Preschool: Curriculum Review

About the Curriculum

We used the Rod & Staff Publishers “early preschool” activity workbooks for Sprout’s preschool curriculum. It is a set of 4 workbooks that costs about $10. Each book has 30-35 pages. They are noted as being for 3- to 4-year-olds. The publisher notes in the beginning of each workbook that the activities will be very easy for some 3-year-olds  while possibly too difficult for some 4-year-olds. They advise parents to attempt  these workbooks with a 3-year-old, but to not be discouraged if the child is not ready for them.

20180213_Homeschool_preschool-book-set (800x600)

The workbooks focus on:

  • pre-writing skills
  • problem solving
  • shape recognition
  • color recognition
  • color word recognition
  • writing numbers 1-4
  • counting up to 4
  • safety

The skills slowly build upon each other and are mixed together nicely. The images are plain, simple, black-and-white realistic line drawings. The books use two children, Samuel and Sarah, to illustrate concepts and present the activities to the child.

Book 1: About Three

These are some sample pages from the first book. It mostly contains pre-writing skills pages — matching using straight lines and tracing a variety of line types. The child should be required to always make the lines from left to right and to work from the top of the page to the bottom.

Book 2: Bigger Steps

This book builds on those pre-writing skills even more and adds in writing numbers 1 and 2. There is some basic problem solving and a lot of matching. It ends with a single page on number recognition for numbers 1-5.

Book 3: Color, Count, and Cut

As the title suggests, this book is all about colors and shapes, counting, and cutting and pasting. Each color (red, yellow, green, blue, orange, purple, brown, and black) is introduced along with a shape (octagon, triangle, rectangle, circle, diamond, oval, pentagon, and square) — and those pairings are used throughout this and the next book (octagons are always red, for example). This is to help teach color word recognition, I think.

There is a lot of coloring in this book. The images to be colored are generally very large, but simple. Some of them teach other concepts, such as the image of the stoplight. There is also basic cutting and pasting in this book — simple squares to be cut and matched into the appropriate boxes. There is counting and writing up to number 3.

Book 4: Doing My Best

This book combines all of the skills from the previous three books, and adds in more problem solving and writing up to number 4. Color word recognition is more important in this book, as shown in the first two pictures. The pages in this book also take more time to complete.

Sprout’s Perspective

She isn’t old enough to really explain her opinions to me, so I’ll do my best to interpret based on her behavior while doing her preschool work. She worked in these books for about 2 months without much of a schedule or structure. She started them just after turning 3.5 years old.

She most enjoys the pre-writing skill building. She likes to match, circle, and cross out items. She likes to write numbers, though she struggles with some perfectionism. As her writing improves, she becomes more eager to practice writing the numbers. She learned most of the color words through these workbooks. She most enjoys cutting and gluing. Her scissor skills improved dramatically through just these books (and time and physical maturity, of course). She also likes to solve problems.

She dislikes coloring the most. She colors for fun in coloring books and on paper without a second thought. She did not appreciate being told what colors to use on which objects. She rushed through most of the coloring, and it was a struggle to even get her to do it at all. We ended up weaving in book D with book C to break up the monotony of all that coloring in the third book.

My Perspective

I most appreciate the simplicity of the plain line drawings in these books. They are not bright, colorful, and overly stimulating. For most of the books, the time requirement for each page is perfect — about 10-15 minutes for Sprout. That is about how long a 3-year-old can focus. Toward the end of the last book, she was being stretched to closer to 20 minutes per page, which I also appreciated. I like to recognize what stage a child is in and of what they are capable while still gently coaxing them to mature and grow.

The third book was frustrating to me because there was a lot of coloring. Maybe it would be a welcome relief to some children, but Sprout was unhappy with it. Some of the images to be colored were quite large and daunting to a child who isn’t excited to color them. Also, the book focused heavily on teaching the colors through repetition. Sprout did not need to be taught the colors and could have done without so much repetition. As I said, I could see some children loving the third book most of all, but it wasn’t enjoyable for Sprout.

Summary

I liked this preschool curriculum enough to get the next set of books for Sprout to use for kindergarten. I intend to use these again for JB when he turns 3 years old in the fall, so that he can “do school” with his sister, which I know he will appreciate.

If you are looking for an inexpensive, easy transition into homeschooling with a toddler/preschooler, I recommend these books.

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She Knits: Squirt’s Vest

This was a fun knit, and I found a new designer to “follow”.

Progression Info
Started – December 8, 2017
Completed – January 10
Duration – 33 days = 4.7 weeks

I put this down for several days at a time.

Pattern Info
Sigga by Sanne Bjerregaard
Ravelry

This is a lovely (free!) pattern by a Danish baby knitwear designer. She has become a new favorite of mine — I want to knit so many of her designs! This one incorporates an interesting ribbing with faux-cabling that looks like little bubbles. It was easy and fun to make.

I knit the 6-9 month size hoping this will fit Squirt next fall and winter. It is very, very stretchy — I think she would outgrow the length before the width!

Yarn Info
Valley Yarns Huntington
75% superwash merino wool, 25% nylon
Colorway – arctic
1.44 skeins = 313.9 yds used

This yarn was left from my Garland Socks. It is a machine-washable sock blend, perfect for baby things.

Photos

She Cooks: Crispy French Fries

I love French fries. I like homestyle restaurant versions. I like greasy fast food versions. I like them with the skins on and with the skins off. I even like the bagged, frozen supermarket versions — yes, even the off-brands!

I like them so much that I don’t buy them. You see, if there is a bag of frozen French fries in the freezer, and if I have a working oven to cook them, I will eat them. All of them. In a very short time frame.

So I don’t buy them. (OK, in full honesty I do buy them, very, very occasionally. But only if we will eat them all at one meal!)

I do make French fries, though. Sometimes. And I do so love them. They take time and some effort, so I don’t make them too often. It’s a perfect balance.

And I’m going to show you how to make them, too. These are not just French fries, but guaranteedcrispy French fries. Yum!

Crispy Homemade French Fries

Ingredients:

Potatoes (I like russet potatoes; about 1 small potato per person)

Frying oil (high smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, peanut…)

Seasonings (we are a salt and pepper family, but Cajun blend seasonings or “seasoned salt” is great, too)

Procedure:

Peel the potatoes (optional). Cut into slices about 1/4″ thick. I do this by cutting the potato lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slabs, then those slabs into 1/4″ thick strips.

Cover with generously salted water. Bring to a boil and cook briefly, about 2-3 minutes. The potatoes should be just fork tender, but not falling apart. Think potato salad, not mashed potatoes!

Meanwhile, set up a French fry draining station, using a cooling rack over a baking tray. One rack will be sufficient for 4-5 small potatoes. You may need multiple racks.

When the potatoes are justfork tender, drain them thoroughly, then spread them in a single layer on the cooling racks. Allow them to rest and dry out for a few minutes (a good time to preheat your cooking oil).

Heat about 1/2″ of oil in a heavy skillet. Cast iron really works best here, if you have it. Heat the oil until shimmering. Test the oil readiness by holding the end of a potato in it. The potato should immediately begin sizzling, like this:

When the oil is ready, carefully place potatoes into the oil, in a single layer. Adjust the burner setting so that the potatoes sizzle gently, like this:

Cook the potatoes until they are golden brown. The darker they get, the crunchier they will be. But also, the less fluffy they will be inside. So, it is a balance of perfect browning. Every couple of minutes, use tongs to gently “stir” the potatoes to ensure they don’t stick to the skillet or each other. Turn them a few times, also.

When they look about like this:

carefully remove them back onto the cooling rack. Immediately season to your liking, while the fries are still hot.

As they rest here, they will soften slightly. It is best to eat them as soon as possible.

But don’t burn your mouth! 😉

Tip: don’t toss out that oil! Allow it to cool completely. Using a small strainer over a funnel, pour it into a glass canning jar. It can be reused several times, so long as you are frying “bland” things in it.<<<<<<<<<<<
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A Year of Crafting: 2017

This year has been busy for us. Nate took a new job, we were temporarily apart during weekdays for 6 weeks, we moved our home contents into temporary storage, we stayed with my parents-in-law for 6 weeks, and we moved into our new house. Oh, and since about July, I’ve been growing another human. 🙂 It’s been a busy year.

That means I did not finish as many projects in 2017 as I did in 2016. Less than half as many, actually!

Project Totals

Projects: 19
crochet: 2 (11%)
cross-stitch: 1 (5%)
embroidery: 0
knit: 16 (84%)
quilting: 0
sewing: 0

gifted: 8 (42%)
designed: 0

I made 20 fewer projects than last year. I knit a greater percentage of my projects this year (49% last year). I kept only my knitting and crochet supplies unpacked during the move. My sewing machine is still in its box, in fact!

Knitting has become my default hobby, I would say. I feel most competent with it, it is portable, and I can do most knitting with the kids around.

I also relied completely on patterns this year! No designing/improvising at all. Well, I did alter a couple of patterns, but I just did not have the energy to start a project completely from scratch!


Yarn Totals

Total Yardage: 5,912.52 yards (That’s 3.36 miles of yarn!)
acrylic: 1,550.72 yds (26%)
cotton: 278.42 yds (5%)
nylon: 144.09 yds (2%)
wool: 3,939.29 yds (67%)

Even though I made fewer projects, I used more yarn this year than last (about 600 yards more). I used much more acrylic and wool this year, but used less variety overall (6 different fiber categories last year versus only 4 this year).

I have actually begun working with a fiber I’ve never used before — linen. But that project isn’t factored in here because it isn’t finished yet!


Plans for Next Year

My crafting goals for 2018 are centered around the new baby girl, Squirt, who should join our family at the start of spring. Since I don’t know what life will be like with 3 kids (age 4 years and younger!), I haven’t set any year-long goals.

WIP Finishing

I want to finish my Asagi blouse before summer. I am working on the second front yoke, then will begin knitting the body from the chest downward. I will be modifying the pattern, so there may be some trial and error happening on that. This is proving to be a good background project to work on during quieter moments.

Before beginning any new projects, I want to finish the vest I started for Squirt.

New Projects

To go with the bubbly vest, I want to knit a coordinating hat using that same rib pattern, but in a gray color. And, if there is enough gray or blue yarn left, I’ll knit baby socks, too, and make it a full set!

I want to knit or crochet 2 newborn-sized hats for Squirt, plus 1 or 2 more newborn hats as a gift for an expectant friend.

If there is linen yarn left from my Asagi, I want to knit or crochet a summer baby dress or blouse for Squirt with the leftover yarn. We could match!

I want to sew a baby quilt for her, too. (I need to finish getting my sewing space in order!)

Lastly, I want to knit a baby dress or cardigan as a gift for that same expectant friend.


Overall, 2017 was a busy, but very good, year. What’s not to love about a new house, new friends, and expectations of a new baby. 🙂

She Knits: Pennyroyal—esque Mitts

I had yarn left from my Pennyroyal Hat, so I set out to make matching mittens.

Progression Info
Started – November 21
Completed – December 6
Duration – 15 days = 2.1 weeks

Pattern Info
Basic Mitten Pattern by Ann Budd
The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns

I love this book of patterns. It gives instructions for a variety of gauges and sizes. So you choose your stitch gauge (in this case, I had 5 stitches per inch) and the size you want to make (I made woman’s medium), and all the numbers for casting on and increasing/decreasing are all worked out for you! It’s quite handy, really. 🙂

Another bonus is that the patterns are basic with no stitch design in them — which makes them perfect for adding your own! I took the little chevron pattern from the Pennyroyal Hat I made, and added it to the back of the hand of each mitt.

I did run into some trouble. First, for some reason, I ended up with 1 less stitch than I ought to on the hand of the first mitt. I simply omitted a decrease, then mimicked my mistake on the second mitt. No big deal. I knit the entire first mitt, except grafting the top closed, so that if I ran out of yarn, I could go back and shorten it. I did run out of yarn, so had to make topless mitts. But I wasn’t thinking when I finished the first mitt — I had already knit and finished off the thumb! Taking that out to shorten it was somewhat of a pain, but I managed.

I used the tubular cast-on for the first time, to start the mitts. I love how it looks and will use it again. However, when I tried to use the matching tubular bind off at the top of the topless mitt… it didn’t work out so well. It was very fiddly and difficult to do, and did not look nice at all. So I removed that and did a basic stretchy bind off, instead.

Besides making them topless and adding the little chevron eyelet design, I did take Ann’s advice to achieve a tighter cuff by reducing the cast on number by 10%.

Yarn Info
Malabrigo Yarn Rios
100% merino wool
Colorway – purple mystery
0.43 skeins = 90.3 yds used

I had exactly half a skein going into this, so about 105 yards. I was able to get to the middle of the hand decreases on the second mitt before running out. So, only about 20 yards or so shy! These are still comfortable, though. This yarn is incredibly soft and squishy, and the color is beautiful.

Photos