Homeschooling: Trying Something New

I wrote about my easy-going preschool at home approach with Sprout. The method worked and Sprout was happy to “do school” most days until she got through the first of the dollar store workbooks she was using. That book was all about shapes and colors. The other three books were about numbers, letters, and handwriting… and were basically all writing practice. That’s where we hit a wall.

Sprout can write several letters on her own, but she struggles writing in a confined space. She doesn’t have the fine motor skills for that just yet. She became frustrated having to write on every single page, and began to protest school.

Curriculum Change

That was my clue to evaluate what we were doing and make a change. I bought an “official” preschool curriculum for 3-4 year olds. I knew it would begin with pages she could complete very easily, but I wanted the slow skill-building that such a curriculum offers. The dollar store workbook approach had no progression of skills.

We intend to use this publisher for most of our kids’ schooling (of course, being mindful if things aren’t going well or if it doesn’t suit a particular child), so it was the logical choice for preschool. There is a kindergarten (preschool for 4-5 year olds), and then it begins with first grade. According to current education laws in my state, Sprout will need to start kindergarten at age 5, which will be in 2019. So, I’m kind of starting her a year “early,” but I’m doing so with the plan to stop and evaluate with each set of books she completes. Maybe at 5 she will be ready for first grade work. Or maybe she will need another year of kindergarten work. I’m comfortable with either option and am in no rush to get her beginning first grade early.

Other Changes

Since we would begin a new curriculum, I considered it a great time to implement some other changes, too.

More Structure

I have always let Sprout decide whether we would do any school work each day. That works great when the school work is fun, but less so when it is challenging or new. My goal is to complete at least 3 pages per day, 3 days per week.

Also, we will begin our school time with prayer. I introduced Sprout to a simple prayer structure some time ago, which we will use for school time. I ask her to think of one thing she is thankful to God for and one thing for God to help her with. I sometimes feed her ideas, if she is struggling to think of something.

Bible Memory

I have wanted to introduce Bible memory work to Sprout for a long time. She has, like most children, an excellent memory. She remembers scripts from entire cartoon episodes, and she knows several kids’ songs and hymns. I know she is capable. It seemed natural to use before-school-time to work on this.

Then, I wasn’t sure where in the Bible to start. She doesn’t have the comprehension skills to memorize single verses of a broader story — it wouldn’t make any sense to her. Where can one find short, 1-2 verse sentences that are mostly single ideas? Proverbs, of course! So we are beginning in Proverbs. For now, I’m going to see if she can memorize one verse per week.

Record Keeping

Record keeping isn’t required in my state, for now, and especially not at this point when her schooling is optional. However, I considered it would be a good habit to begin. I will keep her daily records until she learns to read and write, then she can keep her own. This also provides us with some accountability to Nate and makes recalling our school day much easier.

I chose a small day planner. In each daily box, I write her praise and prayer request, which Bible verse we worked on, and which workbook pages she completed. On the monthly overview page, she puts a sticker on the day we have done school work.


Occupying Myself

Finally, I needed an occupation for myself during her schooling. I can’t work on house chores because she needs frequent assistance; and don’t want to work on house chores because the kids enjoy helping me. I found that being unoccupied while helping her with school caused me to over-praise her and to hover over her, giving too many reminders.

My solution is to do my own studying of the Bible during that time. I can be near her and ready to help when she needs me, but while she works on each page, I can read and busy my own mind. It worked wonderfully today, kept us all happy and calm, and I’m looking forward to the study time.


Fun Activities

Doing school work 3 days per week leaves one day for grocery shopping and, eventually, a library visit, and one day for something fun. I want to use our fun day for crafts or even some low-gear science “projects.” Having the time built into our schedule should help me feel less overwhelmed, I think.

Final Thoughts

This was our first day with this new approach, but I feel very encouraged by how well things went. I will try to give a progress report in a few weeks and let you know how it is working out!

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She is Three

Another year gone away… Sprout is three!

More Big than Little, every day, it seems. I asked her questions for a fun survey… she didn’t really understand some of the questions, so I gave my best guess at what her answers might be, on some of them. 🙂

  • What is your favorite color? “I like blue.” (But later, she told Daddy it is pink.)
  • What is your favorite animal? “I want a tiger.”
  • Favorite book? Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss (It is her request just about every night.)
  • Favorite show and movie? Veggie Tales, Finding “Mee-mo”, “Pooh Bear” (Pooh’s Grand Adventure)
  • Favorite song? She said she didn’t know, but she sings “Amazing Grace,” “Twinkle Little Star,” and “Victory in Jesus” a lot.
  • Favorite food, snacks? She said “those holes ones” — a.k.a. veggie straws, but also wants yogurt, clementine oranges, and pasta most of the time.
  • Favorite clothes to wear or outfit? Her Minnie Mouse dress gets the most love, these days.
  • Favorite game? “My matching game” — Minnie Mouse Memory game
  • Favorite toy? She said she didn’t know, but she plays with her Alphie robot almost every day.
  • Favorite thing to do outside? “Hmm… swing. Yeah, I like that!”
  • Favorite place to go? “A big, giant Walmart!”
  • Favorite thing about your room? “Um… the floor!”
  • What is the yuckiest food? “The yucky muffins.” (failed peanut butter oat muffins)
  • What do you like to take to bed with you? “My dolly.” Her brother’s bunny is another favorite.

She Cooks: Creamy Tomato Pasta

This is a simple, quick lunch I make often for my toddlers. I change the vegetables according to what I have available, and don’t always have cream cheese, but they gladly eat it any which way!

Creamy Tomato Pasta
Serves: 12 (1/2-cup) portions

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta (garden rotini & whole wheat bowties are favorites, here!)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sm yellow onion, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp ketchup
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
4 oz. cream cheese, softened, cubed

Process:

Put salted water on to boil, for pasta. In a separate pot, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in oil/butter for several minutes until very tender. Add garlic and cook briefly (less than a minute). Stir in Italian seasoning, bay leaves, Worcestershire, and ketchup. Add tomato sauce, bring to simmer, and cook on low about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente, drain, return to pot. Stir cream cheese into sauce until melted, then pour over pasta and stir together.

Modifications:

There are several ways to adjust this recipe.

  • add more vegetables to the onion/carrot/celery mix; try eggplant, zucchini, squash, or sweet potato (diced small enough to cook quickly)
  • add peas or chopped baby spinach to the sauce after simmering, before adding the cream cheese
  • add broccoli florets or fresh green beans to the boiling water for the last 2-3 minutes of pasta cooking time
  • substitute 1/4 cup heavy cream or 1/4 cup plain yogurt for the cream cheese
  • add fresh herbs instead of the Italian seasoning
  • like spicy food? replace the ketchup with hot sauce!

The sauce keeps well in the freezer. I only cook 4-6 oz of pasta at a time, and I store the extra sauce in the refrigerator or freezer for another day. That way, the pasta doesn’t swell with sauce and turn mushy!

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sauce on garden rotini pasta

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just the sauce

She Cooks: 2-Ingredient Toddler Dessert, Recipe

This is a recipe, if it can be called such, for a very simple dessert. My toddlers love it. It is healthy and delicious. It begins with just two ingredients, but there are many ways to boost the nutritional value, which I will give below the recipe.

2-Ingredient Toddler Dessert

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen fruit, any combination

1/2-1 cup COLD plain yogurt or whole milk

Procedure:

Blend ingredients until smooth. That’s it! It should be the consistency of a very, very soft ice cream or frozen yogurt; similar to a smoothie but smoother. It can be eaten with a spoon or straw.

Optional additions (stir in after blending):

1-2 tsp sweetener (honey will clump; maple syrup is great); be careful if the fruit used is already sweetened!

1 Tbsp whole flax seed or chia seed

1 Tbsp wheat germ

The picture shows this dessert made with frozen strawberries, vanilla yogurt, maple syrup, flax seed, and wheat germ. The kids love it, and don’t mind the little seeds at all.

yum!

Found on Pinterest: Fingerprint Flowers (Craft)

I found this little kid craft on Pinterest many moons ago. There are many similar ones floating around, but this one from the Crafty Morning blog is the one I first found.

Now that Sprout is old enough to do a craft like this (with help!), I used this technique to decorate a picture frame for my mom for Mother’s Day as a gift from her.

She really, really loved dipping her finger in the paint and then “boop”-ing it on the frame to make the dots. I was surprised how patient she was with me as I wiped her finger and readied the next color.

I found all of the supplies at my local Walmart, and they were very inexpensive. In fact, each item only cost me 99 cents! These particular paint colors were on sale, so I just bought the sale colors. The brushes and frame were regularly 99 cents, so it was a done deal. 🙂

My only disappointment is that I did not plan ahead well enough. I should have painted the words on the frame before helping Sprout “boop” the flowers onto it — then the word “Mother’s” would not have been wonky. In the end, I think that bit of wonkiness lends it a bit of charm, no?

I hope my mom is surprised to get this in the mail (along with another gift, from me) and can find a nice place to put it and see Sprout’s face all the time!

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma!

Happy Mother’s Day, Grandma!