Sunday, January 29, 2012

Letter of the Week and Hooked on Phonics

We have been doing "Letter of the Week" combined with "Hooked on Phonics" for almost a month now. I am shocked at the progress my son is making! Each week he is really learning! I knew that he knew a fair amount of letters before we started, but now he is working on learning sounds too. He did not know many if any sounds before we started.

I am still only using 2 of the "Hooked on Phonics" books, "Letters" and "Letter Sounds". The other books are for counting and practice coloring. I think the coloring book is going to go out with some other stuff, but the counting book is certainly going to get some use! I am just waiting for my son to get  a little more comfortable with letters, because he still sees numbers and tells me that they are letters! The "Hooked on Phonics" pack came with a DVD and a game disk. I had hoped that there would be more interactive phonics games on the game disk, but the entire disk is about counting. My son has played the disk a few times and he enjoys the alien/outer space theme, but he is not "getting it". A lot of it is counting alien eyes or legs and they teach the method of counting on. That is a great way to teach adding, but my son, having turned 3 at the beginning of December, is not ready for that yet. There are different levels of the game though so he could do the easiest game, but he doesn't seem to like it and always wants to do something harder.

To supplement the phonics and letter part, we have been using the phonics sections of . I am also using some poems to help reinforce the letters and letter sounds.

It seems like at the rate we are going, he should know just about all of his letters by June. I'm not certain that we will know all of our letter sounds by the end of the year.

Does anyone know of some other websites that are of the same caliber as starfall?

Monday, January 23, 2012


I've been trying to find ways to make sorting more interesting to my son. He tends to get started sorting and then ends up playing with toys (if I use toys) or getting bored if I use anything else. I can see from what he does that he CAN sort, he just rarely finishes the task.

Since we have been working so hard on our letters and letter sounds, I have been thinking about how I can help build his sorting abilities so that he can eventually sort objects or pictures by the sounds that they start or end with. With that goal in mind, I decided to try something new.

Last night, I used some awesome google images from "Peter Pan" and "Jake and the Neverland Pirates". I've told you how much my son LOVES anything Peter Pan. I then made a list that had a picture of Peter Pan on one side and said "Friends of Peter Pan" and the other side with Captain Hook that said "Friends of Captain Hook". He loved it! More than that...he also finished!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sorting and ABCs

We have been really working on our letters this month and my son has been really loving it! He has just suddenly really taken a notice of the letters around him. Everywhere we go and everything he sees seems to have a letter that he recognizes! I've been trying to informally assess which letters he knows. I think the following is about right:

Knows: A, B, C, H. I, L, O, P, S, T, V, W, X  
Working on: D, E, K, M, R, Y
Doesn't know: F, G, J, N, Q, U, Z

I'm thinking that's pretty awesome for a kid that's only 3! The great part is that he is very interested in learning these letters and the sounds that they make, so I think my goal to start him reading before he turns 4 is going to be attainable. At this point, he only knows sounds for letters: B, C, and D. Those are the letters that we've studied since I've really put my heart into working with him.

He also seems to really get rhymes thanks to Dr. Seuss! He started into those books when he was around 2 and never let up! I just keep reading them to him and slowly take out words that I think he'll know.

Tomorrow, we are starting Letter F. I've been wanting to do more activities with sorting, because my son seems bored and uninterested with sorting stuff. I made a little sheet that has a picture of Peter Pan on one side and Captain Hook on the other. He has about 8 pictures of people that are either on "Team Peter" or "Team Hook". Hopefully, with his AMAZING love for all things Peter Pan, I will be able to get him sorting these tomorrow.  I'll take a picture if I do.

Hopefully a couple of sorts like that will gain his interest again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What to do?

I was finally able to catch up with someone tonight. I knew that she must be very excited to talk to me, but I wasn't really sure what she was wanting to talk about. the fall, I was asked to teach a preschool program for homeschool kids. That might sound a little weird...and if you've not ever considered homeschooling you're saying "Why would someone ask  you to teach a class for homeschoolers??"

Basically, there are groups all over that meet up together once or a few times a week. They do enrichment programs for children that are homeschooled. It is a great way for kids to spend time meeting other homeschooled children and also learn about something that interests them during the day and for a reasonable rate.

Last semester, I was nervous about doing this program. I was pregnant and unfamiliar with the people, the program, the location, and expectations. I went back and forth with it for a long time before agreeing to do the program. Then, there weren't enough kids to run the program so I thought I was going to be "canned". However, everything kinda came together at the last moment and I was on for 5 weeks of a preschool course.

It was a lot of fun! I had originally planned a play by play of the day and thought that I would do all kinds of activities. Then, I realized that was silly! I was going to have a group of kids that ranged from 2 to 3 (or maybe 4) and there was no way they were going to do an entire hour of "work" matter how fun or how much they were able to move. There's just no keeping their attention that long!

So this phone call tonight, I was asked to run the program again, but a 4 hours program instead of one hour. This class would be the only one offered for kids ages 2-5 (last time I was contending with a few other classes for kids in the 3-5 range).

I'm really suck! I feel like I want to do this! I love teaching! I'm having a good time teaching Matthew, but I would also love for him to be with other kids. I also know that I would likely feel overwhelmed if I took on this job. It is difficult to have Matthew in my class! He is pretty wild and he takes a lot out of me! Throw in the fact that Scott wouldn't be able be there to help me like he did last time AND I have a new baby that I nurse on demand.....I feel like I know that this is just too much for me right now, but I want to do it....I do....I'm annoyed that I can't take on the world anymore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Measuring and water play!

Right around September, I stumbled upon an insanely awesome sale at the ETA.Cuisenaire online store. If you are not familiar, they are a company that makes a lot of different manipulative for the classroom.

They were doing their first, ever, 80% off sale. I really couldn't believe the prices! Plus, I guess they didn't realize just how business they were going to do, so they got really behind on they added in free shipping. The downside was that it would be over 2 weeks to get everything. I didn't mind though...these prices were too good to pass up!

Among the many items that I bought, some plastic cylinders in different sizes. Some were as cheap as 10 cents!! I don't think I paid more than 50cents for one. I was also able to get safety googles for maybe a buck....I don't remember, but I had a TON of items for $24!

My big idea with the different cylinders was to make a sort of sensory box/water play box that could be used to compare each ones capacity for holding water. I didn't know if Matthew would "get it", but I figured that at least it would be fun for him.

We have played with this little set quite a few times and he loves it! I talk to him about how many milliliters of water each of the containers holds and then we count to see how many times we have to fill up the smaller ones to get the biggest one filled up (moving 25ml of water to fill up a 1000ml container often doesn't keep his attention, but still....).

We were playing with this today and I wanted to share the pictures!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Preschool Dayz

I think I've finally got everything that I want to include in Matthew's least academically.

We started off in October or November with calendar. At that time, we added the new number for the date, filled in "Today is...", and looked out the window if answer "Today the weather is...". When we started, I was helping him a lot with finding the right day of the week. Now, we looked at the name for the day on the calendar and talk about what the name of day begins with then look for that letter when we are trying to find the right day. Finding the right weather has been easy for him, because there is a word and a picture.

Just this month, we added the weather graph. Here we color in a new block for the weather that we have on each day. We have started talking about comparing the different heights of the bars on the bar graph. This is something that will probably be a complicated concept for a while, but as we keep doing it and talking about it, I know he will start to pick it up.

Matthew has LOVED the book "Chicka, Chicka, Boom Boom" for a long time! I decided that as a reward for mastering new letters he gets to put the letter up the coconut tree. He thought that was awesome!!! He was actually mad that we couldn't add more letters.
I didn't know what all "Hooked on Phonics" had to offer at the pre-k level, but I decided to take a chance. There is a lot more to it than this, but these are the two books that we are going to be using now. One practices phonemes (letter sounds) the other is more about writing the letters. There is a lot of Math stuff in this kit, but we are going to start slow with the prereading things first.
I am also using this pocket chart book that has little rhymes for each letter and a few activities to practice the letters and letter sounds.

He has also been getting on the "Starfall" website to practice the letter sounds. I was amazed at how quickly he picked up on the letter B and its sound. I really think he could have finished two letters during the week last week, but I am really holding back and doing my best to now burn him out. I want him to want to sit down and work with me and be excited!! His love for reading is amazing! I'm just hoping to continue to help grow that within him.

I also tried to think about how much academic time he actually needed in a day. At 3, many preschools are just 2-3 hours a day either 2 or 3 days a week. The time it would take to get everyone settled in and ready for school could take 15 minutes of that time. Then, getting everyone into 'circle time' for calendar activities could take another 10 minutes. Doing what we are doing on the calendar might take 10-15 minutes in a larger class. Then, if you wanted to get even 10 - 3 year olds onto computers to do activities on "Starfall", it would be 10 minutes to get in line, 5 minutes to walk there, 15 minutes to get each kid on a computer and to the right place, then about 5 minutes to do that actual activity. Then there might be 10-15 minutes for a snack and another 10-15 minutes for potty breaks. To do the workbook activities you need to first get everyone their workbook or paper. Then everyone needs to get pencils or some other writing tool. Because the kids are not at a place where they can "take one and pass it" that teacher has to probably pass one out to each kid. Along the way the teacher gets interrupted a few times by long long LLLLLOOOOOOOONNNNNGGGG stories that have suddenly popped into some kiddos head and he just had to share! :) That probably another 10 minutes to get everyone ready and 10 minutes for the worksheet. At this point, we are over halfway done with our time. There's still reading a story and packing up to go home.

Since it doesn't take as long for me to get Matthew where he needs to be with these activities or to keep his attention, we can do all of these things in a faction of the time. Calendar takes us about 5 minutes...tops. Getting on the computer is easy because it is pretty much always out and ready to go. If he has any problems I am able to help him right away. I ultimately decided that a half hour a day is probably plenty for him for now.

Thoughts? Ideas? What do you do with your preschooler?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas Photos

 This is our little family on 'our Christmas Eve'. My husband and I have done this for a long time as a way to make sure that we have some special Christmas traditions that are just for our little family. This was also our first official photo as a family of four. I love it...minus that glow on my husband's teeth...the heck is that?  :)
 This was another 'faked Christmas'. We were all sick right around Christmas and I really feel apart on Christmas Day. Since I didn't get a picture of my kiddos together on Christmas Day in their special Christmas outfits, I made them dress up again a few days later when we finally got to my in-laws. I thought that we were all feeling better at this point....about 6 hours after this photo the baby would be in Children's with a fever of 103!
 Santa always comes when we host the playgroup Christmas party! All of the kids sat on his lap and then the other moms insisted that I take a sit too. You wouldn't believe how touchy-feely Santa can be with a Mom.  ;)
This is also on "our Christmas Eve". We always get dressed up in take pictures in our jammies and then putting cookies out for Santa. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Organization! Starting off right...I hope!

Being organized is something that I'm horrible at! I know where the stuff is that I need when I need it, but walking into my house is like walking into a nightmare for neat organized people. I'm one of those people that tends to stack stuff in piles because I'm not sure where I want it to go or I don't have the place where it will go YET.

I'm not resolving to be more organized this year, but because I've gone from part time working Mom, to pretty much always at home (or at least not working barely at all) Mom, I've started to feel like my house is my office. And I'm realizing that my office is a wreck! First and foremost, I need to get rid of stuff! Scott and I have so much stuff....teaching stuff, holiday stuff, video game stuff, craft stuff, kid stuff....stuff, stuff stuff!

The problem for me is that I can't stand starting something and not finishing. That could be because I was interrupted by a child or I came to a place where I didn't know what to do next because I couldn't find a place for this stuff for that stuff.

I'm really working hard at it though. We have gotten to the point where our first floor is pretty easily maintained. Now, I'm gearing up to take on our bedroom. So much has just gotten tossed in there over the past few months and nothing ever seems to leave once it is in there.

I'm challenging myself to just get my closet done before Sunday. While that may seem like a small task, my closet was probably used at as a small baby's room back in the day. Our closet is actually comparable to some people's bathroom. Both hubby and I can totally fit in there with a little room to move around. Our clothing is all over the place and so is a bunch of other stuff.....pretty much all of it has to go!

While I'm challenging myself to do this, I want to also challenge you. Pick whatever nook or cranny in your house needs the most work but you've been putting off and get it organized!

Cheer me on...HERE I GO!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

This Christmas season was a doozy! We went to at least 5 different Christmas parties. We saw Santa at all of those parties and just about everywhere we went! I baked well over 15 dozen cookies throughout the month of December. Hubby had an entire 2 weeks of vacation that we saved just for Christmas! We also had a trip to urgent care for Mommy and a two night sleepover at Children's with the new baby. It was a long month!

Now I'm getting back into the groove and feeling sluggish! I'm feeling myself get a little depressed already because I feel like I didn't even get to enjoy the holidays (I was really, really sick on Christmas day and ended up going home around lunch, with a stop at Urgent Care and then sleeping the rest of the day...two days later was that trip to Children's) and now it's time to go back to nothing exciting happening for a while.

As I sat there and starting to think of what is on my "to do " list for this year, I feel like I'm almost starting a new life! Since I had the new baby and started to try to go back to work, I've realized that working 4 nights a week with both of my children and the 3 that I chauffeur is a bit much for me. I've been only working one night for the past month or so. That's leaving me a lot of free time. I don't do well without certain things in my schedule to keep me accountable. So, I'm working on filling up my life.