Thursday, June 24, 2010

End of Week 1

Well, it's the end of Week 1 of our new school year. Holden and Haylee are finished, and Hayden has about 2/3 of his work done for today. It has gone pretty well! Haylee is such a voracious reader. She is doubling up on her reader schedule so she can do both the 2 Regular and 2 Advanced readers this year, and even that pace isn't enough for her! She loves having all her own textbooks this year, whereas some of the subjects had only a teacher's manual last year. She gets to do more of the reading herself this way, and she's loving it.

I spent some time yesterday cleaning out my whole school room. I purged some stuff we weren't using and blessed a struggling homeschool family with the books and materials who had posted asking for help with books on freecycle. I got everything organized and labeled, and it looks so much better in there! We can actually sit and use the table in there now. Haylee and I did our schoolwork in there last night and today, and it worked well to be separated a bit from Hayden, who gets distracted easily.

I got Holden some Crayola Twistables Slick Stix from Target in a 5-pack of primary colors for $2.99 this week. They are just like the Colorix silky crayons that Sonlight recommends for PK kids, only a bit cheaper. I think I can stock up on those at Toys R Us when they do their big Crayola promotions during back to school time.

Speaking of which, Target was already setting up their back to school supplies section this week! Seems like it comes out earlier and earlier every year. School just let out last Thursday, for goodness' sake, and supplies were being put out on Tuesday! LOL.

All in all, I think the first week has been a success.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More Tot Goodies!

I hit the local homeschool bookstore and the thrift store again, and I came home with LOTS more goodies for Holden! Here is some of the cool stuff I found:

Discovery Toys Place & Trace for $2.

The Creative Activity Kit brand Totally Creepy Bugs set, new in box, for 99 cents. I wanted to use this with Easter Grass on a tot tray with pretend bugs and frogs buried in it. He got the sensory activity of digging through the grass and the fine motor skill of using the tweezers to transfer them to the bug box. He got to use the magnifying glass to help look for them, too. He really enjoyed this.

Creative Toys brand Shapes early learning game for $2. This involves two piece interlocking puzzle sets where one piece has a basic shape and the other piece has a photo of a real item that has that basic shape. I laid out four sets at a time on a tot tray, and Holden studied them and matched them up. He really enjoyed this, too, and kept asking for more! The other half of the set had an outline of a shape with only half of it filled in. The matching piece had the missing half of that shape, and they have to be matched up. This was a bit more advanced, so I will save that portion for later on down the road. I'd love to find more of these games. The back of the box says there are other themes like associations, colors, opposites, rhyming words, and silhouettes in this series of games. They all say ages 2-5.

Primary Concepts brand Frog Sorting set for $5. This was really cute. I used these frogs for the bug hunting activity I described above, but he also used the set as intended for sorting the frogs by color on the lily pads. Too cute! You can sort by color or pattern (some frogs have various patterns on their backs). For grades PK-1.

My First Puzzles brand Dinosaur puzzle set, brand new, for $4. This set has 4 different dinosaur puzzles, each with 4 pieces. They are irregularly shaped, so a little harder than a square puzzle. He enjoyed figuring these out, and the pictures had numbers, letters, colors, etc. in the pictures with the dinosaurs, so we had fun talking about what was on the pictures after they were assembled.

A great hardcover book called Counting Colors for $5. This is lots of fun! Each two-page spread has photos of various real items, all in one color theme. Around the edge of the page, it lists how many of each item you can find on the pages. So this can be used for color practice, vocabulary building with identifying objects, visual discrimation in spotting the items, and counting. It's an awesome book with brightly colored images. I plan to use only one color page at a time as we are working on a particular color. I love the "I Spy" aspect of it, too. Holden really enjoyed naming the objects and finding and counting them.

This cool Number Flipper early learning activity, brand new, for $5. The whole thing has a write & wipe surface for use with dry erase markers, so it can be practiced again and again. It has a number on each page along with a photo of the correct number of objects to go with it. It has the number in braille, and the number shown in sign language. It also has the numberal for tracing and also the number word for tracing. It goes from 1-20. Then it has number and counting activities at the end, like filling in the missing number in a series, counting the number of objects and circling the correct number, etc. This will get used for a good while. Haylee is sitting beside me right now using it to practice spelling the longer number words and to practice the sign language. Neat.

Disney Pooh Musical Hide & Seek Game for $5. You press Pooh's head, and he spins around and plays music. Each of the characters peeks up one at a time out of their honeypots. When they stop, you draw a character card and try to remember where that character was. If you get it right, you keep that character card. The first one to collect one of each character wins. I thought some variation of this game would be great memory practice for Holden. We played last night before bed, and he really loved finding and matching the characters to the cards. I had a hard time getting him to give up this game to go to bed!

So that's my haul for yesterday! I just love this particular DAV thrift store. It's really big and gets in tons of new merchandise every single day. You never know what you'll find in there! I got half there and half at the homeschool bookstore. But I definitely got some great values. He's got plenty of stuff to keep him occupied during school now. I just need to find a good way to organize everything that will keep it out of his reach unless I put it in his workboxes.

I haven't been able to find colorful paint trays to use for tot tray activities, but I remembered that I had some high sided dinner trays in the closet that can sit on portable stands like tv trays. So I took out one of those and have been using it on the floor or the table as a tot tray. That has worked well to keep parts and pieces contained while he's doing an activity.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fine Motor Skills

Holden worked on some fun activities for building fine motor skills today. I gave him those flat-bottomed glass stones from the Dollar Tree in a bowl with a large plastic serving spoon to scoop them into another empty bowl. He did great with that and took to it right away.

Then I gave him some dry beans in a bowl with a smaller spoon and a bottle with a funnel in the top and had him scoop them into the funnel. He enjoyed that one, too.

I also used a 15% off shopping pass and a $10 coupon at Kohl's on a Melissa & Doug Wooden Tool Box set last night. I sat with him today and showed him how to use the tools and put the nuts and bolts together. He especially enjoyed hammering in the wooden nails. I loved that the pieces actually fit snugly and didn't just blow right through the holes like they do with so many plastic toddler toys that are essentially useless for any real learning to take place.

I'm on a hunt for some small plastic tongs that will be easy for him to squeeze and use for transferring pom-poms into ice cube trays. I think he'd like that, too.

I got some great ideas today from this website: It's designed for preschool teachers. There were so many great ideas there, all categorized by the type of learning that takes place. One thing I want to try is putting Easter grass in a box and hiding little plastic insects in it. Then give him tongs or tweezers and have him "discover" the insects and remove them into a bug box. Kinda neat. It's a sensory and fine motor activity rolled into one. I don't think I'll find Easter grass this time of year, but I could probably put some construction paper through the paper shredder and achieve the same results. I could make it really colorful that way, too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fun Educational Tot Toys

I have been on a hunt for fun educational tot toys to use for Holden's "tot school." He is almost 2.5 now. I have had great success at finding things at the thrift store for a dollar or two each. Here are some of the things I found:
Lauri Toys Shape Sorter and Large Pegboard for a total of about $3. The pegboard set was complete, and the shape sorter set was missing a few pieces, which I can get from Patch company.
Discovery Toys Giant Pegboard for $2. It was missing only 1 piece, which I'm getting from a local representative for FREE. Never hurts to ask...she was very helpful!
Tallest Tree Stacking Blocks for $1. It was complete! It is neat...has 5 sides of learning on 3-dimensional cubes that stack in a set of 10. One shows the journey from forest floor to outer space. One is a poem about the Redwood tree to read. One has counting from 1 to 10 with forest animals. One has discovery of forest animals and plants. And one has learning about the world's tallest trees. Neat! ISBN is 1-883869-50-1 for anyone who might be interested.
Nick Jr. Go Diego Go Shapes & Colors Slide & Learn Interactive Flash Cards for $2. These are neat. Has 30 cards that slide open and show matching colors and shapes. This was complete, also. Holden loves Diego!
Enormous set of wooden pattern blocks in various sizes and colors for $2. It was enough to fill two tubs from Huggies wipes! I figured I can print off or make up my own patterns to use with them.

Then I went to ACMoore and used a 50% off coupon plus a $6 gift card he got for his birthday to get a $20 Melissa & Doug Lacing Beads set. It can be used in multiples ways for shapes, colors, counting, patterning, etc.

Then I went on Craigslist and got the nice Melissa & Doug Beginner Pattern Blocks set for $5. That was a deal! It was a complete set.

So we're all stocked up no on educational early learning toys, plus all those games I made myself. And I've got Teddy Mix & Match from Sonlight's PK 3/4 Core, plus I have some things I got at Moore Expressions: Discovery Toys Place & Trace for $3 and Peg-It Bears with Subtraction Fun Cards that I picked up there when Haylee was younger. And I have a nice set of colored counting bears and sorting cups from Wal-Mart that was also Haylee's.

So I should have a good supply of learning activities for Holden's workboxes to supplement his assignments from Sonlight PK 3/4 and Abeka Nursery for 2's.

I've been scoping out a couple of things from Lauri Toys like maybe the Primer Pak, but most especially the Early Learning Center Shapes & Colors. That looks REALLY cool. I found it cheapest at Amazon for about $29 HERE.

My A/C is broken, so our planned trip to Busch Gardens for today is out. It's being repaired as we speak. Gonna cost me about $1,000. Just spent $4,500 replacing the system at my rental property last month. When it rains, it pours. What can you do? We're in a roasting hot heat wave, so there's no way around it. The heat index hit 100 over the weekend with more to come.