Pre-reading Fun

Fiona has asked me to help her learn to read and since she’ll be turning 5 in the fall, I know that it will all start clicking for her in the next year or so.  We don’t use a formal reading curriculum to teach the kids to read.  With all of the older four, we just did lots of reading readiness in the form of reading together, playing letter games, having fun with phonics, doing early writing, and so on.

I found a fish puppet in the broom closet the other day as I was trying to reorganize.  Of course, there was a fish puppet in our broom closet!  🙂  I had also picked up a bag of assorted decks of kids’ games at a thrift store that week, and there happened to be a deck of letter cards in there.  Voila!  A pre-reading game came together!

I posted a pic online and on the Magical Homeschool page, if you want to peek.

Today's reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

Today’s reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

I explained:

Here’s how we play games to help learn reading. This particular one involved a puppet I happened to find in a closet as I was cleaning. I had some letter flash cards so I made a game with Fiona where the fish puppet would ask in a silly voice for her to feed him things that started with each letter. She’d have to find the letter and then he’d gobble it. Then we moved on to spelling words for him, such as HI. She ran and got her colored pencils and paper and wanted to copy the words, so she wrote simple words such as HI, MOON and CAT that we “fed” to the fish. We also used the cards to change words, such as changing MOON to SOON by moving one letter.

I was going to post more, but my noisy crowd (well, those who aren’t off at the ocean) just got back from pageant rehearsal and mayhem has once again ensued.

I have promised Fiona that we will continue to do some sort of reading fun together just about every day.  I’ll keep updating here with a peek at what we do.




Beanie Baby Biology Class

Beany Baby Science

Here’s a fun way to learn about animals in all kinds of ways.

We’ve started a collection of animal beanie babies for the younger kids and it’s turned into such a fun and educational collection.

We get them at thrift stores for about .50 each on average. They make just about every species you can think of.

We have a robin, moose, fox, beetle, rhino, loon, starfish, zebra, aardvark, dragonfly, squirrel, goldfish, seal, lobster, elephant, butterfly, gecko, snake, blue jay, flamingo, giraffe, poodle, ladybug, fox, wolf, black bear, raccoon, koala , octopus and lots more.

We keep them in a large basket in the living room and just about every day we find a new way to make an educational game out of them.

For instance, I’ve asked the little ones if they can sort by whether they live on land or water, the ones who lay eggs from the ones who give birth, by birds and bugs and mammals and so on.

Or sort by how many legs they have, whether they have scales or fur or feathers, whether they hibernate, whether they’re carnivores or omnivores or herbivores, or whether they can be found in our part of the world……

There are so many ways to use them.  I’m thinking we could even work language arts and such in (sort by syllables in their names or whether they start with vowels) and social studies (sort by continents).  You get the idea!

Fiona (four) loves to line them up and make up her own games with them too. And since they are pretty small, they don’t take up much room.

They also work for bean bag games and are fun to toss back into the basket to clean up.  🙂

All five of the kids now look at every thrift store we visit to see if there are any new ones to add to our collection.  Even I have fun looking for fun new species to add!


Fun Early Elementary Games and Printables

I just stumbled onto Carl’s Corner and thought I’d recommend it to parents with little ones.  The games and activities seem designed for preschool to around grade one, depending on the child.  There are lots of board games, activities, bingo sheets and other fun games designed to teach sight words, reading skills and other early elementary skills.

The one caveat is that this is a teacher site and many of the games are really designed for multiple kids of the same age.  This would still work if you have young kids close in age, twins, a HS coop or otherwise work with several kids at once who could use these.  It will be a bit trickier around here, since Jack is my only child who fits the age group now.

Kindergarten Refresher

Yesterday I stumbled onto these emails that I wrote when Victoria was in kindergarten and Anna was three/four about what we used for a “curriculum.”  Lately I have been feeling guilty for not doing more with Jack (who just finished his K year) and I thought it would be a good incentive for me to step it up a bit with him.  It is so hard balancing the educational needs of 4 different ages!  I think sometimes I try to do too much, too — so many art activities and hands on projects and special projects and one-on-one time — and then I burn out and we all go play on the computer.  🙂  Anyway, it was fun to go down memory lane and it gave me a push towards stepping it up (with all of the kids) again.

I don’t know if you want an answer from a non-curriculum standpoint but I’ll share what we “used” for Victoria, who would be in K this year.

Writing: signing art, writing out holiday cards, making up grocery lists, writing poems & letters to grandma, using magnadoodle, tracing dotted letters that I wrote, dollar tree workbooks, printouts from the net

Reading: reading books, playing letter sound games, treasure hunts (I’ll post instructions), magnadoodle, sight word games, sounding out words together, talking about words and how they work, dollar tree workbooks, reading comics with daddy, reading signs and such on walks together, a shareware monkey reading game

Math: collecting and counting money, cuisenaire rods, mama-made worksheets, playing with calculator, abacus, rulers, protractors, measuring tapes, pom pom math, word problems while driving (usually made up involving favorite characters, etc.), cheap workbooks, computer printouts

History: books, talk, shows on Discovery, etc., Magic Treehouse series

Science: playing with magnets (many types including marbles, clear colored dots, circle ones on a stick that repel/attract….), magnifying glasses, gardening and plant experiments (forcing bulbs, growing seeds, celery in colored water, weeds in various circumstances, burying veggie scraps), chemistry kits, snow experiments (using salt, sand, sugar, hot and cold water….), Discovery Channel shows, many science and body books, Animal Doctor computer game, Dino digging computer game, experimenting outside, nature walks, bird watching, science experiments via email and web sites

Art: Daily art activities with a variety of mediums (too many to list)

Kindness Curriculum book
Art for Children books
various science experiments for children books
nature studies books
Learn at Home K (used VERY rarely– I’d flip through to find an idea and  then we’d do that)
Skills lists (I’d see what she’d cover in K and then design something on the subject)
PBS shows:
ZOOM (science)
Cyberchase (math)
Between the Lions (reading)
Liberty Kids (American history) (occasionally)
many field trips

The biggest thing we use is talks. We talk about everything and I use a lot of analogies. We had this great conversation about bees protecting the hive and American wars once, how the bees must really be dedicated to the queen and the colony to be willing to die to protect it and how soldiers did the same. When we talked about the Revolutionary War I put it in a lot of kid perspectives with the colonists saying you’re not the boss of me and this isn’t fair and that isn’t fair and so on.

And another post about a typical kindergarten day…

Our kitchen was covered with wheat flour, gobs of packing tape and popcorn by the end of the day today. LOL We had kind of a lazy day but a nice one.

I get out the Kindness Curriculum every week or so and we always sit in a circle and do the love song and say something nice we’ve done for someone. My girls love this ritual way more than I’d have guessed. Then I just flip through till I find something that fits the day.  Today in the chapter on gentleness they had an activity of just playing with a couple of scoops of flour on a sheet of colored paper and putting out a bunch of tools. They played for a LONG time with it. I gave them cups, plastic silverware, cookie cutters and a few other tools to experiment with it. Of course they ended up flour covered and the floor and tablecloth did as well, but I expected as much.

Later on we had popcorn, which somehow ended up on the floor when I came up to check my mail and nurse Jack to sleep. To make clean-up more fun, I gave them strips of Priority Mail packing tape to stick to the popcorn, but we just ended up with balls of tape with the popcorn.  Snort.

I ended up getting really sleepy and took a nap on the couch with Jack on top of me and the girls next to me watching PBS and reading books.  Even the cat climbed up on me. Daryl came home to this strange modern art floor mess and a pile of people on the couch.   🙂   Poor thing, he ended up sweeping it up himself.  It’s good for him to clean once in a while.  <VBG>

Oh, and we were reading books and one of them was “There was an old lady who swallowed a bat” that has a Halloween theme. We decided to make up our own story, so we spent quite some time dreaming it up while I rocked Jack to sleep. Victoria wrote it out (spelling practice) while Annalee wrote up a story of her own about apples (letter practice) so I was spelling in two directions at once at them (okay, next is TH for you, Victoria, Anna, apple starts with a….).

Our finished story is pretty good! Victoria started the illustrations and they’re so cute. We’re going to bind it and make a real book and I’ll take a few pics.

We’ve been doing our altered books together side by side after the two little ones are asleep at night. I have to take pictures of Victoria’s latest pages. They are amazing!!!!!!! And Annalee did coloring pages last night that she embellished with all sorts of designs and added features that I want to put in a gallery.  <VBG>  I told the girls what we have is more like artschool than homeschool.   😉

Anyway, it was a messy, lazy, odd kind of day but I figure they learned things accidentally all over the place. And most important, it was cozy and fun.

Driveway Math!

Here’s a quick and fun way we did math today.   Victoria and Jack helped me draw circles in sidewalk chalk on the driveway and write numbers in them, and then we played a hopping great math game with them.

For Jack, I said things like “take away 4” from the number he was on and he had to hop to it.  For Victoria, I just called out random math problems, mostly division.

It got tricky when they had to hop around each other or fit in the same circle.  The hopping was their favorite part!  Except for Victoria, who is far too mature and sophisticated to enjoy hopping in chalk circles, of course.  🙂