Thursday, June 21, 2018

How We're Doing Art Study in the Early Years

We are doing art study even though the littles in this house are 2 and 4 years old!

We have most of the Mini Masters board book series and love reading them. Because each book covers one artist, we have chosen to use them to determine what artists we will study (in the style of Charlotte Mason) during the little years. For each artist, I find about 6 printable art prints from that artist and have them printed at Office Depot. I then laminate them.

As we study each artist, we study each print for a total of 2 weeks. During that time, we learn it's name, we observe it closely - noting interesting things that we see, and I display it during "off time" on our recipe book holder in the homeschool/playroom for them to observe during the day.

After we have studied a print and moved on to a new one, we put the print in our Hoosier Family Art Book - a 3 ring notebook that we are filling with prints we have studied. This binder is available to the girls to look at whenever they would like. (Katie LOVES art study - she can regularly be found looking through the book of prints.)

While we study each artist, we also read the Mini Masters board book several times. The sweet stories help the girls anchor the prints of each artist to a story and stories help littles remember information. I love the way they will help the girls build a foundation of knowledge in the arts.

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We also have and love several of the Katie books. These are sweet stories of a girl named Katie (what originally caught my eye!) and her adventures in paintings at the museum. The books aren't strictly sorted by artist or time period, but they do expose the kiddo to great art (with name and artist) in the context of a story. We kind of love them!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Teaching Phonics - Frugal, Minimal, & FUN

I have used just about every phonics system out there it feels like. But, my favorite way to teach phonics is super frugal, minimal, and FUN. Especially valuable when teaching a little one to read.

I will link to the products that we use, though a cheaper alternative (especially if you already have one in your home!) would work well. Teaching phonics should not be expensive and need not require many materials at all.

We spend 10 minutes or less on phonics lessons per day - it's a fun time of playing for the two of us.

My favorite way to teach phonics skills is to use a simple phonetic primer (Abeka, Alphaphonics, etc.). The one I am using with Meghan is from Easy Peasy - you can obtain it free from this link beginning with lesson 112. You can also order the printed book which includes the McGuffey Eclectic Primer and First Reader as well as the phonics curriculum - for ease of use, I purchased the book and had it spiral bound at Office Depot.

(A recent reading lesson of Meghan's - she was working on reading the "mp" words.
A small book, a basket of magnets, and a magnetic board are all I use to teach phonics.) 

Reading lists of words to practice phonics skills is kind of boring (there's a reason they have been known to call it "drill and kill"). But it is an important part of learning to use phonics skills. To make it  more fun (because, she's four!), I build the words from magnets for her to read. Sometimes I build a word for her to read, and sometimes I provide the first word and some additional letters and have her change words within a word family. For some reason, magnets turn drill into play!

Materials We Use:

  • Easy Peasy Phonics Lessons (found in this book with the McGuffey Readers or free on the website)
  • Educational Insights AlphaMagnets (I love these because, in Montessori fashion, vowels are a different color than consonants to help develop phonics understanding - however, any magnetic letters could be used!) - We have 2 sets of lowercase letters and one set of uppercase and it's been more than enough to meet our needs (even when she wants to spell sentences or a whole word ladder). We store them in a basket on a shelf in the dining room.
  • Visual Edge Slant Board (This is pricey, but awesome. The Harmon distance it provides improves reading skills and fine motor skills - and our girls struggle with fine motor skills so it was a wise investment for us. Any magnetic surface, like a cookie sheet, could work!)

In addition to this phonics work, we read other books using a combination of her sight word knowledge and her developing phonics skills. We own some of these and check out tons more from the library. Being able to read stories is highly rewarding for little ones learning to read. We love the Guided Science Readers from Scholastic, Dick and Jane stories, Abeka First Grade Readers (second hand - $.25 a piece!), and McGuffey Eclectic Readers. We also love looking through books in the easy reader section of our (awesome) library for books that she thinks look interesting. 

And, of course, we read aloud a TON! Reading aloud allows her to enjoy stories well above her reading level, to hear the cadence of reading, and provides continued motivation to learn to read better. Also, it's just fun to do together!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Our Homeschool Play Room

We re-did the Play Room in order to make it a Homeschool Play Room! As we are planning to begin working on Year 0/Kindergarten with Meghan this fall, having all of the learning toys upstairs seemed a good decision. Also having all of my preschool resources to create new activities for Katie to work on in her therapy (she has Global Developmental Delay) upstairs would make things much easier for me. 

We kept many of the toys in this room and some of them went to the girls' rooms. We originally planned to do this project and at the same time move the girls into a room together and turn Katie's room into a new Play Room. We won't be combining the girls into a room together in the near future, but still wanted to create a homeschool space on the first floor. So, here's what we came up with! I love it!! 

(First in video form, and then in photographs.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Food Room

We love using this unfinished space in our basement as a "food room" for storing a stockpile of foods we use and eat on a regular basis. This is a place we store the foods I have canned and foods that we purchase at bulk or on sale. This room has lots of shelves, several plastic drawers, and our deep freezer. It's also where we store the canning and other food preservation tools. Come along on a tour.....

This is the view from outside the door - most of the foods are stored on the right side of the closet. The deep freezer is just to the left. Ahead is the sump pump and some food drawers. 

Right inside the door and to the left you can see the deep freezer. On top are two crates that hold condiments and juices. They grey tubs next to the sump pump store painting supplies, music books & supplies, extra storage containers, and our dehydrator. To the left of that (not visible) is a small bookshelf full of empty canning jars. 

Immediately to the right when you enter are the drawers of food - mostly pasta & crackers. The bottom two gray bins are Christmas decorations and the top one holds our favorite tortilla chips from Costco.

Next to the gray boxes is this shelving unit. Cole added extra strong wood to the shelves to make them able to stand up to the storage that it is expected of them. The bottom buckets store grains in food storage buckets with gamma seal lids. 

Above the shelving unit, the gray boxes, and the sets of drawers is this shelf Cole installed. It's a great place to store cereal boxes and things that we do not need to access often. 

To the left of these shelves is an old filing cabinet in which we store water bottles in case power or water goes out temporarily. 

This room is oddly shaped - this shelf is along the wall that is the side of the stairs - it starts near the deep freezer and moves back diagonally into the corner near the bookshelf with the canning jars on it. 

This shelf holds all of my canning supplies and other preserving supplies.

Our deep freezer is quite packed! We store lots of meat, cheese, vegetables, and fruit (and a bit of junk!).

That's our food room. It's an oddly shaped little room but it fits our needs quite well. Once a week, I go through our pantry and fridge upstairs and determine what things we need to have restocked. I quick trip down here restocks our pantry for day-to-day cooking. 

When I need to go grocery shopping, I come down to this room to determine what things we need to restock our food storage. Keeping this room fully stocked makes it possible to make almost all of the meals that we enjoy even if we can't get to the store. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Education is an Atmosphere :: Winter Edition

Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life....Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking -- the strain would be too great -- but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest.
--Charlotte Mason

When we say that "education is an atmosphere," we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's level. 
-- Charlotte Mason

We have a home that includes our children and makes space for them to participate in family life; but it is not what would be called a 'child-environment'. Our home is a space for the family. It is a natural place where learning and growing can take place in the context of real, family life. Here is some of what that looked like this winter: 


**NOTE** I don't share these images to make it seems as though we have figured this out or do it the 'right way' - this is just what an education atmosphere looks like for us in our home. I know I am inspired by seeing pictures of what a homeschool home looks like in the homes of others. I pray that sharing these posts provides some of that type of inspiration to your home.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Handiwork for Littles :: Plastic Canvas Sewing

Plastic canvas is an excellent medium for helping littles learn hand sewing skills.

It helps them to confidently place their stitches in the appropriate place.

It also helps them to confidently form a variety of stitches.

Meghan has been working on learning sewing skills during our handiwork time of school and she is LOVING it. She begs to work on her sewing even when we aren't doing school.

So far she is just working on a running stitch and very content to keep going with that stitch.

However, in the future plastic canvas can be used to teach cross stitching, blanket stitching, and a variety of other embroidery stitches. It's quite a flexible learning task. It's quite inexpensive. And it can also be used to make gifts for the grandparents come the holiday season (Grandparents, forget that you read that by next Christmas!).

The materials we currently have are: large piece of plastic canvas (though there are a variety of sizes and shapes available that we will likely use in future projects), a blunt metal needle (a real tool - but safe), and cotton yarn (the type used for making dishcloths). In total, the materials we currently have cost about $5 - and they will last us quite some time.

As skills develop, a quick Pinterest search will reveal a variety of fun projects that a little can work on to create something useful with their new skill. Because, handiwork with no purpose is just a craft....and we much prefer that our creative work be beneficial and useful!

I hope you and your little can enjoy this fun handiwork project together! We highly recommend it along with a good story or some soft beautiful music!