Sunday, June 30, 2013

Utilizing Expansion and Contraction in my Day

I recently read a book that was basically the introduction to how to do preschool at home with your little ones. Of course, there are probably a lot of these kind of books, but this one had a bit of a Waldorf spin on it, which I love. In the book, there was a section on expansion and contraction throughout our daily routine. At first, it seemed like a bit of weirdness to me, especially with the way the explained it. (And named it. Seriously? When they start asking, "Is your child too expanded? Too contracted? I start wanting to roll my eyes.)

However, when I actually put the idea and practice into place, it makes a big difference!

I've always been big on having a routine with my kids. Not like a down-to-the-minute-this-is-what-we-do sort of routine. But I like, and my kids like, knowing what comes next. I think its an important foundation for little ones (and for adults) and without it we end up feeling frazzled, spread thin, stressed, and disorganized. And it's just hard to have fun when you feel crazy.

So here's the idea behind being aware of expansion and contraction throughout your day.

Expansion is basically relaxation and entertainment. A child's free play falls under this category, as does playing outside.

Contraction is focus and productivity. It's completing a specific task. Think reading stories, doing chores, circle time/preschool, arts and crafts, etc.

Now a good day happens when we balance the two, and children need to go back and forth between the two more frequently than adults. As mothers we naturally do this sometimes. Like when your child just can't handle another second of playing with friends and you know its time to go home. Or when they won't sit through one more story and you know its time for them to go play.

I've tried to keep this idea of flowing back and forth between expansion and contraction in mind as I go through my day with my kids. Max has a tendency to need to go back and forth between the two rather quickly and frequently. When I make sure to vary his day and his activities between the two polarities, he is so much better. We don't get to the point where he is teasing Jane just for fun. But we also don't get to the point where he is throwing crayons across the room. I just try and keep an eye out for when it is time to switch gears.

I didn't know if trying this approach to viewing my day and planning our activities was working until Max's birthday when we took the day of from preschool. The morning was a disaster. I thought it would be fun to just let the kids play all day, but after a while they just ended up fighting non-stop or whining about what we were going to do next.

For some of you awesome moms out there, this idea will be nothing new. But for me, it was a little bit of an "Aha moment" so I thought I'd share!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Goldilocks and the Three Bears - Preschool Unit

For Circle Time everyday we said our opening verse, did the calendar, reviewed what we'd learned the day before and then said our rhyme.  After that we did our literacy activity and I told the kids the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears using puppets that I mounted onto magnet. The puppets were lost by Wednesday, but at least they were well loved and played with for a couple days.

Rhyme: Pease Porridge Hot

Letter: Bb

Number: 3

Vocab word: Habitat

Literacy Activity: Memory with Opposite Cards (found here)  **My kids top out at about 6-8 matches right now. I chose the easiest ones and went from there. You know what your kids can handle."

Day 1: B is for Bear

Look at pictures of different kinds of bears. Name them and see where they live. What do their habitats look like? What do they eat? Talk about how a habitat is an animal home and each habitat has to have a safe place for the bear to live and food available. Tape a picture of each bear onto a world map where that bear lives.

B is for Bear worksheets. and minibook

Watch videos of the four bears we talked about.
Polar bear video
Sun bear video
Grizzly video
Panda video

Go see the bears at the zoo.

Day 2: Porridge

Make an instruction sheet with 4-6 illustrated steps for making porridge (Cream of Wheat or Oatmeal). Go over the steps with the kids before, during, and after the actual preparation of the porridge. Have the kids help you.

Observe the porridge and make a "word web" describing it. Our describing words for porridge were "White, hot, soft, smooth".

Try the porridge with different toppings and vote on whether you like it with a specific topping or not. Make a simple graph of the Yeas Vs. Nays. Count each vote and then add both sides together to make sure all votes are accounted for (but really to begin teaching basic addition)

Day 3: Number 3

Do 3 Worksheet
Do sizing worksheet. Color, cut, count, sort into small medium and large, glue.

Talk about small, medium, and large throughout the day.

Day 4: Opposites

Set out an opposites exhibit and then have the kids help you label each thing with the appropriate word. We did Hot vs. Cold, Soft Vs. Hard, Wet Vs. Dry. Review each item and word (you're trying to build a little word recognition here)

Do the pattern worksheet

Day 5: Max's Birthday school!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Today I Met a Homeless Man

I mean, really met a homeless man. I didn't just pass by him on the street, or hand him a few coins.

I stood behind him in line at the library as he asked if he could apply for a library card. The librarian handed him an application. He looked at it for a moment and said, "I can't read or write. Could you help me fill it out?"

The librarian replied that they were not allowed to do that.

He looked around him for a moment, sighed, and said, "Well, okay. Maybe I can find someone."

My kids were waiting back in the children's section with their dad, probably making him read the same terrible board book over and over. I knew Max was tired. We had plans to go to Hobby Lobby and the zoo. But I couldn't ignore him.

"I can help you fill that out when I'm done."

He smiled and said thank you. I felt a little awkward paying my fines, pulling out a twenty. He never asked for a cent. The librarian told me we were still missing a book. I sighed and explained how we were in the process of moving from one house to another.

The man, eager to be of help I think, made sure that we were completely moved in and didn't need help. He asked two or three times if we needed anymore help. I assured him that we were fine, just a little scattered still. He talked about how wonderful it was that I was getting so many interesting-looking books for my kids, and how it probably helped them fall asleep. Then he joked about not giving them any sugar or they'll run crazy. I informed him that I have a son who runs crazy without sugar.

We sat down together at a table, and he gave me his ID card. That's how I found out his first name, Robert, like my husbands. About 60 years old. Mailing address: General Delivery. No home address. No phone number. No e-mail address.

All I could think was "No wonder this man is homeless. He can't read or write. How can one function at all in society without those two skills." Then my thoughts went to wondering what his story was. Had public school failed him? Did he have a learning disability that went undiagnosed fifty years ago? How does one not know how to read or write?

But all over in the library were signs to volunteer to teach people to read. Apparently it is a real need where we live. And all of a sudden I understood what a life- changing service that was. My ideas about volunteering in NICU's and soup kitchens disappeared. If I really want to make a difference, and I do, this is where I can be of most help. This is something that can create real change in a person's life.

After I filled out the paper, we came to the signature part. I asked if he wanted to sign or have me sign. He said that he would sign. I watched him slowly put the pen to paper, and carefully move his pen to form the most beautiful, perfect, cursive letters. It was probably the only thing he could write. This was not a scribbled signature. He took such care, that it was evident to see just how precious those few letters were to him.

I complimented him on his handwriting, gave him the application and stood up. He wished me luck with the baby, and that was it. Our brief encounter was over. It only lasted a few minutes, but I can't stop thinking about him.

I think that's part of being a mother, caring for people, nurturing them, loving them. Even when they're not your children. Even when they may be old enough to be your grandparents. Everyone is somebody's child. Everyone needs a little mothering every now and then.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Preschool - Star Unit

We've started doing home preschool and so far it has been great. I thought I would record my lesson plans here in case you need ideas of your own.

Preschool starts everyday with circle time. We say an opening rhyming verse, do the calendar, and then sing a song or do a fingerplay or something like that. After that I talk about the theme for the week, cover the information we've already talked about, etc. Then I do a literacy/reading activity. We say a quick closing rhyme and go make our beds and do a few other chores. After that I intersperse the rest of the morning with theme based activities or worksheets in between chores or free play time. Phew! Did you get all that?

So here's what we did this week.

Song: "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"

Literacy Activity: Rhyming words. We change each word by putting a different letter/letters at the beginning of the word and then patting our legs and chanting all the rhyming words we've come up with. (i.e. pat, cat, hat, bat, pat, cat, hat, bat) I started with -at words before I knew I was doing stars and so we stuck with it, but discussing words that rhyme with star (far, bar, jar, car) would be great.

Theme: Stars

Letter: S    Worksheet    Mini book   We mostly just practiced writing the letter "S" and talking about words that start with S.

Number: 5  Worksheet   Worksheet 
Additional activity: I printed out a basic star shape. We counted the "points" on the star. Then each child counted out five cotton balls and glued a cotton ball to each point.

                             We numbered the fingers on our hand from 1-5

Vocab word: Constellation

I printed out these pictures and we talked about how constellations were pictures made out of stars. Then we tried to figure what each of these constellations were. After guess I told them each constellations name and we tried to see the picture in it.

Activity: Using foam star stickers and a sheet of black foam we each made our own "constellation". You could easily do this with small gold stars and black contruction paper as well.

Additional Activities:  Using the page below, I cut out every star except the big one. I let the kids try their hand at cutting out the big star. ** Then we counted all our stars. I gave each child a piece of construction paper broken into three sections, labeled "Small", "Medium", and "Large". Then I had each child sort the stars into the three categories. A few of the stars were kind of on the border between the two, so it was interesting to see how each child sorted them. After that we glued each star onto the paper and the counted how many stars were in each section and wrote down the number. We counted all the stars again to make sure we still had 11.

**My 4.5 year old is getting pretty good with scissors, but cutting out stars is hard. So many turns of the paper. So be ready to help. My three year old just cut the star in to little pieces, which I figured was fine. Don't get worried about perfection. The process is more important.**

Talk about wishing on a star. Chant "Star light, star bright" rhyme and everyone talks about their wish.

Give everyone a paper star and practice following instructions on where to place the star with words like "above", "behind", "next to", "in front of" etc.

Talk about the life cycle of a star.  This chart seems simple enough. Make two copies, but cut one up so that the children have to practice sequencing. This is kind of an abstract concept, but if they have their own picture to use as a reference, it will help. The talking and new vocab words are most important.

I'd say go outside and find a constellation, but it's the summer solstice this week and my kids are in bed before the stars are out. 

You can do whatever you want on each day. I personally broke up the days. So one was about "S", one about "5", one about "constellation", one about the life cycle of a star. But we built on everything each day and so continued to talk about the letter and number and constellations even when it wasn't the main focus that day.

The kids have seemed to really love it and I feel like it's been a good mix of literacy, science, some history, vocab, math, writing, etc.