Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Preschool Week of 12/29 (or "Great Toys My Kid Got for Christmas")

Wow! Christmas is over... Time really does go by faster the older you get, and the older your children get... We had a wonderful holiday. We didn't do much school, but we did spend lots of time playing with new toys, many of which were educational.

First, the school stuff we did.

Our Before Five in a Row reading this week was The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. We used this to lead us into a science unit on plants. We did lots of experiments with plants and seeds. First, we talked about the fact that roots are like straws, and Crumpet had a blast pretending to be a plant sucking water up through his roots (straw). We set a celery stalk in blue water and saw that the blue water reached the top of the stalk within a few hours.

We grew some radish seeds on a wet sponge:
We grew bean seeds in soil:
And we grew bean seeds on a wet paper towel:
We also put carrot tops in water, and they are starting to grow itty bitty green shoots. I really didn't think it would work! Next, we'll do some experiments with the beans in soil comparing light/dark and wet/dry environments.

I froze paint and made paint popsicles. I got this idea here. These came out really well, and I enjoyed the way they paint. Unfortunately, Crumpet really had no interest, and wanted to play popsicle salesman instead.

I read through my McRuffy phonics curriculum, and I like it, but I think it's directed at older kids. I decided to try Progressive Phonics for now, which I've read a lot about at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. We started with the very first lesson which includes a little reading about Dod the Dog. The child is supposed to read the words in red which are Dod and Dog. This a pretty amusing process with Crumpet for two reasons. First, he has trouble pronouncing g so both words sound pretty similar coming from him, and it's hard to know if he's saying the right thing! Second, he just guesses what direction the story is going to take, and when I pause for him to read his word, he tells me the whole story. When I steer him back to the word, he does seem to get it right though, and he was really entertained by the first story. We'll practice this one all week, and try another next week.

Now, on to fun toys Crumpet got for Christmas:

I have been waiting to buy this Motor Works set from Discovery Toys for 2 years now. I wanted Crumpet to be old enough to use it. It comes with the parts to make 3 vehicles, plus a battery powered screwdriver, and a manual one. It is a little bit complicated for him still, but with a little help, he can put them all together. The use of screws and tools is great for fine motor development, and he loves the fact that he has his own power tool!
I read some good things about the Beethoven's Wig series of CD's, and Crumpet and I listened to some snippets at Amazon. These are very silly songs set to famous pieces of classical music. The second half of the CD contains the music on its own. The silly words really help make classical music approachable. And, beware, it makes it impossible to get the songs out of your head. Crumpet loves classical music anyway, and he adores this CD. He would not let me stop playing it the day we opened it, and I had dreams about the songs...
I've wanted a geoboard for a while, and I found this one at Amazon. It's a small, sturdy board and it came with a set of cards showing some ideas of easy pictures to make on the geoboard. Crumpet is already getting the hang of copying the designs. And of course, there are tons of open-ended play options with this.
The above things are really my favorite Christmas presents. Here is Crumpet's favorite toy:
He had asked Santa for a garbage truck with bins to lift and dump, and he talked about it all month. Fortunately, Santa found the perfect truck ;) with lots of exciting functions. Crumpet sleeps with this truck...
And here is my boy the night before Christmas. He was completely out of his mind, he was so excited.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Reflections

It's time for a New Year, and I'm seeing lots of great blog posts reflecting on what's important and planning ways to go forward in 2010. There are wonderful ideas and thoughts out there, and I thought "Oh, I should do that!". And then, my head promptly started spinning in circles!

You see, the Navy is moving us to Hawaii in May! This is wonderful and exciting news! And also, a huge undertaking! We will be moving from Georgia, where we have a 4 bedroom house with a garage, attic, and yard full of stuff, to Hawaii where we expect to have a 2 bedroom apartment. The thought of weeding through all of our junk makes me nauseous! We will be bringing cars, cats, and a little boy overseas. The Navy helps with some of this, and sometimes that's good, and sometimes, they make it more difficult!

In the months before we move, we must get rid of the junk, fix up the house, find someone to rent it, plan Crumpet's birthday party (he's been talking about it since his last party, so there's no skipping it!)... and we will drive many thousands of miles around the country visiting loved ones and saying goodbye. This is the hardest part of being military - we are always missing someone who is far away. This time we will be away for 3 years without a return visit, and I'm afraid that there are some people, especially grandparents, that I will never see again.

It's going to be a hectic, challenging, exciting time! So, on reflection, my goals for the next 6 months are:
  • Survive!
  • Try to shelter Crumpet from as much of the stress of moving as possible. So far, he's excited about living near the beach and seeing a real volcano. I worry about him losing all of his friends though. Crumpet is very shy and starting over will be difficult.
  • Try to continue with some preschool work for as long as possible before we start packing. I'm thinking April-June will be our summer break this year. All of our stuff will be in boxes!
  • Try not let diet and exercise go completely out the window. After all, I'll be spending a lot of time in a swimsuit soon!
  • Try to keep a sense of humor about it all, and remain excited about the new adventure we are being sent on.
  • Survive!

I will still be blogging throughout the chaos. This is my place for keeping track of Crumpet's progress, and also for keeping a log of all the exciting,crazy things we experience. So stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Preschool Week of 12/23

We had a good week of learning here. I know everyone else is taking a bit of a break, but I figure that we have to get some work done during the periods of time we're actually at home instead of on the road! Also, most of our classes and clubs are on break, so we're sitting at home bored a lot of the time. It helps keep Crumpet civilized if I bring out lots of school activities!

I found these great alphabet printouts at Homeschool Creations here. There are 2 versions -solid letter cards for use as flashcards, or ones with a line down the middle which are meant to be cut to create mini puzzles/matching cards. Crumpet liked the looks of these and wanted to go through them right away. It's been a while since we've done an alphabet review (bad me), but he remembered all of the letters except M, N, and W, which have always given him trouble. And, I discovered that he now knows the sounds of about half the letters. Just a month ago, I was writing that he had no understanding of the sounds letters make! Big progress!
Crumpet has been very interested in telling time lately, so we did some work with our Melissa and Doug clock. Sometimes it seems like he really understands telling time by the hour, and sometimes not. This is a also great toy for stacking play, and number recognition. (I just noticed that our 6 is upside down! Ha ha, a little more work on 6 and 9, I think!)
We fill in our homemade calendar each day, and review all of the previous numbers at the same time. Today, the idea of the teen numbers clicked with Crumpet and he could read the numbers 11-19 without help from me.
We finally finished up our unit on the senses. Taste was our last topic. Here is poor Crumpet tasting salt water:
He made me taste the rest of the liquids we experimented with!
We also did a science unit on weather to link up with our Before Five in a Row reading (see below). I really wasn't very impressed with McRuffy's weather unit, but Crumpet does now have a basic understanding of how a thermometer is read.

Before Five in a Row:
We read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The illustrations in the book are made using collage and watercolors, so we made our own artwork using the same techniques.
We also made tortilla snowflakes, which I've seen on many blogs this month. Crumpet really enjoyed this. I discovered that powdered sugar in the hands of a 3 year old is very like glitter - it was everywhere!
Fine motor skills:
Crumpet wanted to play with the kiddie chopsticks, so I gave him a variety of small objects and had him move them into the labelled compartments of an egg carton.
Gross motor skills:
We skated around the kitchen on wax paper. This was great fun, and he has asked to do it several times this week. We saw this idea here.
Household Skills:
I printed out a chores chart for Crumpet so that he remembers all of the things he needs to do each morning and evening, such as brush his teeth, make his bed, and feed the pets. So far, it's going really well. I give him a sticker at the end of each day (yes, he added a few of his own!), and have promised him a matchbox car at the end of the week if he does well every day, sort of like an allowance.
Socialization/Field Trips:
We went to a gymnastics class with our playgroup, and we went as a family to a local lights festival that we love:
This will be my last post until after Christmas, so I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Art Box 12/21

Unfortunately, Crumpet is still not much into art this week. I left a big collection of supplies on the kitchen table, hoping that if they were staring him in the face, he'd use them. Sometimes that works, but not this time. He stuck a few car stickers to a piece of paper, and called it quits.

We did do a project related to our Before Five in a Row reading for the week though. The book was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The artwork in the book was made using collage and watercolors, so we got some tissue paper and paint and set to work. As you can see, not much collaging went on here, but he was happy to have real watercolors again. This is a picture of a thunderstorm.
This was a truly open-ended project. I foolishly left a box of crayons within reach and Crumpet wandered off with it. Fortunately, the only decorated thing I've found so far was this bag! Maybe he was making gift bags for Christmas? Right now, when he does color, he is all about using every single color available and just drawing one or two stripes with each color.
I let Crumpet use the window markers tonight, and he thought that was pretty cool. He couldn't believe I'd let him draw on the windows! Again, lots of streaks with each color. (The circles in the shape of a snowman on the right were mine.) My husband came home and saw this and freaked out...ha ha, I hope they are really washable!!
Hopefully, someone will feel more crafty in the next few weeks! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Preschool Week of 12/16

So first things first. Here's Crumpet breaking a board in karate!
He had another good introductory class, and will officially start classes in January. I hope he will do as well when there is a big group of kids around him... For now, he is very proud of himself, and we love seeing the confidence this has given him already.

We had a pretty productive week in school.
For number recognition, I put numbers around a chair cushion and Crumpet had to jump on the number I called out. I love this picture!
We did some M+M graphing, and talked about more and less. I found this graph here.
We practiced patterns and the idea seems to have really clicked with Crumpet. We started working on ABC ABC patterns. We used more M+Ms and also the Christmas pictures which were part of a pattern activity here.
Letters and Language:
I made a trail of lowercase letters. Crumpet would roll a die, move Lightning McQueen the appropriate number of spaces, and tell me the name of the letter.
We worked on positional words. These printouts were part of a Christmas lapbook at 1+1+1=1 here. I'd been wanting to work on this concept with Crumpet, and Carisa put these out at just the right time.
We started using the Before Five in a Row curriculum this week. I was looking forward to starting Five in a Row next year, so a friend lent me the book for younger kids. It's a unit study program based on children's literature, and so far, I really like it. We started with Goodnight Moon, which is very simple, just to get the hang of the system.
I also started some memorization work with Crumpet. We're learning a few nursery rhymes. Sometimes, he resists telling me the rhymes, but if I change out the words and add something silly, he'll correct me so I know he knows the real words!
We worked on the senses of touch and hearing.
We did a clothespin toss. This got really silly...
We played a game I found in Family Fun magazine. We each collected a few random things from around the house and put them in gift bags. Then we exchanged bags. For each item, we had to say thank you and also make one positive comment about the gift, even if it was something boring like toothpaste (ours has a picture of Thomas the train on it, so Crumpet said "Oh, I love Thomas). It's supposed to teach kids to be polite when opening gifts, which is often difficult during the chaos on Christmas morning. I was really surprised at how quickly Crumpet caught on and how well he did with thinking of good things to say. He has even initiated the game since then. We'll see how he does on the Big Day!
Socialization: We went to a Birthday Party for Jesus at the church that hosts our playgroup, and the kids made these pretty ornaments.
We also went to the library story hour, and hosted a Christmas brunch for our neighbors.
We hope you had a good week too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Egg Recipe

I've been reading a book called The Minds of Boys by Michael Gurian. Nicole at Tired, Need Sleep recommended it to me. It's all about the ways that male brains are physically different from female brains, and how this affects the way boys learn. One thing the author recommends to help a child focus during the day is increasing protein intake and decreasing carbohydrate intake. When Nicole mentioned this on her blog, there were many comments about needing to switch from cereal to eggs in the morning, and I just wanted to share a recipe I tried this morning. It was incredibly easy, and Crumpet ate it really well. The recipe was originally in the November 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

Mini Veggie Frittatas:
4 eggs
3 tbs. low-fat milk
1/4tsp salt
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
4 whole sundried tomatoes, packed in oil and chopped
1/3 cup chopped green pepper

(You can use any leftover veggie - I used zucchini instead of the tomato and pepper.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spritz 12 mini muffin tins with veg. oil
In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and salt. Add cheese and vegetables. Spoon a tablespoon into each muffin cup. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Makes 12.


Preschool Week of 12/9

We only spent one real day on school this week, and the rest of the week was life school.


We started on our Five Senses unit in the McRuffy Books. We worked on smell, and we'll do sight later this morning... I soaked cotton balls in a variety of smelly liquids and Crumpet had to sort them a few different ways - food smells, good and bad smells, etc. He also had to match a few different mystery cotton balls to ones he'd already smelled. During the experiments, he doesn't always seem to "get it", but he talks about the senses a lot so it is sinking in.
We borrowed the "Exploring our Senses" set of books from the library. These are really simple - perfect for 3 year old science.


We made a paper chain like the one in Tired, Need Sleep and talked about patterns. I used the phrase "taking turns" and Crumpet really understood! We worked on several other simple ABAB patterns this week, and the concept has finally clicked! Hurray! (I know, I know, my chain links are huge. I somehow thought they'd be easier to manipulate this way, but this was not the case. It didnt' really matter - Crumpet wouldn't assemble it anyway. I did all the work, but he learned the concept so who cares? My husband made a lot of fun of me for this chain. Sigh, I'm terribly abused around here...)
We reviewed the numbers 1-10. Then I wrote the numbers on pieces of paper and scattered them around the room. I turned on the music and we danced around the numbers. Whenever I stopped the music and shouted out a number, Crumpet had to find that number and jump on it. I thought this would be fun, and it was. But... Crumpet was so excited by the game and the number hunt that he couldn't recognize a single number, even though he knows them all. He was just too hyped up. At least we got some exercise!!

We played "store". Crumpet has been running around the house "shopping" on his own lately, and I saw the idea for a store on Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns here. I set it up so he would run out of money before he bought everything. Again, Crumpet was so excited that he had trouble recognizing the numbers at first, but when he calmed down after a while, he remembered them. He was disgusted when he ran out of money though, and decided that he was a pirate and he stole all the leftover loot!! Yikes, I'm raising a thief! :) Now he won't play store with me anymore, and he keeps talking about how mad it made him. We talk about the realities of money a lot right now! This was a great activity for learning in many ways...

Fine Motor Skills:

Decorating the tree counts as fine motor, right? Crumpet is so so so excited about Christmas right now!

I found this simple idea in Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready. I made shape stencils from cardboard and had Crumpet color them in. He really doesn't like to finish anything, and I thought this would be a good, defined activity with an obvious completion point. It did frustrate him that I made him fill in the whole circle, and he wouldn't color it with a simple back and forth motion which would have been quicker, but he thought it was neat when we removed the stencil and there was a complete circle on the paper. We'll be doing this again with other shapes.

Crumpet has done a lot of cutting this week and is getting much better at it! The Kumon books have really helped, as well as this new pair of Fiskars scissors. These are much easier for him to hold and work with.

Crumpet made this Rudolph door hanger right before he went on "craft strike". Now he will have nothing to do with making anything.

Crumpet had his first experience with quicksand. Oh, I wish I'd brought my camera. We went on a hike at our new favorite hiking trail. There are several drained fish ponds there. The dog decided to walk through one, and he got stuck. He sank in deep in the mud and could not move. When he tried to move, he sank more. So I went in after him. I freed him, and I got stuck. Fortunately, this was a family hike, so my husband was there. He pulled me out and crawled across the top of the mud to rescue my shoes which had been lost in the muck. Yikes, lesson learned - stay out of drained ponds.
We also went to on the preschooler nature walk at the nature park and had a good time.

Computer Time:

I've been playing a couple of computer games with Crumpet each day, and his mouse skills are really improving. Some of our favorite games are on the Sesame Street website - all involve using the mouse and there are lots of good sorting exercises.


We went to a sing-along Christmas concert at the art museum in town. There was a puppet show at the library one evening. We went to our mudpuppies art class and had a playdate. Lots of fun. And the big news is that Crumpet started karate. He was really stressed about going and fought it the whole way. His teacher was amazing though, and by the end of class, he came out of his shell a little and interacted with her, and came home really excited about karate. Hurray, we've found a way to get him to open up! It will be slow going, but the whole family is really energized about it right now!

Random Pictures:

Here's Crumpet playing pirate. He's in his "escape dinghy" and all that stuff piled on the couch is "pirate stuff".
Santa! Christmas can't get here soon enough. We're all excited! Have a great week!

The Art Box 3

The Art Box didn't go very well this week. Crumpet has entered the "No crafts, no way, not ever, no no no" phase. Sigh. I gave him new watercolor markers, feathers, glue, and the rubber stamps. He refused everything except the watercolors, and unfortunately, we didn't have much luck with these. It looked just like regular markers when finished. Has anyone else had better success? Or can you recommend something? Thanks!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Preschool - week of 12/2

This was a pretty slow week school-wise for us because we spent so much time out of the house having fun! We did manage to accomplish a little bit though.

MATH: Crumpet worked with his pattern blocks and cards.

Crumpet pounded golf tees into styrofoam. I'd been wanting to let him hammer some nails, but was a little nervous. Nicole at Tired, Need Sleep had this wonderful idea so I tried it. We could use Crumpet's toy hammer which made it even safer. I think we should have used thicker styrofoam, but this was still fun.
I gave Crumpet little jewel stickers and told him to trace the shapes with them. I saw this idea here. He started out doing it, but then decided that it would be more interesting to make a roller coaster that went from shape to shape. He named each shape and manipulated the itty bitty stickers, so I figure he got the same benefits from the activity, right?
I made this button board. Crumpet really likes it. I saw this idea here.
I bought the Kumon books of cutting and easy mazes. Crumpet is really enjoying mazes lately, and the fun pictures made cutting less of a chore.
We tried some different hiking trails for our nature walk this week. I had meant to start covering the five senses with him, so we talked about all the things we could learn from our senses during this walk.

We had lots of outing this week. We had two fun play dates with friends. We went to a Christmas Festival on the military base. We went to story time at the library. And we went to a mudpuppies art class at the community center, where Crumpet made this cute guy:

We tried to play the game Elefun one night, but Crumpet decided to be the elephant instead. Here he is wearing the trunk...
Have a good week!