleepy, Dianna Aston

Resources:

 

This was an easy-flow day of lessons as everyone was enthusiastic and each little lesson was different and involved lots of movement. We started by reading our main title, followed by utilizing a simple paint stirrer and clothespins and the kids had way more fun with it than I anticipated. With our group of kids, I didn’t have a picture on the bottom, I simply drew a face.

 

Next, we had lots of fun with some stress-ball like “apples” I made with dollar store balloons and cornstarch. A tedious process with really fun results. The kids stacked them on their heads using an easy rhyme inspired by our book: “One apple up on top, one apple- we will not stop! Two apples up on top, two apples- don’t let them drop! Three apples, look at me! Three apples, one-two-three!”  We balanced on other body parts, too: “one apple on my nose- one apple, here I go!” and on with toes, elbow, shoulder etc. We practiced tossing and toppling and passing like a hot potato. We probably could’ve played with these for another 20 minutes easily.

 

It was at this point we moved to the big table and broke out the apple-pie-scented playdoh I had made the day before. I followed a basic recipe, but doubled it and added almost a whole little jar of apple pie spice and more oil to make it smoother. I put out Measuring Worms and Attribute Apples to use as stamps in the dough and a few basic rollers and cutters. While the kids played, I brought out a real apple and we talked about our five senses. Using the apple as a prompt, we completed a Five Senses description sheet similar to this one from TeachersPayTeachers.  I began to slice the apple as we all chatted and made sure to cut through to the core so the kids could see the seeds.  We talked about the life cycle of an apple and I was pleased to discover everyone knew that apples grew on trees! Smart kids. As we chatted, I got the apple slicer set up and brought the apples we needed for our apple pie bites. We counted backward from ten, up to three, down from three and sliced each apple in turn.

After we cleaned up the playdoh and wiped the table in turns, I demonstrated how to spread cinnamon onto a crescent roll triangle and roll the apple slice within. They did great and needed minimal help, happily plopping their rolled bites onto the waiting cookie sheet. It took 4-ish rounds of rolling for my group of 5 to roll two canisters of apple pie bites (recipe here) and then we popped them in the oven and worked on name practice apple puzzles while we waited (I used craft sticks glued to apple slices, each slice bearing a letter, which lain side-by-side spelled the child’s name).

Snack was pretty awesome, but our science experiment was by far the most popular part of the day. Apple-canos were a huge hit! I cut the tops out of the apples and spooned a little baking soda into the core. We counted to ten, backwards and forwards, and then poured in vinegar and watched them erupt. It was SO FUN.

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Since we were already outside, we moved to apple print painting- a classic apple art activity that-as expected- turned into finger painting. I simply cut apples in half, put daubs of primary-colored paint along the edges of a length of butcher paper I taped to the pavement and let them at it. It was the perfect way to wrap up our day!

 

 

The Home Library

I’ll keep this updated as we add references, but this is my running list of what awesome references we have on our home library shelves. It does not include storybooks, because that would be ridiculous to try and catalog.  I do keep track of what realted storybooks we use for each unit, and you can look through the booklists here.  Many of these were gifts, or found at library book sales, and lots are awesome Usborne references that we use daily.  I find that the Picturepedia is used every day (it is a BIG book), while our Usborne books are awesome when we are looking for something more subject-specific. Each image is linked to a retailer where you can purchase your own for your home library. As we progress through more subject-specific units or I find a need for other reference books (or just find a good deal) I’ll add those too. I may or may not be a children’s book hoarder. And by that I mean I am a children’s book hoarder.
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Curriculum Materials

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[Full disclosure: No one has paid me to list these, but I am an Usborne consultant because the books are THAT GOOD and I like a discount.]

Booklist: A Snowy Day

Some of the books we used to go along with our snow and art themes this month we also used in our ABC Bunny unit as well. You’ll notice a lot of art books, as we went full throttle into art study because it is something I love so much. Without question, our favorites this month were the “Katie and the…” series by James Mayhew and the Usborne art references. If you click on the image of the book cover, it’ll take you directly to either Amazon or Usborne so you can love on your own copy. You’re welcome.
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The Snowy Day (February)

This month we “rowed” The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Because of the illustrative properties of the book, I chose to do a unit study on art to accompany and supplement and obvious/direct relation lessons, with a focus on shape and color. I check out books that go with the theme from the library. We read the target book 4-5 times a week, and they can choose from any of the “go-with” books to read whenever they want. I also built our reference library with really sturdy illustrated dictionaries and encyclopedias, so we spend significant time looking things up when they want to know more about an animal or sport, etc.  The Booklist for this month lists all the references and accompanying storybooks we used and includes those in our home library.  They’re also good to open to a page for inspiration while an activity is in progress (especially for art projects).


 These are the lessons for the month, most can be adapted for younger siblings to participate too. Or, have a stack of dollar store workbooks so they can “do school” while we work (they can just scribbles, but whatever). The links for instructions and printables are there. I spent a lot of time in January laminating and printing and cutting.  My library also has teacher guides from major curriculum publishers for Kindergarten, so I pull a few lessons from those for core objectives. We also slowly work the the 100 lessons book and the McGuffey primer as my daughter is interested. Every artwork must be signed by the artist to practice writing her name.

 Math

  • Shape game: use painters tape on the hardwood floor to outline large basic shapes (I did star, circle, square, plus, crescent, triangle) then use beanbags to toss to shape as its called out (I made quick flashcards with a sharpie on construction paper that I’d just hold up and they’d throw the beanbag onto that shape). Then we would jump, trace with toes/fingers, tiptoe, use the tape shape as a road for cars, etc on each shape. [we did this last week and the shapes are still used daily] **we used the shape game to talk about the shapes artists used in paintings and other art form- great to relate to Kandinsky and Matisse!
  • Shape Clip cards (I print, laminate, and cut, then keep in a zipper pencil case for storage)
  • Counting snowballs: Sandpaper Numerals and cotton balls
  • Sorting Chart: sort objects by color and shape [I set this up differently every other week]
  • Letter tangrams: A favorite from ABC Bunny’s unit, I had gotten Melissa & Doug tangram blocks and found these free printables to use the tangrams blocks in alphabet learning. They were still a big hit!
  • Shape sticks: Use popsicle sticks to make shapes on cards; Montessori based, self-directed.
  • Magformers: We used these to talk more about shapes and what shapes can be used to build houses, buildings, cars, etc.
  • Snowflake clip cards 

Science

  • Marble chute: A gift from my parents, we have a wonderful wooden marble chute and about a dozen glass marbles. After we did marble painting, I thought it would be a good time to debut this simple and glorious toy, and I’m so glad I did. While I certainly wouldn’t leave two three year olds unsupervised with marbles, it was great fun to do all together. We talked about why things move faster on an incline and set up the marbles at the curves to create a domino effect. Marble chutes are so classic, I had one as a child at my grandparents house and my cousins and I would spend hours playing with it. I’m glad we have one too, because the girls weren’t the only ones having fun…
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    The most fun marble chute ever!

     

  • Ker Plunk Game: another marble game! Classic game that I used as a lesson in weight and strategy.
  • Snowball races: a movement game, all you need is small pompoms and straws. We started by reading a poem about wind from Weather and The Windy Day. Gather supplies, then designate a start and finish line (I used painters tape on the floor).  Upon “go!” use the straw to blow the snowball down the racetrack the the finish line. Talk about how your breath was the wind that blew the snowball and how wind outside blows leaves, snow, etc.
  • Play in the snow: we used toy bulldozers like Katy and the Big Snow, then we built snowmen like in The Snowy Day and  Snowmen at Night
  • Matching snowflakes: We introduced a magnifying glass for this lesson, and it was a big hit. We laid out the big snowflakes and then used the glass to help us identify the tiny details of the small snowflakes to match them. We read the book The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story before this game and it linked as a quick science lesson really well.

  • What makes Ice Melt: Ice cubes in 4 bowls (helpful to freeze some with food coloring in them for better visualization), pour cold water on one, warm water on the next, hot on 3rd and use salt on 4th. Talk about what makes ice melt. Relate to Peter’s pocket snowball in The Snowy Day.

Art

  • Henri’s Scissors: read the book, then use the iPad/reference books to look at art by Matisse and talk about the colors and shapes. Then we used scissors to cut our own shapes out and paste as a collage. We also got our felt board and felt shapes and created our own art, looking at the Matisse cutouts in our art references for inspiration. [A note: this felt board gets used all the time, it is one of the best random purchases I’ve made and now is a favorite gift to give because it is contained well and can be used for so many different lessons.] These lessons were the most popular and memorable for my little students, they loved the abstract nature of Matisse’s work and how everyone saw different things in works like La Perruche et la Sirene (The Parakeet and The Mermaid) and La Gerbe (The Sheaf)  http://playgroundparkbench.com/painting-with-scissors-exploring-matisse-cutouts/

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Henri Matisse, La Perruche et la Sirene, 1952. Image courtesy of The Stedelijk Museum.

 Phonics & Writing

  • Tracing lines with snow paint: to help with grip and eye-hand coordination. We related these lines to how the mountains of snow looked to Peter in The Snowy Day
  • Snowflake stamps/stickers on the letter S: this activity was quick, and my littlest enjoyed it, too. I simply drew a big letter S on a sheet of white paper and the girls used snowflake stampers to trace it. We ended up doing other letters too on other sheets of paper because they liked the stamper so much!
  • White playdoh play: making letter shapes using our DwellStudio letter cards as guides, making snow mountains and snow balls like in The Snowy Day
  • Snowflake windows: Press’n’Seal, cotton balls, Qtips. Go. Great for fine motor skills and we left it up to use over several days, sometimes reading books from the booklist shelf as the girls worked.

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    All ages loved this one.
  • Alphabet recognition game: Use DwellStudio cards in speed game to match to Alphabet floor mat using letter name and then phonetic sound
  • Alphabeasties book and cards/puzzle: This book was a huge hit. It has foldouts and all the animals are made with typeface letters. Very cool and interesting to look at. We also have the alphabeasties cards, which have individual letters on one side and can be grouped with other letters as a puzzle on the reverse side to make a picture. This held attention for about an hour and it was a fun was to reinforce beginning letter sounds when the entire animal is made from its own letter! There’s also a workbook to complete the set, which we don’t have, but it looks interesting too.

Multimedia Lessons

 Field Trips

This month we spent a lot of time on field trips. The Science Center and The National Gallery are on the list. We also managed a spontaneous field trip to our local Marine Museum.
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Watching the jellyfish at the marine museum
I was lucky to happen across a series of classes at an art museum in a nearby city that allowed students to study works in the galleries. We attended our first this month and looked at paintings in the galleries for clues as to the seasons in which they were set. The class was fabulous- the teacher had prepared a bag containing pouches of sensory materials to enhance the lesson (fake leaves for autumn, ice packs and a scarf for winter, a little stuffed bird finger puppet for spring,  etc) and the girls & I had so much fun. At one point my daughter asked if she could climb into the frame like Katie does and my heart about burst that she had remembered and aligned one of the stories we read at home to the experience she was having in the class. I did have to explain that we can only go into paintings with our imagination, but agreed that the frame of the picture we were looking at did look very much like those around paintings in the Katie books (see the booklist post for more details about our favorite series this month!).  After spending time looking at some of the gallery works, we went to the museum classroom and created our own seasonal art using pastels and stickers. We can’t wait to go back for next  month’s class!
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Purple winter? “No, Ma, it’s pink!”

Other Random Notes

Once we complete the list of target lessons, we’ll go back and repeat some of the favorites. I try to do 2-3 lessons a day, and we also try to bake 1-2x a week for math skills. We really like the Kumon and Roger Priddy workbooks and sometimes that is all we will get to.  We also love the Learning Palette and its different cards (we have math and phonics sets) because my daughter can do it herself and they are self-correcting. My oldest daughter has access to Starfall and ABCmouse on the iPad, but only plays 1-2x a week. My youngest does not have iPad access, but watches the YouTube videos. But some weeks are busy, and we only get to read… and that is just fine. These ladies are still little, and the main focus is playing and cuddling with books. Directed and intentional play with the end goal of fun is all I’m aiming to achieve with these lessons.

Booklist: ABC Bunny

These are books I chose from the library that we read the most and were the most popular, as well as some from our home library to set out on the visible and accessible bookshelves in our homeschool room because they compliment our current “row” and unit theme. The theme I chose for ABC Bunny was alphabet (obvious) and weather, due to multiple weather references in the story. We especially loved Count the Raindrops! Enjoy!

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