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.

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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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Eight Dollars in a Three-Year-Old’s Pocket

Sprout spent her saved-up birthday money recently. She had $8 in her jeans pocket heading into Walmart.

First, she bought something she needed.

Well, she didn’t need a new comb. But, in a toddler’s world of necessities and wants, I would rank comb closer to the former. She was careful. She browsed the entire hair section, gently touching glittery hair ties, packs of neon hair bows, and “funny-looking” headbands.

But she didn’t let any of those things dissuade her. She “needed” a new comb. A pink one. The only pink comb came in a pack of 2 with a black one. “I don’t need two,” she said. “But I want pink. At least when the pink one is all used up, I will have the black one!”

Two combs for $2 (and some change). I decided, internally, to cover the change and taxes because she isn’t quite ready to learn about rounding and “giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”😉

Then, she chose something to give away.

She wanted to buy a toy for her new baby sister. I explained that she had $6 left, and that if she bought for her sister, she might not have money to buy any toys for herself.

That was alright by her. She was determined that she wanted to spend her own money on a toy for her baby sister.

She looked at bigger toys that light up, play cell phones, and large stuffed animals. Finally, she found a box of small plush rattles.

A small toy for a new baby, $2. It was “just right,” though she was not sure her sister would like it. “But maybe she will.”

Finally, she bought something fun for herself.

With $4 remaining, she looked up and down every toy aisle. What caught her eye was a stretchy, soft-bodied “life-like”… lizard. The very last one, and it didn’t have a tag. She was so sure this was what she wanted.

So I tracked down an employee who gave me the shelf tag to take to the cashier.

A $3 lizard for herself.

My heart was full, and I am still in awe of this child.

Everything about the experience amazes me yet.

Her restraint. She didn’t once ask me for more money so that she could buy something bigger or “better.”

Her determination to buy each of the things she wanted with the money she had.

Her generosity in thinking of someone else before herself. Someone she has not yet met, in fact! She didn’t choose the toys she liked best for someone else (the light up ones). She carefully considered what the other person would enjoy.

Her joy and pride in doing this by herself (mostly) and being successful.

I’ve tucked her first receipt away in her baby book. I know this is a memory I will share with her into her adulthood. Such sweet innocence and purity found in just $8 in the hands of a three-year-old.

Preschool: 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!

She Knits: Sprout’s Snowflake Sweater

I knit this little sweater so quickly that I never blogged about it! Oops!

Progression Info
Started – May 7
Completed – May 10
Duration – 3 days = 0.4 weeks

These dates are estimates based on projects I made before and after. I usually start a new project the same or next day after finishing one.

Pattern Info
Snowflake by tincanknits
Ravelry
Size: 1-2 years

Confession time: I have a love affair with tincanknits designs. Seriously. They are beautiful and/or super cute, offered in a complete range of sizes (usually newborn through 4XL), thoroughly detailed, well-priced, and just… well, perfect!

I won a pattern-download-of-choice (with a spending limit) giveaway of sorts for the second time, and chose this pattern to be given. I chose a tincanknits pattern the first time, too, and if I ever win another, I have a whole wish list of TCK patterns I would love, love, love to own someday.

My only disappointment is in the sizing, but it’s not a fault of the pattern. I did measure Sprout, and I did choose the appropriate size in the pattern which was to give about 1.5″ positive (extra) ease. However, I regretfully did not swatch and check my knitting gauge, and I think my gauge was a little too tight. So the sweater turned out a bit snug. She can wear it comfortably over a tank top or camisole style shirt, though, so not all is lost.

Yarn Info
Garnstudio DROPS Cotton Merino
50% cotton, 50% merino wool
Colorways – beige, violet
2.56 skeins = 335 yds used

I am not the brilliant mind behind this pattern and yarn combination. I have a dear friend in Poland who sent me this yarn with the idea that it might make a nice Snowflake for Sprout. She was totally right. This yarn is very soft and lovely to knit.

And I have enough left for a matching hat, either because my friend sent so much or because my gauge on the sweater was so off that I used much less yarn than I should have. 😀 Either way, Sprout will get a matching hat, soon.

Photo

I’m so sorry I don’t have better pictures of this, but having finished it so quickly, and with so many Life Things happening around that time (like Nate deciding on a job offer that would require moving, etc.), I didn’t get a very good one.

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She Knits: Cosine Ripple Doll Blanket

I started this to use up the leftover yarn from the “snow set” I made for a new cousin in the family. I did not have nearly enough for it to be a full baby blanket, so I stopped when I ran out of yarn and gave it to Sprout for a baby doll blanket.

Progression
Started – February 6
Completed – February 10
Duration – 4 days = 0.6 weeks

Pattern Info
Cosine Ripple Baby Blanket by Sam Godden
Ravelry

This is a great pattern and makes a very pretty design. I intend to keep this in mind for future baby blanket knitting I might do.

Yarn Info
Knit Picks Swish DK
100% superwash merino wool
Colorways – marble heather, green tea heather, white, marine heather
3.02 skeins = 371 yds used

This yarn is really, really lovely in garter stitch. Very soft and squishy. I would love to knit a full baby blanket in this yarn and pattern combination sometime! Plus, there are so many colors to choose from that a good match with the nursery can be made.

Photos