Uncategorized

Native American Studies

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ABOUT THESE LESSONS

November is Native American Heritage Month and so I wanted to spend time learning about Native American history and culture with my two kids (ages 5 and 3). I mostly wanted to start our focus by reading stories. I will say that my 5 year old has a much higher attention span for stories than my 3 year old, but we found some books that she enjoyed as well!

I also want to say: many of the stories and depictions come from an outsider-looking-in perspective. If my children were teenagers they would be able to read narratives written by Native Americans from a variety of tribes and time-periods and perspectives. As it is, we are limited to picture-book material. I have done what I can for their learning level to honor the diversity and complexity of Native Americans.

I also want to say that my style of “school” is play-based: we often do hands-on learning, crafts, and act out stories through play. In doing so, I aim to be sensitive in how Native Americans are depicted. For example, I steer clear of learning materials and books that are cartoonish or cutesy.

Lastly, I think being exposed to the REAL things can be so impactful, even at such young ages. As a part of our learning, we will be taking our annual trip to the Eiteljorg Museum of Native Americans and Western Art. There are kid-friendly interactive elements in this museum: they can design their own totem pole, do some basket weaving, or try to build a teepee.

GENERAL RESOURCES

*Note: We bought our copy of “The Book of Indians” used. I’ve heard that the Classic Reprint edition available on Amazon has some printing errors. This book is written by an outsider, a white man, in the 1930s. There are a few misconceptions in there that can be forgiven for its dated material. Overall the narratives and structure of this book are excellent, fair, and engaging. The book is broken down in to four geographic regions, then each geographic region has 1 chapter devoted a cultural & descriptive context of that region and 2 chapters of narratives following 2 Native children (1 boy, 1 girl) who lived in that region. The stories are engaging and descriptive. The cultural context given covers biodiversity, food, art, music, dwellings, materials, daily life, and so much more! There are wonderfully detailed illustrations in the margins of the stories and a few full-color illustrations. These stories held the attention of my 5 year old but were a bit too long for my 3 year old. 

LESSONS BY GEOGRAPHIC REGION

People of the Forests and Lakes (Eastern)

Books, resources, and crafts coming soon!

People of the Plains

Books, resources, and crafts coming soon!

People of the Deserts and Mesas (Southwest)

Books, resources, and crafts coming soon!

People of the Rivers and the Sea (Pacific Northwest)

Books, resources, and crafts coming soon!

OTHER NOTABLE RESOURCES

*Note: Sherman Alexie has been accused of sexual misconduct so while I absolutely ADORE this book and its modern depiction of a Native American family, I do not give a blanket endorsement to Sherman Alexie.

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Uncategorized

Preschool Habit Training: Obedience

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On Habit Training

“We are not unwilling to make efforts in the beginning with the assurance that by-and-by things will go smoothly; and this is just what habit is, in an extraordinary degree, pledged to effect. The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children” (Charlotte Mason).

I think Habit Training can be viewed in a variety of ways, but I was inspired by Charlotte Mason teachings to begin to do short but meaningful lessons with my oldest (now in his second Preschool year).

I am using the suggestion from Charlotte Mason to focus on just one habit at a time, and to spend 6-8 weeks on that one habit. When we move on to another habit, we still find ways to address and discuss the habit we already did. Obviously, many habits require ongoing parenting efforts, but I wanted to at a minimum set aside some time to address these thing with my children so they can understand on a meta-level why we strive to be people of good character.

Why Obedience?

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Charlotte Mason suggest these top three traits for young children, and it’s a great place to begin if you are new to habit-training because there are lots of great resources out there:

  • Obedience
  • Attention
  • Truthfulness

First, and infinitely the most important, is the habit of obedience. Indeed, obedience is the whole duty of the child, and for this reason—every other duty of the child is fulfilled as a matter of obedience to his parents. Not only so: obedience is the whole duty of man; obedience to conscience, to law, to Divine direction.” (Charlotte Mason)

Readings on Habit Training

My Habit Training Resources

Do I Really Need a Habit Training Curriculum?

The short answer: no.

Recently, lots of questions have arisen as to the use of Laying Down the Rails for Children for the Preschool years. It’s a pricey investment, so I really want to stress that I do not think this is something you HAVE to have. However, if you are interested in Habit Training as an ongoing thing (or interested in Charlotte Mason Homeschooling), then I do suggest adding this to your wishlist. I justified the expense now because I see us using it for years to come. It is not a curriculum that you just do for one year and then trash.

Also, I’d like to suggest that most habits for preschool-aged kids seem to come through (1) your everyday parenting, (2) incorporating chores & responsibility into your daily rhythm, and (3) developing intrinsically valuable habits like Attention as you go through your preschool curriculum.

That said, after spending a decent amount of time on the Habit of Obedience with my nearing-5-year-old, I am super grateful that we have done these lessons. We have a new framework for discussing rules, why they are in place, and why it’s important to obey instructions. Not surprisingly, we lately have had some tough moments as I write this where discussion like this have been super relevant.

Playful Learning Obedience Lessons for Preschoolers

Memory Verse

Obdience Memory Verse

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1)

Feel free to steal the image above I created for our memory verse!

Week 1

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Define Obedience: Obedience is behavior that’s respectful and mindful of rules and laws. In terms of the Bible, to obey God means to hear God’s Word and follow it.

** Before each lesson each week, we reviewed our Memory Verse and reminded ourselves what Obedience means!

Review The Ten Commandments – discuss why God’s laws are in place: We must not do these things because God says they are not right. Give examples of lying or stealing.

Resources PicturedThe Jesus Storybook Bible and The Ology and Bible Peg Dolls

Week 2

Play Simon Says. Discuss how important (1) listening to instructions and (2) taking correct action are to obedience. What happens if you don’t listen or if you do the action at the wrong time?

Other options: Mother May I? or Red Light, Green Light

Week 3

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Read Library Lion and talk about obeying rules and when it might be okay to not follow the rules (e.g. safety issues). We also played “library”, transforming our living room into a library and role-played following and not-following rules like being loud or running.

Read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and talk about what makes it hard to obey rules (e.g. not listening, wanting to do something other than what is being asked of us)

Week 4

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Obedience for protection – blindfolded maze game. Blindfold the kids and have them walk using your instructions around the room or outdoors without running in to anything. Discuss the importance of listening precisely to instructions.

Also: proceed with caution if you have a wild & daring little one.

Week 5

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Obedience lesson with traffic signs.

Resources:

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Play around with toy cars, pretend roads, and traffic signs. Explain what all of the signs mean and have the kids try to follow them. If someone does not obey the signs, have a police car come pull them over.

Added bonus: my kids, as a result of this lesson, are now super in to finding traffic signs on our car rides. It helps make the car rides a little more fun!

Week 6

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Biblical example of obedience: Noah

Craft: God told Noah to make an Ark according to specific instructions. Make an Ark out of craft sticks.

Resources pictured:

Week 7

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Do some dog training together. How do we get our new puppy to do a new trick? What makes him want to obey? (We recently adopted a new dog so this actually lined up perfectly)

If you don’t have a dog maybe watch an instructional video online or find a friend with a pet to go visit.

Week 8

Play King/Queen for the Day OR Police Officer for the Day. Discuss authority structures and how being in charge means a lot of responsibility. Parallel this to God being in charge and how he is the perfect example. God loves us perfectly and wants the best for us, so of course we should listen to what He says and do it!

When Did We Do These Lessons?

I typically saved these for our afternoon — either during our tea & snack time or for our outdoor time. This way, we were not doing anything else “scheduled” during that time. Again, I only did this once a week.

What’s Next?

Next we will be doing the Habit of Attention. I plan to follow a similar format where we’ll have a memory verse, Biblical example, game (or two), craft, and some picture books.

Additional Info

You may also find my blog post on our Preschool Daily Rhythm helpful, to see how Habit Training fits in to our overall weekly schedule.

I also enjoy some of the Kids of Integrity site and their Obedience post — there are several great memory verse and Bible story options here. I do not use all of that info but it’s certainly helpful if you are not interested in Laying Down the Rails for Children.

Burgess Book Lessons: Obedience — this post has a lot of other ideas for Obedience lessons.

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Letter Unit Activities · Uncategorized

Preschool Supplies & Resources by Learning Category

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Another Supply List??

Up until now I have resisted putting up a supply list on my blog because I did not think it would be helpful to re-invent the wheel. There are a ton of great preschool supply lists out there already — I personally started with The Peaceful Preschool supply list since that was the curriculum we used and will be repeating again.

However, here’s what I have to offer that might be a unique perspective:

  1. We live in a small house and do not have much storage space so I try to keep the supplies to a minimum,
  2. I prefer nature-based materials because they cost no money, have added sensory benefits, and do not harm the earth when disposed of, and
  3. I’ve done a whole year with The Peaceful Preschool and now that I know what we really need and actually gets use, I wish there were some things that I had not bought so I have noted those things below.

I plan to share my supply list based on must-have essentials, nice-to-have items, and, lastly, things I wish I would have skipped buying.

Note, though, that even the “must-haves” on my lists are my based on my preference and what fits with our preschool curriculum. Feel free to disagree with me!

Each supply list also includes some additional resources like free printables that I’ve found useful over the last year.

The Categories

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Click on a link below to jump to a specific category of supplies & resources:

Lesson Preparation

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Must-haves:
  • Paper
  • Pens, Pencils, Highlighters
  • Scissors

Seriously. If you are on a tight budget, I think you can totally get by not having a printer & laminator & paper cutter!! You could have The Homeschool Printing Company print your curriculum and any worksheets, and not do any weekly printing from home. This is preschool, not college! Granted, this works for a non-worksheet-intensive curriculum like The Peaceful Preschool. There are other curriculums out there that require A LOT of printouts, in which case you probably are better off owning one!

Nice-to-have:

The printer I purchased also has a scanner which I use on a weekly basis to keep digital files of all my children’s artwork.

I resisted buying a paper cutter at first but when I finally got one it was SO much better. Such a time-saver for cutting 3-Part Cards especially. I do think if you are not using a lot of printables you could skip all this stuff, though. I have had the one linked for over a year and have not needed to replace the blade yet.

Then there’s the regular office stuff like scissors, paper, hole punch, etc. that you likely already have.

Lesser-used but still nice to have:

The corner rounder cuts through laminated card stock. I love that thing so much.

I use binder rings to hold A-Z memory verses and other flash cards together.

The circle hole punches I have used for materials preparation but the kids also use them for arts & craft projects.

Read Alouds

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See this blog post for all the resources I use to select Preschool books.

Letter Formation & Phonics

Must-haves:
Nice-to-have:
What I bought but wish I hadn’t:

* The Peaceful Preschool has you make your own DIY sensory letters using their printouts and glitter glue. These are redundant since we have the sandpaper letters listed above. My kids also had a hard time using the glitter glue tubes without frustration. AND, I’ve read that glitter has a negative impact on the environment so have tried to stay away from it.

** We bought this book and my son enjoyed it to a degree. He liked the stickers, but really I did not feel it was worth the money, in the end, because we already did enough letter-learning activities and I felt that this book was not adding anything of value. 

Other Letter Learning Supplies: Printables & Resources

Numbers & Counting

Must-haves:
  • Sandpaper numbers
  • The Peaceful Preschool number cards (with purchased curriculum)
  • The Peaceful Preschool hundreds chart (with purchased curriculum)
  • Manipulatives for counting. Here are some options:
    • Natural materials: acorns, sticks, cut wood discs, rocks, shells
    • Beads, marbles, popsicle sticks, buttons, pom poms
  • Trays / compartments for counting (you can even write numbers in these):
    • Egg cartons
    • Muffin tins
    • Ice cube trays

Note: Preschool Math is a category where I feel like it is easy to get creative, see what is already in your house, or explore a thrift store. In my opinion, there is very little spending that needs to be done here for preschool. Recycle your egg cartons or thrift some trays and tins!

Also, I feel a lot of counting for this age can be done simply by reading books and through the regular day-in day-out play. If I do a pre-planned math activity, I try to keep it playful.

Nice-to-have:
Other Supplies: Printables & Resources

Fine Motor Skills

Must-haves:
Nice-to-have:

Again, a lot of things here can be found around your house or thrifted!

Sensory Play

Generally I prefer the great outdoors for this type of play: playing in dirt or mud or water. But, we have winters and rainy days in Indiana and it’s nice to have a few fun options for indoor sensory play:

What I bought but wish I hadn’t:
  • Water Beads (I just don’t care for the waste and environmental impact of these)

Large Motor Skills

Practical Life

For us, this mainly means including my children in our regular daily rhythm.

We have daily chore tasks which I discussed on our Daily Rhythm blog post.

We try to give the kids independence in self-care as appropriate.

Here are a few things I have found useful to have around:

Arts & Crafts

This category can get CRAZY real fast. My main recommendation for those first starting out: do not feel like you need EVERY SINGLE art supply available to your children right off the bat! Pick just a couple, see how they like it, and as budget allows try to slowly incorporate some others. We have a wide variety of supplies right now but my children love crayons and watercolor the most. If I was on a super tight budget I would start with those. I’m putting a wide variety in my “must-haves” list but know I do not think you need ALL of these things.

Must-haves:
Nice-to-have:
What I bought but wish I hadn’t:
  • Glitter
  • Sequins
Seen on other lists I’ve never bought:
  • Contact paper

Color Recognition

For color sorting there are a lot of cheap and DIY options:

  • I hand-painted our wood jewelry sorting tray (with 12 spots), and we use this a lot.
  • You could also make your own version of something like this using an old cupcake tin & construction paper.
  • We have also used our colored bowls from IKEA or I just make something simple with construction paper.
  • You could also make something simple out of felt if you are that kind of crafty.

I also love Grimm’s rainbow peg dolls that could double as a toy and used for color sorting preschool activities.

Lastly, I love these FREE Color Nomenclature Cards to introduce color names.

Shapes Recognition

I mainly use this shape sorting printable set I created to go along with our Melissa and Doug Wood Shape Sorter — we had the shape sorter already so I went with that. You can find the free printable on this page.

I also love these free shape flashcards from tinyn3rds.

Outdoor Play & Nature Study

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See the following blog posts for more detailed information for this category:

Here is what I use for a nature journal for my kids:

Geography & Culture

See this blog post on our Preschool Cultural Studies supplies.

Art & Music Appreciation

Bible & Spirituality

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See this blog post on our Bible Lesson supplies and units.

Games & Puzzles

Do not underestimate the value of games & puzzles! I think this doesn’t get labelled as “school” but for preschool-aged: it totally counts.

Here are some favorite games:

And some favorite puzzles:

Calendar & Clock

We update our hanging wall calendar. You can also make a free version of a perpetual calendar using The Peaceful Press Calendar Bundle or find a different version.

At the beginning of a new month we read a monthly from Around The Year (Elsa Beskow). There is also a days of the week poem in here that’s fun.

There are clocks that can be purchased but I felt at this point for preschool-age I just wanted something simple that my son could manipulate so I made one using a wood circle and numbered rocks, with two sticks for hands.

What I Wish I Would Have Thought About Last Year Before Stocking Up On Supplies

Lessons I’ve learned after doing through preschool at home for one year:

  1. Use natural materials whenever possible! Sensorial experience with natural materials is a huge bonus, PLUS items from nature don’t cost anything and don’t create excess trash in landfills. Hooray!
  2. Thrift it. Pretty much all of my baskets and trays came from a thrift store. If it’s thrifted, then you don’t have to get mad if it gets ruined.
  3. Find things around your house before you purchase something new and cool. Seriously, you probably have a drawer of random buttons somewhere that can be used for math or sorting or even letter formation.
  4. Think of ways to use materials in multiple ways. For example, wood beads with holes can be (1) laced as a fine motor skill, (2) used for a transfer tray, (3) counted up for simple math lessons, (4) added to play dough for some letter formation fun, or (5) used for arts and crafts. You do not need marbles AND beads AND pom poms AND buttons. Pick one. Simplify.
  5. Printables that make for good Instagram photos are not always worth it. Save that printer ink!! Seriously, the more I do this the more grumpy I get about printables with full-color pages.
  6. If you are going to print something that takes a lot of ink (like 3-Part Cards), make sure you get a lot of use out of them! We use our 3-Part Cards every week in multiple ways, and I have seen so much wonderful learning happening with their use. Also, I save my 3-Part Cards for repeat lessons since we are going through the alphabet A-Z all over again.
  7. Before you buy something, try to plan in your mind exactly where you will store it. If you don’t have a great option for storing it, try to skip buying it.
  8. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Most of my kid’s art projects I later turn in to scissor cutting exercises, so we get 2 uses out of the paper … and then we recycle the cut up pieces if we are able.

CONGRATS on Your Homeschooling Journey!

If you have questions, please feel free to email me our DM me on Instagram.

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Uncategorized

Preschool Cultural Studies

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How We Do Culture Studies

I have a 4 1/2 and 3 year old and over the last year have tried to include more cultural studies into our homeschool preschool activities. I thought I would share a few tips on how I go about doing that!

We explore countries other than our own using the following resources and activities, which I will detail below:

  • Living Books
  • Letters From Afar
  • Map Work (Geography)
  • Age-Appropriate Nonfiction Resources
  • Classic Stories & Folktales
  • Animal & Biome Study
  • Flag-Making
  • Landmark Study
  • Videos
  • Cultural Food

Living Books

If nothing else, we usually START with stories set in different countries. This, to me, is the easiest and most natural place to start for my kids. So, instead of setting out a globe on the table and announcing, “We’re going to learn about France today,” we read Madeline! We first read living books — and if that story is set in a different country that ours, it provides a natural opportunity to locate that country on a map and explore it further.

Here are just a couple examples:

What Do We Do All Day? has a great list of books by country that may be of interest!

Letters From Afar

We recently signed up for a subscription from Letters From Afar and I am totally blown away at how wonderful and simple this is! I was honestly worried the letters would be too much for my kids at their ages, but they loved it! They are so excited for the next letter to come in the mail, to see where Isabelle might go next. Covered in the letters are famous landmarks, cultural events, climate, food, animals, and some history. It’s wonderful. For only $6 a month, this is absolutely worth it.

Map Work (Geography)

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As stated above, we typically do not study maps in isolation of literary connections. That said, I’ll share some of the resources I have been using lately:

We do not have a globe at this point that that’s next on my wishlist! I would also love to find a high quality wood puzzle of the whole world with every country as its own piece, so if you know of one, please do share.

More could be done for Preschool Geography in terms of terminology, landforms, and even compass work, but for this blog post I wanted to keep the focus on the connection of map work to cultural studies. Montessori-inspired continent boxes are also a wonderful tool.

Age-Appropriate Nonfiction Resources

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We read and explore the above-listed books enough where my son can actually make connections between the books. Sometimes it may take my effort but I never try to force the learning but instead follow the lead of my kids.

If it works out and interest is there, we search these books together to make connections between our Letters From Afar letter or a picture book we are reading.

Classic Stories & Folktales

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There are lots of great folktales from a variety of countries in these two books:

The Table of Contents to both of these books has the stories listed and the country of origin. I just scan the lists and find a story from the specific country we are currently studying. We usually read these types of stories during our afternoon tea time.

Note that I do not use these books with every country we study. I do at most one story from these books a week.

Animal & Biome Study

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We often look at our MAPS book and find animals on those pages. My kids LOVE animals and it’s fun to explore the natural world around the globe in this way. We play with small animal figurines from Safari TOOBs, explore the Atlas of Animal Adventures, read poems from Wild World, and watch scenes from Planet Earth.

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Above is a picture of a Tiger study that also included a culture study of India. Connecting animals to places across the globe is such a fun way to make geography have some depth beyond “this is where India is on the map.”

Flag-Making

This can be so simple and so fun! Flags are a great way to bring in some arts & crafts to the culture studies.

My kids have done the following to make flags:

  • Cut construction paper and glue together pieces
  • Color or watercolor paint a basic printed coloring page (found through Google)
  • Build a flag out of LEGO pieces

We reference flags from our MAPS book or from this printable from Playful Learning.

Landmark Study

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For our Madeline and France study, we also focused on The Eiffel Tower. We looked up real photos and pictures, and then I had the kids do a special art piece featuring the Eiffel Tower.

My kids also love building with blocks and LEGOs, so when we were learning about England we built Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. Safari also has a World Landmark TOOB and Around the World TOOB with a variety of famous landmarks—these are all miniature and my kids enjoy this type of thing, but you certainly can skip buying stuff like this!

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I also enjoy having these illustrated World Landmark Nomenclature Cards from Montessori Nature.

Videos

If you have the ability to hop on a plane and go experience the actual country you are studying, by all means! Next best thing? Videos! The internet can certainly be terrible (in my humble opinion), BUT it also gives us the ability to enjoy some people, places, and customs from around the world in our small home in rural Indiana. Not a bad thing!

We simply watch a variety of videos for our cultural studies. I already mentioned we like to watch Planet Earth for some features of specific animals and habitats, but we also may watch videos of a specific cultural celebration like Chinese lantern festivals or Andalusian Horse Dance shows. I usually wait to see what type of thing my kids are showing interest in from our stories and discussions, and then look up videos. I do not typically pre-plan this out.

Cultural Food

What’s a culture study without international food!?

Here are some examples of foods we have made recently to celebrate another country:

  • Crepes for France
  • Samosas for India
  • Churros for Spain

Don’t put pressure on yourself to make the best ever “authentic” fare — just find an easy version of a popular dish that you can make & enjoy with your child(ren).

Other Options

World music — Celebrate some music from your country of focus. For preschoolers this needs no elaborate explanation or introduction–simply play the music while you cook or clean or play.

Dance styles — Look up a culturally relevant dance and try it out with your kids. We have even visited some local performances to enjoy a variety of types of dance and music.

Artist study — Is there a famous artist from your country of focus you want to explore further? I wanted to do Picasso for Spain recently, but we spent so much time exploring other things that I thought adding in an artist study that week would be too much. Really for preschoolers you could introduce the artist with one famous work of art — don’t feel like you need a huge history lesson and to explore his/her full body of work! Keep it fun.

Art projects — Is there a culturally-specific art technique or style you could try out in a preschool-friendly-version? Brush & ink calligraphy painting is used in China, for example, and could be done with a DIY ink version with preschoolers.

Additional Resources

Every Star is Different has several helpful Continent Packs for all 7 Continents (plus The Arctic) with a lot of free printables. Go check it out here.

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Uncategorized

A Charlotte Mason Inspired Preschool Daily Rhythm

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Our Preschool Curriculum

In May 2017 we started our preschool at home with The Peaceful Preschool plus additional activities based on my children’s interests and seasonal changes in the natural world. I have mainly been “doing school” with my now-4 1/2-year-old and including my youngest (just now 3) to the degree that she is interested. It’s actually amazing what she has been able to pick up without direct schooling efforts on my part, just by participating and watching her older brother!

Looking ahead, I plan to finish the curriculum through Letter Z, and then start over again with The Peaceful Preschool Letter A with both of my kids (adding a few additional reading and writing lessons for my son as he continues to show signs of readiness). My son (4 1/2) checks off all the boxes on the lists of “Kindergarten Readiness” but I do not wish to start a kindergarten curriculum just yet with him. Why?? Because of Charlotte Mason…

A Quiet Growing Time

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“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part out in the fresh air.” (Charlotte Mason)

Charlotte Mason believed no formal schooling should be done until a child reached the age of 6. Now, I’m obviously not in that exact same frame of mind but I do love and appreciate the heart behind that.

Recently I wrote down my ideal focuses for my children’s days right now:

  • Read Alouds
  • Outdoor Play & Exploration
  • Knowledge of God
  • Habits & Character
  • Gentle Preschool Academics
  • Appreciation of Beauty

—Since my children have been tiny tots Read Alouds and Outdoor Play & Exploration have been the easiest and most natural for me to include in our days. Even on the rough days where I feel like I’m running on empty, we still do these two things. At the heart, these things inspire our deepest connections and incite my fondest memories.

—Knowledge of God includes: Bible stories, memory verses, and prayer.

—Habits & Character includes: daily and weekly chores, manners, self-care, and then the top three habits for Charlotte Mason in the early years are attention, obedience, and truthfulness. 

Appreciation of Beauty includes: poetry, art, music, and handcrafts.

Gentle Preschool Academics can be a harder thing to “nail down.” I will admit over the last year not all of my preschool activities for my kids have fit in to the “gentle” category.  Over the last year I have done a lot of add-on letter-of-the-week activities as we moved through each letter of the alphabet. I plan to still do some of these things, but definitely will be doing a lot less extra the second time through.

I have come to realize through my own efforts and by comparing curriculums, that The Peaceful Preschool absolutely fits the bill when it comes to a gentle academic guide in the early years, in line with Charlotte Mason’s “quiet growing time.” I plan to stick to The Peaceful Preschool moving forward.

Additional Charlotte Mason Resources on The Early Years

The Importance of Rhythm: A Platform for Growth

I highly recommend reading Simplicity Parenting for inspiration as to why having a daily rhythm matters!! Overall this book is so inspiring, but there is one particular chapter devoted especially to rhythm that I revisit every couple of months.

“Children depend on the rhythmic structure of the day–on its predictability, its regularity, its pulse…. By surrounding a young child with a sense of rhythm and ritual, you can help them order their physical, emotional, and intellectual view of the world. As little ones come to understand, with regularity, that ‘this is what we do,’ they feel solid earth under their feet, a platform for growth. Such a stable foundation can facilitate their mapmaking: the connectedness that they are charting in their brains, in relation to other people, and in their emerging worldview.” (Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne)

Our Daily Rhythm: At A Glance

Below is a scan of our Daily Rhythm sheet I hand illustrated for my kids, and we keep it hung on our fridge.

This is for those of you who are super busy and do not have time to read this entire blog post. I see you. I hear you. Here is the condensed version of this post:

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Our Daily Rhythm: In Detail

7:00 – 8:00 AM | Breakfast and Self Care

We have one hour between when my kids wake up and when my husband goes to work.

Most days my husband and I are awake for an hour or more before the kids. I like to read or paint or workout before the craze of the day begins.

All four of us eat breakfast together and then get ready for the day. Sometimes there is a decent chance for the the kids to get some just-dad-time in before he goes to work: lately they have been having him read books to them or play a short game.

7:00 – 8:00 AM | Chores OR Physical Play

“As has been well said, ‘Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.’ And a great function of the educator is to secure that acts shall be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child shall reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with the minimum of conscious effort.” (Charlotte Mason)

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I used the chore cards from The Peaceful Press as a guide to create our personalized weekly chore plan you see above. There are daily chores listed at the bottom just as a little visual reminder of what we are already doing on a daily basis (e.g. dishes or toy clean-up) but do not need to happen at a designated “chore time.”

Each day I have 3 things listed and there’s at least one thing the kids can do mostly independent of me (except for Sunday: those tasks are for me). Usually I am able to give them a choice on which task they want to do. I expect their participation and I make it fun: lately we have been playing some Mary Poppins songs while we work.

We mark off the chore with an “X” when completed. “We entertain the idea which gives birth to the act and the act repeated again and again becomes the habit” (Charlotte Mason). I do not do stickers or rewards — chores are for responsibility, not reward: when the task is complete, the kids feel capable for completing the work and responsible for taking care of the home they live in.

With chores there is obviously some flexibility: we can decide something can be done a later time, or maybe we need to do a little extra on a given day if we have guests coming over.

Physical work AND play

My kids wake up with a lot of energy so I like to let them get some of it out before requesting that they sit down at a table for 30 minutes for morning time or preschool activities. Luckily, doing chores is a GREAT way to get the blood circulating and do some physical work. If there aren’t many chores to do we may also have some physical play, a living room dance party, or do their yoga workout DVD, or a song & movement game from Games Children Sing & Play.

8:30 – 9:30 AM | Morning Time OR Preschool OR Unstructured Play

I see three different options for our time together in the morning:

  1. Morning Time
  2. Preschool
  3. Unstructured Play

Remember my kids are 4 1/2 and 3 so there is not an intensive amount of academics to get done in the course of a week!

I separated out “Morning Time” from “Preschool Activities” below and hopefully it will make sense why after I describe the differences below:

(1) Morning Time

“But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion.” (Charlotte Mason)

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If we have a “morning time” this will include some but not all of the following in one day:

I will not have a morning time like this every day of the week. More than likely this will be once a week. The important part for me is that I plan for it. I must plan for my children to have contact with God’s Truth–if I leave it to chance, it won’t happen.

As for the habits / character lesson — in Laying Down the Rails For Children they really suggest ONLY once for a habits lesson per week. And, they suggest spending 6-8 weeks on just one habit! We will first go through Charlotte Mason’s three core habits for the early years: attention, obedience, and truthfulness. Added bonus: many of these require habit-training for parents, not just the kids! For us — fun, age-appropriate games are involved: for example, for our Obedience lesson last week we played “Simon Says.”

An important point to add, in keeping with a “gentle” structure to our days: I will not do a morning time like this AND do a bunch preschool activities on the same day! Quality over quantity is my goal, and Charlotte Mason even advocated for short lessons to develop the habit of attention. When we move towards Kindergarten, I should be able to extend our morning time to include Bible time AND school. 

That said, if we do Preschool as detailed below, we will still do a prayer and brief review of our memory verse…

(2) Preschool

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For days in which we do preschool, we will continue to follow The Peaceful Preschool through Letter Z, and then we will begin again with Letter A. The aspects of The Peaceful Preschool we will do are:

  • Read Alouds (Here’s my blog post detailing how I select books for Preschool)
  • Phonics & Letter Formation (for my oldest I have begun to include some more advanced reading and writing activities (Montessori-based) and my daughter will follow the curriculum as-is)
  • Counting Skills
  • Fine Motor Skills

I often skip the Large Motor Skills from The Peaceful Preschool because I feel that our outdoor play & exploration time covers this pretty well. For more on that topic, I highly recommend reading Balanced and Barefoot!

I often will save the following activities from The Peaceful Preschool for later on in the day:

  • Practical Life Skills (baking / cooking project)
  • Art Skills (unless it directly relates to the Read Aloud)
(3) Unstructured Play

There currently are and will continue to be days where I have zero things pre-planned for my kids in terms of lessons. We play a lot. And: I leave plenty space for my children to be bored and figure out what to do with their time on their own.

Again, I recommend reading Simplicity Parenting if you are looking for ideas on how to create an inviting play environment at home with a minimalist approach: having fewer, high quality open-ended toys actually enhances children’s ability to have longer stretches of imaginative play.

During this time, even if I have no pre-planned learning activities, we often read stories too. See this post for book lists I reference to find read alouds!

Also, I want to point out: so much learning in the preschool years can happen naturally through play! In fact, often the best “teaching moments” happen with prompting from the kids through their play, not through something I pre-planned.

9:30 – 11:00 AM | Outdoor Time OR Errands OR Fun Outings

<INSERT SNACK BREAK>

The transition from the above time to going outside is made by having a snack break. If we are going outside we may just bring some snacks in the yard or on our walk with us. If we run errands or go out of the house, we may bring a snack in the car. The bottom line: morning snack is essential for my children’s happiness.

(1) Outdoor Time

“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without” (Charlotte Mason).

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Often in the mornings, our outdoor time involves movement: we are walking or hiking or off exploring. We live on a camp property so there are lots of options of places for us to explore. After a walk we stay outside and play in the yard until lunch.

I also LOVE using the outdoors as our natural learning environment because it requires zero pre-planning on my part. We use all of our senses. We pay attention to seasonal changes. We observe, we collect, we treasure. We nature journal. We share stories of our experiences.

Additional Resources on Outdoor Time:

(2) Errands

I am a morning errand-runner because I feel that it avoids crowds and traffic. I try to keep errand I do with the kids to once per week.

(3) Fun Outings

A children’s museum, playground, nature walk with friends, the zoo, the library are some options for us. We typically have something like about once a week.

11:30 AM | Lunch

After lunch my kids clean up the common space: all toys and books and art supplies go away other than what my son wants to keep out in the kids’ room for his quiet time.

12:30 – 2:30 PM | Quiet Time

The kids typically get 30 minutes of screen time after lunch. I like having a set expected time that the screen time happens, because then they aren’t requesting (or demanding) it all throughout the day. Weekends we may watch an extra show in the evening or a movie as a family.

My daughter naps in our bed (since the kids share a room). I always read her a book first.

My son has his quiet time in the kids’ room. I read him a book and he either looks at books or plays with toys and puzzles.

The time they are actually in their separate rooms & the time I get in solitude to myself usually is about 1 hour 20 minutes. I usually read or do something creative or catch up on computer stuff.

2:30 – 3:00 PM | Tea Time OR Additional Preschool Activities

Generally speaking the focus during our afternoon together time will be beauty and togetherness: sharing tea, poetry, stories, art, music, baking, etc. I really enjoy this time because we all come together at the table for some arts and culture (and sweet treats) after our separate quiet times.

(1) Tea Time

“Poetry is, perhaps, the most searching and intimate of our teachers…Poetry supplies us with tools for the modeling of our lives, and the use of these we must get at ourselves” (Charlotte Mason).

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For tea time, we make either cinnamon or peppermint tea (because the kids actually drink it), and either:

(a) Read a few poems. As of now we do not work on memorizing any poems, but on Charlotte Mason’s Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six she has listed “to recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns,” so I would like to start doing this.

Here are our favorite poetry books:

OR

(b) Read short stories that aren’t poetry but we enjoy reading during this tea time:

OR

(c) Read from chapter books. I find that this afternoon tea time is a great time to read chapter books which do not hold my 3 year old’s attention as well at other points in the day. If she’s sitting at the table with us and has a snack, she’ll stay and listen.

Lately we have been enjoying Beatrix Potter and Thornton Burgess Animal Stories.

(2) Additional Preschool Activities

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At this time we might do any ONE of the following additional fun Preschool Activities. I never feel like these following things have to happen; but, our afternoon time at the kitchen table where we come together after our quiet times has proven to be a nice time to explore some poetry or art or culture together. This is an example of our natural daily rhythm existing before adding in activities. These activities are built in to our natural daily rhythm, and not some academic agenda or checklist:

  • A baking project from The Peaceful Preschool
  • An art project from The Peaceful Preschool
  • A Picture Study from the Ambleside Online schedule (to incorporate art into our days in an informal way, as opposed to doing a true academic Picture Study the Charlotte Mason way (for a child greater than 6))
  • A Music Study from Ambleside Online schedule (again, keeping this more informal, I plan to select one classical composition at a time to listen to, naming the composer for my kids — we are not doing a detailed academic study of a composer as you would with older children but I thought it would be fun to coincide with the Ambleside schedule)
  • An Arts & Culture study from The Habitat Schoolhouse
    • This may involve looking at art, learning about artists, musicians, or other countries and cultures (likely using our MAPS book)
  • An Animal & Plant study from The Habitat Schoolhouse

Note: I would never do several of these at once! And, further: I will not hit all of these categories in a given week. I see this not a checklist, but more of an opportunity.

3:00 – 5:30 PM | Outside Time

“We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things” (Charlotte Mason).

This may include unstructured play, a hike or walk, maybe a specific nature study, or maybe even a trip to a close playground.

There may be some outdoor play and learning activities that I have for us to do as well.

A Note About Nature Study:

For our “nature studies” — to me this mostly means that we are present to the natural world around us, taking everything in with all of our senses. We observe, we discuss, sometimes the kids add to their nature journals.

I do not do anything super extensive by way of academics here. I like to keep it fun and playful, but mostly just keeping in step with the season we are in and knowing fully the place in which we live.

I have looked through Exploring Nature With Children and this curriculum is an absolutely wonderful resource! Right now I do not plan to use this week-by-week, but I may reference it as-needed if there’s some aspect of the natural world my kids seem to want to explore further.

Additional Resources on Outdoor Time:

5:30 PM | Dinner

We eat food. Together. Light candles. Pray for the meal. Share about our days.

A Note About Dinner Prep:

Often I prep dinner once my husband gets home shortly after 5 PM. He can play with the kids outside or inside and I can do dinner. Often, though, we have leftovers or do really simple meals that I can even prep during the day. If I do pre-prep I likely do that during lunch time since we are all in the kitchen anyway.

6:00 – 7:30 PM | Family Together Time

Outdoor adventures, board games, books, puzzles, animal shows, random trips out for ice cream, coloring, playing with Dad-as-a-jungle-gym, etc.

7:30 PM | Bedtime Routine

Bath, PJs and brush teeth, and then either my husband or I read to the kids for about 30 minutes before lights out.

Bedtime stories has always been a favorite time of day for me. We read for a long time! We read books we own, but I also keep a shelf of library books that I pull from a variety of sources. These are often seasonally appropriate or related to our preschool curriculum in some way.

8:00 PM | Bedtime

Phew. We made it!! Likely not without some messes and failures and fights and tears.

A Sample Week: Letter V

Putting ALL of this together I decided to share a sample week of what I planned out for our Letter V week (click here for the PDF version of what is below). Mostly I think it’s important to see how many categories are left blank on any given day. I’m not trying to check off ALL the boxes on every day. And the truth is: this week was a fuller than an average week in terms of my planning because we just did not have any scheduled outings. Normally one of these days would be left totally empty in terms of my planning.

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Just for a frame of reference, each day this week the morning block of activities where we sit together and read and do some preschool actives took maybe 20-35 minutes, except for Tuesday when we spent a lot of time learning a variety of orchestra instruments and did extra learning with videos and music and supplemental materials–that was probably more like a hour. Afternoon tea time & projects range from 20-40 minutes before we head outside.

And OF COURSE…

Obviously there are days where NONE of what I just mentioned is happening. We’re sick. We’re off our groove. We’re traveling. I just want to have a “break day” for no particular reason. Please do not read this and think I’m a perfect human and totally nailing it every day. There are good reasons and not-so-good reasons why our days sometimes are not fully perfect and flowing nicely. The truth is, though, I am glad it’s that way because it means we are normal.

Another thing I want to be clear about: I have 2 children, but in a way school right now is like schooling only 1 child. We have 1 curriculum, and basically my 2 kids are doing the same things with the exception of my son doing some more advanced language arts. This will change. Our daily rhythm will change. I am happy to shift things around when it is appropriate to do so!

EVERY SINGLE FAMILY is unique and different and what works for me will not work for you in the same way. It’s just a fact. But — I know that when I first started out this homeschool journey it was so so helpful for me to read other mom’s daily rhythms just to have somewhere to start! I understand it can feel overwhelming to start.

If I have any advice it’s this: dive in, and expect to fail. Sometimes the only way you’ll find your “groove” is to find out what doesn’t work through failure. When I started out Letter A with The Peaceful Preschool in May 2017 I did an INSANE amount of activities in a 2 week period! I cringe a little. But, here’s the thing — I don’t regret it. I had to know what was “too much” in order to know what was “just right.” And I had to learn that checking off all of the boxes on my to-do list did not inherently make our day a good day. And then I had to go back and re-read Teaching From Rest because clearly it didn’t sink in enough the first time!

Additional Resources on Rhythm

Small Beginnings: A Homeschool Starter Guide

This ebook is an EXCELLENT starting point for homeschooling with themes from Charlotte Mason. There is a whole section in here on rhythms. Rachael Alsbury & Kate Heinemeyer share their daily rhythms as well as so many more additional resources.

The Peaceful Preschool Curriculum

The introduction pages of this curriculum have SO MUCH guidance and wisdom for creating a Family Vision and ideas for establishing a daily rhythm. Included is a sample daily schedule. If you buy this curriculum do not skip these pages! For those following The Peaceful Preschool, I also recommend reading Kaitlyn from Simply Learning‘s daily rhythm here as well as Lyndsey from Treehouse Schoolhouse‘s daily rhythm here.

Simplicity Parenting

I mentioned this book already above but the chapter on rhythm in particular of this book is so good, aimed at simplifying our home environment and lifestyle.

Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace

This is not directly about “rhythm” per se but this serves as an excellent invitation to approach the daily grind with a peaceful heart. Sarah Mackenzie beautifully encourages us how to have reasonable expectations for our homeschooling days and how to simplify our goals to get at what really matters to us. Daily rhythms are always evolving and we, the homeschooler, set the tone. We are the atmosphere. The biggest take-home for me after reading this book was the fact that how we interact with our children matters more than getting through the curriculum material.

Encouragement for the Little Years (Cloistered Away)

This blog post was so lovely and encouraging to me last year before I began our homeschooling adventure. I re-read it whenever I am feeling crazy.

The Life Giving Home

Sally Clarkson has a lot of wonderful books on homeschooling and mothering, but this one in particular considers the rhythms of the home, and gives month-by-month ideas for creating a rich home environment full of intention. Charlotte Mason said that “education is an atmosphere” and our daily rhythms can be enhanced by cultivating a meaningful home atmosphere full of beauty, life, and order.

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Letter Unit Activities · Uncategorized

Letter T Preschool Unit

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Overview

We spent 2 weeks on The Letter T because I wanted to spend a significant amount of time studying trees. At the end of this post you’ll also find a few non-tree related Letter T stuff we did!

T is for Tree

Books

Nonfiction Books Used:

*From The Peaceful Preschool book list

Phonics & Letter Formation

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As usual, here are my go-to resources & activities for every Letter Unit for phonics & letter formation:

This list is LONG! I never feel like this is a checklist where I have to complete all of this or somehow I’ve failed OR that my son isn’t learning enough. It’s OKAY if we don’t do it all.

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We also used the Parts of a Tree nomenclature cards from The Helpful Garden and my son used our movable alphabet to make the parts-of-a-tree words.

We turned our Letter T printout from The Peaceful Preschool into a tree.

Also seen here is “Tree Anatomy” from Tanglewood Hollow’s tree bundle.

Counting & Sorting

Tree Part Sorting and Counting

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For this activity the kids each would randomly draw a number card (from The Peaceful Preschool), then count out that many pinecones and that many acorns. Then I asked them to count how many total pinecones + acorns there were.

Tree Leaf Sorting and Counting

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Together we collected a variety of leaves from trees. Then, they sorted and counted them on to this lacing stand I made. I wanted to to some leaf rubbings on paper but our leaves are still too early and fragile and I thought they would rip apart too easily.

Matching Games

Tree Buds Matching Game

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For this activity I collected TWO of each type of tree bud that I was seeing. The goal of the activity was to find the matching pair looking at shape, size, texture, color, and arrangement.

Woodcut Matching Game

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This woodcut matching game was fun to play with — they just found all the pairs with all the cards face up. Then, I pulled out 10 pairs of cards and we played a memory game.

Fine Motor Skills

Tree Slice Lacing

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I made this tree part lacing stand by putting dowel rods in to a large tree slice base (I drilled a hole the same size as the dowel rod and it pushed in without the need for any glue!). Then, I drilled slightly larger holes in to tree branch slices. The idea here is that there are a variety of sizes so they can make patterns (large, small, large, small, etc.) or they can count how many it takes to fill up the whole dowel rod. Or, they can put the same amount of branch slices on to each rod.

Pine Branch Threading

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We randomly found a downed pine branch this week so I took it home, cut it up and my daughter threaded the branches in to this holed utensil holder. This is the equivalent of kids making a floral arrangement (or using pipe cleaners) in a colander.

Tree Cutting Practice & Matching

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This is a free printout from Pinay Homeschooler. The kids cut their own trees out and glued each piece to the matching tree on the control sheet.

Art

How to Draw A Tree

We watched the How to Draw a Tree instructional video from Art for Kids Hub a couple times and the kids and I drew trees along with the video. This was really fun!

Tree Bud Collection & Floral Arrangement

We also collected spring flowering branches and branches with spring buds and my son made a fun floral arrangement. This lasted a couple weeks on our kitchen table!

Trees by Season Coloring Page

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We colored in this free Seasons and Trees activity from Teachers Pay Teachers paired with The Four Seasons control chart from The Helpful Garden.

Nature Study: Trees

Observe Real Trees

It was spring during our Tree study so we looked at flowering trees. After a rain storm we were able to collect a bunch of tree flowers and fruits that had fallen to the ground. We looked them up in The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups.

We also found some pollen cones of a Red Pine to take a closer look at.

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We also observed a variety of tree bark. But, really we mainly focused on ONE TREE. It’s too much and too hard to try to identify several trees by bark alone (for a 4 and 2 year old), so I just picked a really easy tree to focus in on for the week: Shagbark Hickory. I started pointing them out every time we would come across one. Then, we got to the point where the kids would start pointing them out on their own.

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Compare Trees

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We explored the difference between conifers and deciduous trees quite loosely, just by gathering a few tree parts, and then read our books to match what we were seeing to what we had collected. This was not a long drawn out nature study—I just explored it with books as much as it held their interest and then we moved on.

We only have White Pine and Red Pine here so we also counted the number of needles to compare (White Pine has 5, Red Pine has 2). If you have more conifers in your area, simply counting & comparing needles is a fun and easy thing to do for preschoolers (you don’t have to correctly ID the trees, just have fun and explore).

Tree Ring Rubbings

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This activity consisted of two parts:

  1. We did a simple paper & crayon rubbing of a tree slice (this one is sanded and finished), then tried to count how old that tree was.
  2. Then, I had the kids draw their own tree slice with rings–I scanned and printed a page from Hello, Nature–they got to pick how old their tree was. My daughter’s (on the left) is “a million years old.”

A Tree Home Out of Play Dough

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We made a large scale tree out of play dough and added animals that live in trees, find food from trees, or move through trees.

Making small worlds out of play dough is such a key and regular way in which my kids interact with their small toy animals. We do this so much! It’s a wonderful way to combine play and learning.

Tree Nature Study Resources

T is for Tiger

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T is for Tiger Tea Time with The Habitat Schoolhouse.

I supplemented a few things to our Tiger study over the course of 2 weeks. As we read and learned about tigers, we also read “The Tyger” poem by William Blake each day during our tea time. A couple days we explored India further (since the greatest density of Bengel tigers can be found in the mangrove forests there) — we used our MAPS book, did some India themed coloring pages, and cooked Indian food for dinner. We also discovered that one of the children in This is How We Do It is from India, so we followed a day in the life of Anu. We read Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (an all time family favorite) as well as The Tiger Who Came to Tea (which was suggested by The Habitat Schoolhouse and my kids adore). We also watched some BBC videos of tigers online which prompted lots of pretend-tiger play: my daughter started carrying her baby doll around with her teeth like a mama tiger.

Other Letter T Activities

T is for Train Tracing

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Anyone have the game Ticket to Ride?? My kids like playing with the little trains from this game sometimes so I thought I would just use them for a pattern-making and tracing activity — they traced some shapes and letters. You could also do something similar with toy wood trains.

Bible Lesson: T is for Treasure

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We read the story “Treasure Hunt” from The Jesus Storybook Bible, then hid some treasure (we have a cute little chest with some fun rocks) around the house for a treasure hunt game.

Please see this page for all our A-Z Bible Lessons.

Uncategorized

Egg Carton Nature Scavenger Hunt

I recently created this Nature Scavenger Hunt egg carton cover using my own illustrations, and it’s yours for free if you want it!

The kids each carried their own box around as we hunted for the corresponding nature items. They both enjoyed this a lot and I’m sure we will do it again!

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CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE FREE PDF

I printed mine on to card stock, laminated it, cut it and glued it to the top of an egg carton. 

Get those kiddos outside and enjoying the natural world, and be sure to tag me (@the.silvan.reverie) in photos if you post it because it would bring me lots of joy to see this in use!

 

 

Uncategorized

DIY Real Flower Resin Cabochons

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Why Cabochons?

This past winter one of our favorite reads was Chirri & Chirra: The Snowy Day where two girls have a lovely fantastical winter adventure. Chirri and Chirra, hanging out with some woodland creatures in an igloo, play with frozen marbles that have flower buds in the middle, then later take a hot springs bath and drop the marbles in to the water only to watch the buds melt and the flowers bloom! It’s gorgeous and basically I KNEW when we read it in the drab and cold winter that, come springtime, I would make our own real flower glass marbles. And so we did!

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Collecting Flowers

All of the flowers we used were freshly picked.

A couple things to note:

  1. Some flowers wilt fast so you do not have much time before getting them in to the resin mix.
  2. Any blue or pink or purple flower lost its color almost immediately upon contacting the resin mix. They turned colorless. Yellow flowers seemed to do just fine.
  3. An alternate method to keep the flower color in tact would be to use flower press first, and then later cast the dried flower in the resin. I have not tried this yet.

Resin Casting Supplies

How-To and Some Tips

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This is NOT a kid-friendly process. Epoxy resin is not something to mess with. My kids helped collect the flowers and then just watched me do the resin mixing and pouring.

That said, this is not really a difficult process, just something that requires a little attention to detail and patience.

  1. Have all your supplies ready before you start. I would even have everything ready before going out to pick some flowers.
  2. Mix the resin according to instructions EXACTLY. Your mixing ratios need to be spot on. The curing process is also temperature and moisture dependent. If you get the ratios wrong or under-mix the resin or it is too hot in your work space then the resin will not fully cure and you will have a sticky result (not solid and glass-like).
  3. Work in small batches! I worked with just 2-3 cups total of mixed epoxy resin at a time, filling 4-8 molds, depending on the size of flowers I had.
  4. Cover your mold with an upside-down plastic bin so no dust gets attached to your cabochons as they cure. Read your resin instructions but it takes approximately 24-48 hours to cure fully.
  5. You do not need to fill the entire mold. Note that the flowers will start to float to the top so if you have a lot of resin in there the final effect of the domed half-marble will not be as clear if your flower is now at the bottom of a massive half dome.
  6. The smaller molds actually turned out the clearest (less bubbles), so I would fit your flower in to the smallest mold possible.
  7. For cleanup: use vinegar. It works like a charm to clean the mold and cups for re-use. Or you could just toss the cups you used and start with a fresh set the next time you do some casting (this is what I did).
  8. Vinegar also cleans the resin off your holds should you get any. You could also work with gloves.
  9. If your finished cabochons have minor sticky parts or parts where the plant material sticks out a bit, you can cover these areas in clear nail polish to finish it off!

That’s it! you can also look at other shapes & molds available (making flat pieces instead of half domes). These could be added to necklaces and earrings to make jewelry which could also be fun!

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Uncategorized

Forest School Backyard Play Supplies

“Daily exposure to the outdoors stimulates the brain in many ways: (1) There are no expectations. Children are forced to use their imagination in order for that stick, rock or pinecone to become a part of their world. (2) There are endless possibilities. The outdoors challenges the mind to constantly think in new ways. (3) There is no pressure. When engaging in active free play, children can play with others or not, make up their own rules or follow someone else’s, be rough-and-tumble or quiet and contemplative.” (Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom)

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The Heart Behind This Post

Lately I have been reading lots of books about nature engagement, and have been particularly inspired by ideas for backyard play.

I have been asking myself questions like:

  • What if we had no toys but only sticks and rocks and whatever else we could find in the great outdoors?
  • What if I had no predetermined expectations for outdoor play?
  • How can our outdoor play foster connection?
  • What materials can I provide in our outdoor play space to foster independent, creative, and limitless play?
  • What are things we do indoors that could be done outdoors instead?

Think: Roxaboxen. This book is exactly what I am going for: children in the desert imagine an entire town with a wide range of open-ended activities using nothing but sticks and rocks and crates and other random things they find.

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What Our Backyard Looks Like

I am particularly drawn to Play the Forest School Way and play activities similar in that style because we live in a forest. We live on a camp property in southern Indiana. It is a 2,500 acre woodland property–the center of camp has a lake, natural wetland areas, several creeks, a vernal pond, and even fun camp structures that are fun for my kids like challenge courses and a play house and an amphitheater.

Often I find that our daily outdoor time is spent hiking and exploring the woods. This absolutely makes sense for us to still do, as we all love it. But, lately I was sensing a need to put some more thought and effort in to our backyard play environment. And, truthfully, our “nature treasure” and loose parts pile was getting out of control and I needed motivation to get our stuff organized!

So, while we live in a forest and access to natural loose parts comes as an everyday thing, I do think what I am about to share will still be relevant for those of you that live in suburban or rural areas NOT in a forest! I just wanted to be clear about our particular context.

For those of you who live in an urban area, nature engagement with your children is going to be a totally different ball game for you. I recommend the last chapter of How to Raise a Wild Child if you live in the city.

I also want to mention that I think The Backyard Play Revolution has so many great ideas for open-ended loose parts play for the backyard that’s not so forest-school-ish.

Our Outdoor Play Supplies

Below I will be sharing a list of all our outdoor play supplies. I organized most of the smaller items in to an IKEA TROFAST storage system on our front porch.

Mud kitchen supplies stay in a crate with that area of the yard. Other large items like tree stumps, ramps, crates, and tubs stay either in the yard or in our storage shed in the yard. A few other things will have to stay inside the house in the dead of summer because of humidity issues–I don’t want mold growing on things!

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(1) Natural Loose Parts

The term “loose part” has become a bit of a fad. Basically it means something that can be played with in a very open-ended way. The opposite of a loose part is a “fixed toy”—a Mickey Mouse figurine can only ever be Mickey Mouse (and always happy because he is smiling). A pinecone or “loose part” can be currency or an ice cream cone or a mixer or a bug or a rocket ship or … even a Mickey Mouse!

Here’s what we have for loose parts play:

  • Tree slices (large & small)
    • We made ours but you can purchase these at craft stores or Amazon
  • Sticks (various lengths and widths)
  • Rocks (a variety of sizes)
  • Tree nuts
  • Acorns
  • Pine cones
  • Large movable tree stumps
  • Flat wooden boards

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We also have some non-natural loose parts in the mix like old tires and rope. I’m also including a traditional wood block set made for us by my father-in-law.

We actually have a gravel driveway and the rocks there have proved to be a favorite yard toy for years.

Shells, dirt, sand, mulch, wood chips are just a few other ideas for natural loose parts.

We have small wood scoops for use with the small loose parts.

(2) Imaginative Play

Note that I’m including a separate list for imaginative play BUT the idea with the loose parts listed above is that they could also be used for pretend play. A pinecone can be a hand mixer in the kitchen or currency at a shop. A stick can be a horse or a wand or musical instrument. Small loose parts can be built in to small worlds like castles or bug villages.

 

  • Play Silks (be sure to see this list for the play possibilities with play silks if you are not already familiar with these)
  • Bow & Arrow
  • Butterfly Wings
  • Crowns (handmade, could be crafted or made with nature items)
  • Wands (just a plain stick or one that is crafted)
  • Bubbles
  • Pinwheels
  • Sheets, Tarps (for building shelters)
  • Garden tools (hand rakes are fun!)
  • Wheelbarrow (kid sized)
  • Wagon
  • Baskets
  • Buckets

You can also construct stick shelters or use play silks or tarps for shelters to go along with imaginative play. As mentioned earlier, I also think imaginative play can include building small worlds for wooden peg dolls or other toys–e.g. build a camp site or fairy houses.

I will also say: if you have a tent, you can always set it up in your backyard for a couple of days for your kids to just play in! We did this last summer for maybe 5 days and the kids were obsessed and so engaged and absolutely loved it. I would not leave the tent up for a really long time, but was nice to change up the play for a week.

(3) Mud & Water Kitchen

Note that you won’t find a Pinterest-worthy mud kitchen in our backyard. Here’s how I put it together: I scrounged around for items we already had. I spent no money. Remember you do not need elaborate & beautiful mud kitchens: you just want something your kids will want to play with!

The hose is nearby so the kids have a water source they can manage on their own to make mud.

 

  • Pots & Pants
  • Muffin tins, cake pans, pie pans
  • Plates, Bowls, Cups
  • Mixing spoons
  • Pitchers
  • Canisters
  • Scoops
  • Buckets
  • Spray Bottles
  • Watering Cans
  • Larger tubs for holding water

Again note that the natural loose parts listed above are often used as ingredients in our mud kitchen or used in water play.

(4) Nature Study, Art, & Handcrafts

I created a category for nature study and nature art because I find that we will bring back a variety of nature treasure from hikes to our yard and I wanted to have materials accessible to explore and play with those nature finds some more.

 

(5) Games

I am aware there are a wide variety of lawn games but I wanted to share what we have: my preference is for (1) traditional games with not a lot of bells & whistles and no plastic parts, (2) games that can be used by small children and (3) games that can be used in a variety of ways. For example, the boards for our bean bag toss game can also be used as a ramp, or if they are standing upright can be pretend archery targets. Rope rings can be used for ring toss, or they could just be bracelets or something to fish out of the kiddie pool with a stick.

 

  • Rope Rings
  • Bean Bags (we have a bean bag toss game with boards)
  • Wood Ramp
  • Kubb
  • Balls (a variety)
  • Wood Block Set
  • Old Tire
  • Movable Tree Stumps
  • Rope
  • Clips
  • Buckets

Other ideas for games are making water ramps with old gutters or PVC pipes. Make a pulley system. Make a scale. Create an obstacle course.

(6) Practical Stuff

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  • Blankets **
  • Water
  • Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Rags & Towels
  • First Aid Kit

** I love this style of outdoor tarp blanket because it is light enough to be used to make a play tent and it is really easy to clean if we spill food on it while picnicking (you do not have to put it in the laundry, you can just wipe it down or hose it down). Also, it compacts down small so it is easy to travel with.

Books for Inspiration

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For further reading, see my other posts on nature engagement: