Friday, May 28, 2010

Making Fun Tot Activities

Well, now that I've schedule out Holden's curriculum for the year and gotten his workboxes all set up and ready to go, I've spent the last couple of days searching blogs online for ideas on some fun activities to put into his workboxes in the coming weeks.

I made the coolest fine motor activity yesterday using an empty Lay's potato chip can (ran to Dollar Tree for that), a hole punch, some hole reinforcements that I colored with markers, and a pack of colorful pipe cleaners. I finished making it just in time to take it to the ball field with us while the other two kids had practice, and Holden really enjoyed pushing the pipe cleaners through the matching color holes in the lid of the can. Instructions for making it can be found HERE.

I also made a couple of fun color and shape matching games. I laminated them and put velcro dots on them so the pieces don't slide around when he's trying to match them up. He enjoyed those, too. Instructions can be found HERE.

Then today, I made a couple of TotBooks. I did one on Ocean Animals and one with a Disney Cars theme. I made custom covers for them so he would know what was inside. Instructions can be found HERE for a variety of themes.

I printed up some other fun things that I'll post later after I finish making them. I've got lots of fun in store!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm so very glad I blogged my thoughts out loud today about what to do with Holden over the new few years. It kind of all came together in my head after I put my thoughts out there.

I decided I really should have Holden starting K the year he would if he were in public school, because it's always best to register kids the way they would be for PS. I can always teach "up" in some subjects as needed. I tend to start my kids early on math and reading instruction anyway, so I don't want to over-challenge Holden by starting him even sooner.

So here's my plan:

2010-2011 (age 2.5 to start): 1st half of Sonlight Core PK 3/4 combined with Abeka Nursery
Curriculum for 2's.

2011-2012 (age 3.5 to start): 2nd half of Sonlight Core PK 3/4 combined with Abeka Nursery
Curriculum for 3's, including the optional Language Development program.

2012-2013 (age 4.5 to start): Sonlight Core PK 4/5, adding in K level math, phonics, and

2013-2014 (age 5.5 to start): Sonlight Core K, etc.

So that's my plan. With that in mind, I sat down and scheduled out the stuff the this new school year (Abeka for 2's and 1st half of SL PK 3/4), and I got it all done! It really came together once I worked it out in my head. SL PK 3/4 only comes with a parent guide that lists the stories/books and suggested activities, but no schedule. So I made my own schedule and listed the suggested activities that correspond to the read-alouds at the bottom of each weekly schedule page. It looks great, and it's very easy to follow! I'm really pleased with how it all worked out on paper.

Now my next task is to get Holden's workbox system set up. I have the actual drawer sets that match the other kids' sets, but I need to select a color and make and laminate a set of tags and a wall chart, and then add the velcro dots to them. It looks like he'll have 2-3 boxes a day this year, and sometimes 4 in the last few weeks of school. I think that sounds about right. Basically, he has some kind of story each day, either a song or a learning numbers page, and an art page or a craft. I think he'll have fun with it. He gets excited when I ask him if he wants to "do school," and he tells his dad about it when Steve comes home and asks him if he did school that day. I think it will give him some purposeful activities. Oh, and another activity I'll add in is the bi-weekly Scholastic classroom magazine "Clifford" for preschool. I almost forgot I ordered that! That will be fun, too. It's only 4 pages, and the photos and words are big. I remember how much Haylee enjoyed them.

So I'm feeling really good about my plans. I can't wait to start!

Off school this week, but still learning!

Technically, the kids are off school this week...their last break for we wrap up the last two weeks of school...but they're still learning!

We had lots of fun this morning. I am using a book called Early Learning Activities (ISBN 0785361871), which is a combination of 3 smaller books (Bright Start, Circle Time Activities, and Get Ready to Read), to do some fun learning things with Holden. I like the Bright Start section of the book, which breaks up learning activities by age for 2-, 3-, or 4-year olds. Today, we did the Alternative Art Canvas and Stop and Go games. For the art activity, I gave him a variety of differently textured surfaces to color on with crayons and watercolor paints to see how differently the colors and mediums would turn out on those different surfaces. We used constructions paper, a brown paper bag, a piece of cardboard, foil, waxed paper, and tissue. Holden really liked this activity and had lots of fun. During stop and go, he mostly watched me moving and freezing and laughed his butt off at me! LOL. It was worth it to hear the belly-giggling! I just love it when he laughs like that. Then I opened some bags of brightly colored pom-poms and gave him an empty compartment box and had him sort the colors for me. He did great with that and was mad when it was over!

I have a book from The Mailbox Magazine publishers called Science In A Box for grades 4-6. I selected the experiments on sudden surface changes and gathered the material in a clear plastic shoebox. Hayden and Haylee took it outside and erupted a volcano, complete with red "lava" out of an empty water bottle. They loved that! That experiment never gets old around here. The next part of the activity simulates the movement of the tectonic plates and how it affects houses and things on the earth's surface (using houses and hotels from Monopoly). We'll be doing that part after lunch!

Holden is also dabbling in Sonlight's Core PK 3/4 here and there. We read a few stories this morning from the 20th Century Treasury for Children and bopped to some songs from Wee Sing Nursery Rhyme Songs. He always enjoys that. I've scheduled out the books and songs in the free version of Homeschool Tracker since I prefer to have a schedule for all things school-related. The Core only comes with a parent guide that lists the readings and activities by quarter as a checklist type of thing. Since we're just dabbling in it right now (Holden just turned 2 after Christmas), I like that I can easily reschedule the activities in HST. I don't work on this with him every week, and often, I do it when the other kids are off school, so HST makes it easy to keep rolling the items forward on the schedule as needed and gives me a nice 1-page schedule I can print out for the week when we're ready to work on it again.

I haven't quite figured out how to handle school for Holden yet. In thinking ahead, I wonder when to start "real" school with him. The other kids started Sonlight Core PK 4/5 with K math, phonics, and reading when they were 3 yrs. and 10 mos. old. Their birthdays are only a couple of weeks apart, so timing-wise, it worked out the same for them both. Our school year runs June to June. Holden, however, has a winter birthday right after Christmas. So by public school requirements, he would be delayed in starting school until he was 5 yrs. 8 mos. old. So with late June as our starting point, he would be about 4 yrs. 6 mos. old when he started Core PK 4/5. That's about 8 months older than the other 2 kids were. I don't really want to start him at 3 yrs. 6 mos. unless he seems ready, but since they all start school at such an early age anyway, I can't imagine he'd be ready by then, but maybe he will be. The alternative is that he starts mid-way through the school year when he is 3 yrs. 10 mos. or maybe 4. That would put him in the middle of his school year when the other two are finishing theirs, but I'm sure it matters since we teach school year round anyway. I don't know. I guess I haven't worked it all out in my head just yet. It matters, though, because it affects what material I'm covering with him right now. I have SL Core PK 3/4 as well as Abeka Nursery Curriculum for both 2's and 3's, and also the Abeka Language Development course for preschool. I could really spread all that out and easily fill in the extra time with it, but I don't know if I want to do that. If I follow it as scheduled, and then he's not ready to move on, then I won't have anything to occupy him in between. So I really need to spend some time figuring it out. I guess I need to talk it over with Steve and get his thoughts on it, too, but he generally leaves all things school-related for me to decide and doesn't really have an opinion.

So anyway, that's where we're at. The kids have 2 weeks of school left before they move on to the next grade. Haylee will be starting 1st grade, and Hayden will be starting 6th grade. I'm debating whether or not to go ahead and set up Holden's workboxes. I think I might work on that this week. Then I'll have to be more purposeful with his activities, and that's probably better, because he's really getting to be distracting to the other two just playing and not having structured things to do during school time. He wants to play with THEM is the problem!

I'm almost done with my mass copying and setting up of binders for the new school year. I've already put all the new materials in the school cabinet. Yesterday, I stopped in at Ollie's Bargain Outlet in Hampton and picked up a great bargain...they had a Hooked on Spanish kit on the "oops" scratch and dent shelf on clearance. It was marked down to $3.75 and said it had missing items. The box was all crushed, and it was taped up all over it. I opened it up to see what was missing, but the packet inside was still sealed, and everything was in it. So that was a real find! It retails for $40 on the HOP website. It's for ages 4-6, so I'm going to let Haylee use it this year since she is starting Spanish. I'm also waiting for The Complete Book of Spanish for Grades 1-2 to arrive for Haylee to use over the next 2 years. It's a great big workbook of beginning Spanish vocabulary activities that Hayden did in 1st and 2nd grade, and he really liked it. It's very colorful. Once that comes in the mail, I can get it scheduled out for Haylee and then her schedule will be finished and I can print it out and be ready for our new school year. All of her other stuff is already ready to go.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Workbox Centers

I have been having lots of fun this week making Take It To Your Seat centers for the kids to use as workbox activities for the new school year (which we start at the end of June). I had Haylee (5) writing in a story journal every day this school year, just drawing a picture and writing a sentence about it. I decided to make it a little more interesting but still give her daily writing practice for 1st grade. I found the Take It To Your Seat Writing Centers on the Evan-Moor website. I looked at the Table of Contents and noted the titles of the 13 centers. Then I went to (where I have an annual subscription), searched on those titles, found all of them there, and printed them up. I got all of them assembled in 2 sittings. I didn't bother with laminating them, and I even printed them on a "fast" setting to save ink. I made extra copies of the worksheets inside the folders, and I bought a Sterlite hanging folder storage box to organize them in. There are 13 writing centers, and there are up to 12 different writing assignments in each folder. That should last her all school year. I think it will give her more variety and exposure to different types of writing, and it will make it more fun for her.

I also made up some math centers, vocabulary centers, and some science centers for her and put them in the box. She can use those for fun box activities. She was so excited to see all the new activities that she wanted to do them all right then! LOL. I let her do two of the science ones, and then I stopped her and put them away for the new school year.

After I realized how neat the writing centers were, I started thinking that Hayden (10) might really benefit from some for his grade level, also. His writing skills are terrible. I never made him do daily writing when he was younger, and I don't give him a lot of essays and things to write 'cause he just dreads it. I think I need to back up and give him smaller assignments that help him practice the basics and build his confidence with that this next school year before moving on to longer assignments, so I'm thinking this might be just the place to start for him this year. Evan-Moor has a book of writing centers for grades 4-6, and Hayden will be in 6th grade coming up, so I think I need to go and buy some more 2-pocket folders and make up a set for him, too. I've used up every folder I stockpiled last fall at Wal-Mart during back-to-school time, so I'm going to have to find some for a reasonable price somewhere. They are about 78 cents each at Wal-Mart right now! That's just crazy. I think the cheapest ones out of season are a 4-pack for $1 at Bottom Dollar. I might have to run to Dollar Tree and see what they have. It seems like they are starting to stock school supplies already. I bought a bunch of 3-ring binders there recently for $1 each.

Anyway, I can't say enough good things about I've printed off so many materials from there. My $60 for the year was well spent. I printed out two Never Bored Kids' Books for Haylee this week (over 250 pages) that would have cost $50 if I'd had to purchase hard copies of the books. I'd never have spent that. But I absolutely love all of the Evan Moor books. I will also be using a lot of the History Pockets this next year to go with their studies of ancient history. They'll be doing Core 1 and Core 6 from Sonlight.

I also printed up some neat Take It To Your Seat Early Learning Centers for Holden (2). There were only a couple that he could do right now, but he will grow into the rest soon enough. They are so cute...I put them in brown paper lunch bags and used cheap penny envelopes from the dollar store to hold the pieces inside the bags. I used picture labels on the envelopes and the bags. He was so excited to have his own "school" activities to do!

I'm amazed at how many centers I assembled in just a couple of days. They are all self-contained activities, too, so I won't have to sit beside her and explain what to do.

The only centers I laminate now are games...ones with lots of pieces that are to be played with 2 or more players. I figured those will get handled a lot more and used more often than the regular file folder activities, so I do laminate those. Many of the math games are that way.

Not laminating the others significantly cuts the cost of the centers and the time for assembly, too, and allows me to be able to make a whole lot more of them with little expense.

I just love Evan-Moor publications. There's such a variety of supplemental material available from them, and it's rare that I type in a topic that doesn't come up with SOMEthing. Haylee is always asking for extra worksheets and things, so I often will find whatever topic we're studying for science or math or whatever and print out practice sheets and such for her fun boxes.

I'm getting excited about our new school year! We have school next week, 1 week off, then school the following 2 weeks and we're done! Then we have 1 week off, and then we start our new school year at the end of June. I've got all of our new materials in the school cabinet already, and it's bursting at the seams! I've already packed away all but the last few books from this school year, so I have tubs sitting everywhere, waiting to be topped off and stored in the shed when we're done. The school cabinet will thin out once we finish up so I can put their new books into their workboxes. Most of the textbooks will stay in the workboxes all year, so the school cabinet will be less crowded then. I am busy making the last of my copies for the new school year, and then I'll be all ready to go. I just ordered Haylee's art book from the Abeka book display, so when that comes, I'll be able to finish up her schedule and get it printed out and put into her schedule binder. So I'm basically just tying up loose ends right now.

Shew! I'm tired. Time to get my apple crumble out of the oven and start getting the kiddies to bed.