Preschool Unit Study: Music

Music is the theme of our next unit study. There are so many things you could learn about music, but our main focus was on an orchestra and recognizing instruments.

We made a few worksheets. The first was a dot-to-dot cello. The second involved a bit more work: cutting and gluing a keyboard. Later we added letters and notes, making a melody. Our third and last worksheet was a colorful one. The children had to count the different instruments and color the right amount of blocks in the chart.

For this theme we watched two music related TV series. One is a show for young children. Every episode they learn about one instrument, like a violin, a flute, or an accordion. The second show is a conducting contest. Every week the celebrities have to conduct a piece, and it shows the orchestra nicely.

A friend was so nice to lend us a box with all kinds of instruments so the children could play and discover. At one point they performed for Mommy.

For a gathering with homeschooling friends, we made guitar cookies. We shaped the dough of the coconut macaroons into the body of the guitar. After baking we added the strings.

That morning the children decorated little drums and filled them with macaroni. They also made their own “Almere Home Learners Orchestra” by coloring and decorating a conductor and little musicians.

Another day my daughter (5) found a Scrabble-like game. Together we made some music related words.

Of course this theme wouldn’t be complete without reading books about music. Our favorite book was a read-and-listen book. On every page it showed an instrument and the children could press a button. Then it played a little piece of classical music. Most of the pieces were taken from Carnaval des Animaux by Camille Saint Saens. We listened to the whole carnival trying to recognize about which animal each part was. We especially liked the cuckoo in the forest and the elephant.

If you like to listen to more pieces of music with your children, I recommend these fun pieces:

  • The Entertainer, Scott Joplin
  • Copenaghen Steam Railway Gallop, Hans Christian Lumbye
  • The Typewriter, Leroy Anderson
  • Flight of the Bumblebee, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

I hope you are inspired by the ideas I shared with you today.

Experiential Learning

Growing up I remember hands-on learning as something that was incredibly valuable to me.  I liked to be active, on the go and busy. Now as a parent I am seeing the value in slowing down, and can truly appreciate the effort my parents went to when taking us out and about!

In the very early stages of schooling still with our preschooler, we are looking for ways to engage our child in learning while still sparking her need for play and imagination.  Over the summer she participated in three days of “Critter Camp” at the local nature center; she continues to explore and learn more about nature and asks to take hikes, read nature books, and visit outdoor learning spaces. Our library hosted a speaker who is a homeschool senior and advocate for honeybee education, preservation, and hobbyist beekeeping. They had hands-on models of bees, large posters of their environment and needs, as well as how we need them for our eco-system, and they answered questions about bees. Due to this learning opportunity, potentially in the spring we will add a beehive to our little homestead.

Recently another nature center in our area sponsored a “Meet the Raptor” program and specifically had a session for younger children.

Rachel the Peregrine falcon and Gonzo the turkey vulture were the guests of honor. I think this visit was perhaps more exciting for Daddy than anyone else. Although our shy preschooler didn’t ask questions, she watched and listened intently. After we left she began to process the experience and ask more about raptors.

As we try to implement experiences and hands-on learning, I am hopeful that it leads to organic growth of interests in our children. After taking our oldest to baby and parent music classes since she was an infant, she has a love of music and desire to learn how to play, sing, and enjoy music in our daily lives. I am curious to see what other types of adventures we can take.

I would love suggestions from others on what their early learners enjoy doing that is experiential and hands-on.

Teaching the Preschooler…Informally

With the push for earlier and earlier academics, sometimes parents feel their child may fall behind if they do not get started, even at such ages as 2 or 3 years old. Yet, as Adventists we are counseled not to start formal academics until the ages of 8-10 years old, depending on the child.

Does this mean we simply allow the child to exist and not take advantage of these early years when the brain is growing so quickly? No, it simply means we use informal methods of teaching. The child who learns to love learning will benefit their entire lives. In this article, I will be giving some examples of how a parent can still “teach,” but do so in a manner that will help their child rather than hinder him.

When considering early education (and even later education in my opinion), think of Deuteronomy 6:7, which talks about teaching our children as we go about our day. The idea is that we are to make learning a natural process. As we cook our meals, we can show how to cook. We can discuss about creating healthy menus. We can talk about why we eat a certain way, and even why we may prepare foods in certain ways. At the store we can teach price comparison and how to choose the best produce. **This is an example of how natural learning can be used for older children.

So applying this natural learning for the preschooler, here is a running list of some ideas:

  • Read, read, read: While reading, point out pictures, discuss colors, shapes, etc. Ask what is happening from the picture. Ask what they think will happen next. There is an endless variety of topics that can be easily learned about while reading.
  • Art: Be willing to allow your child to experiment and get messy. Again, there are art books out there of the masters. Reading about them and then trying to duplicate their art is a great art lesson, all natural. There are so many arts/craft books that one library cannot hold them all. There are limitless choices online. Pinterest has many choices. Colors can be learned, and different mediums such as water color, crayons, markers, plaster of paris, glue/paper, etc.
  • Science: This can be walking outside and learning the plants, learning how to plant seeds and take care of them till harvest. For older children, this can lead to learning how to preserve that food. (Oops, this is supposed to be focused on preschoolers.) Compare sizes of seeds, putting them in order by size, color, type of food/flower. Science can also be learned in the kitchen by cooking — measuring, comparing ingredients, and even tasting. Help them make charts with all this information. Help them make estimates of what will happen if you water one plant more than another. What if you water one seed more than it should be watered? What happens?
  • Math: There are series in the library that teach basic math skills. Again, cooking is a great way to teach math. Science can be easily combined with math with many activities. Math can even be used in art in studying proportions of various art displays. Just practicing counting while singing songs can be fun and educational.
  • History: This can be learned by studying the Bible, having worship. It can be learned by reading real life books on various historical figures. Creating a timeline together can be art and history while being fun. There are some wonderful missionary books on the early church pioneers.
  • Writing: With writing, I would keep things very informal since it is largely a physical development issue. If they want to “write,” then give them a large pencil or fat crayon with some blank paper. If they begin to ask how to draw or write a letter, then show them, but not until they ask. These preschool years really need to be child-led in learning. This way the parent knows they are ready developmentally and not being pushed. There are many inexpensive books out there that teach writing, beginning with drawing a line. Again, let the child begin by asking. You will see them begin drawing certain shapes and lines naturally. They will start trying to imitate your writing. So, of course, I’m going to suggest that you show writing by writing in front of your child. As you write, you can simply say out loud what you are writing about, if appropriate. When you make your grocery list, name out loud what you are putting on the list. You can even spell the words out loud. This makes learning all natural and fun. Plus, they see the practical application of the skill.
  • Play in the water.
  • Run and chase each other.
  • Take your child with you as you run your errands. Talk to them and explain. Today, I was taking my granddaughter somewhere. I missed my turn so ended up driving through this neighborhood with very large, expensive homes. She started asking questions. I ended up discussing values and how our values help us choose what we spend our money on. It was all natural and very important lesson for this little girl. She made a statement at the end that she was glad that Mommy and Daddy decided to spend their money on the family rather than a fancy house.
  • Sing, jump around.
  • Play child-led activities.
  • Do housework together.
  • Lay on the ground and look at the clouds. You can find shapes and discuss how clouds are made.

I could go on to list dozens of more activities. I hope these will give you some ideas to get started. The articles I shared in my last post gave some ideas that will also jumpstart your own thinking. The main idea is to live life with your child. Don’t park them in front of an electronic device. Instead, BE with them. Live with them. Interact with them. By doing these things, you can set a foundation for life-long learning and a brain filled with amazing abilities to learn and create.

Preschool Unit Study: Chickens

The unit study we did last month was partly a family project. We got chickens! First the children and I helped Daddy to assemble the coop. We went out together to buy all the supplies and food. Then the big day came: We got the chickens! We chose four little Seramas in different colors, so they are easy to recognize. On our way home, we named the hens. My daughter named the brown one Lappie, and my son named the white chicken Tsitsi.

We are learning how to take care for our chickens and how to handle them. Every morning they need food and fresh water. We have to clean the coop regularly. When mom or dad picks up a chicken, the children can pet it carefully. We don’t want to scare them. We love to see them walk around in our garden, scratching the dirt and looking for worms or a juicy leave.

To learn more about chickens, we read multiple books which taught them some chicken-related words and the life cycle of the chicken.

Painting is one of the kids’ favorite craft activities, so we did several crafts which involved paint. We made a chicken handprint welcome sign to welcome the chickens and others who come to our house. The handprints are the bodies of the chickens. And, we added feet, a beak, and an eye. Each chicken got a letter. Combined, we got a nice welcome sign.

The hatching chick also needed some painting. I drew an egg shape on construction paper. The children painted it yellow. Once the paint was dry, we added eyes and a beak. We cut out an egg shape out of a brown paper bag and glued the edges unto the construction paper. The children drew a nest and finally opened up the egg, so you could see the little chick.

Playing with salt dough is also an activity they love. It was my idea to make little nests and chickens, using small buttons for eyes, a miniature clothespin for a beak and feathers. I think my salt dough chick turned out cute, but the children had different ideas. My daughter made a really cool racecar, decorated with chicken feathers. They had fun with the salt dough for over an hour!

Another nice activity was a feed-the-chicken counting game. I made the printable myself. The children rolled the dice, and counted how many chicken would get a dried chickpea. We kept going until every chicken got its food. It’s a good thing it’s easy to print more of these games, because after five minutes the children wanted to cut out the chickens and color them. It turned out to be not just a game, but a versatile worksheet. We had a lot of fun with it. Therefore, I want to share this printable with you. Right-click on the image below to copy.

Story Time!

We are very blessed where we live to have a wonderful network of public libraries. They have been a source of extra reading material for us for a while now. But, it wasn’t until this year that I really started taking advantage of the extra services and programs that our libraries provide.

The library provides computers with ABC Mouse and other learning softwares free of charge.

They provide several different story times each week, and family story time coincides with one of my days off. This summer we participated in our first summer reading program, and Serenity earned two new books for her personal library. Story time isn’t just sitting and listening to the librarian read books, though. The program is designed to help parents facilitate learning at home. Now that summer is over, the program has shifted to kindergarten readiness, with emphasis on learning ABCs, numbers 1-9, colors, shapes, and rhyming words.

Storytime

Serenity has gotten to do several fun projects at Story Time over the last few months. She has done science experiments, made artwork, and met new people (socialization, y’all!).

Science: learning how vinegar and baking soda react.

She was very excited about all the bubbles that the vinegar and baking soda made.

She made her own “lion mane” and practiced doing her most ferocious roar.

She can write her own name tag for story time now.

She enjoys being at story time with her best friend (and neighbor) Audrey.

She makes new friends almost every week. 🙂

The most exciting thing that our libraries offer are special programs. Over the summer they had jugglers, Lego master builders, singers, and paleontologists come to different library branches and do free programs for the kids. We got to see a very entertaining juggler who talked about cause and effect and how to be a good citizen.

The other program that we got to attend was a husband/wife duo who sang songs about wild animals. Through their songs you learn about animal homes, habits, and physiology. They brought a box turtle and American toad for the kids to see as well.

Learning how to move like different animals

Public libraries are such a phenomenal resource to homeschool families. What is a favorite resource that your local library provides your family?