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?

Modeling Grace: Connection and Learning

I began to identify in September’s post why it is important to enter into connection with our children. This is not only helpful for the relationship, but also to facilitate a safe emotional environment for learning. I want to expand a little further on the three points that were identified as suggestions for starting out with your children from a place of connection.

Not that long ago I was working on something in the kitchen and felt very rushed. In the midst of my hurry, I dropped something all over the floor that needed to be cleaned up. I sighed very loudly and was ready to become quite frustrated. Our 4-year-old was watching and quickly came up to me and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. Accidents happen.”  In that exact moment my own frustration was met with grace and understanding.

“And a little child shall lead them.”

Sometimes our children can be the very best examples of what we are trying to also teach them. I thought about that moment quite a bit that day, because I recognized that in the situation, had it been reversed, I might not always respond as kindly to her; and, that had I been scolded or met with criticism, it would have also changed my attitude and ability to feel loved and accepted.  These daily interactions seem so small to many, but it is those tiny moments met with grace that open us up to training and guidance as we continue.

As we have been working on preschool skills at home, I am focusing a great deal of attention on simply being present, answering questions like, “Why does the moon go away?” and “How come the birds do that?” In the early phases of learning and schooling, it still feels like the most important thing I can do is be present to her questions and respond as best I can — if I don’t know the answer, telling her I will help her find out. I need a great deal of grace every day, and I’m grateful that she is able to give that to me, even on the days where I am struggling to give it to myself or in my interactions with her.

Sometimes when we sing about the wise man and the foolish man building their house on the rock, it reminds me of the Rock (Christ), but also the connection to the foundation that we as parents are trying to achieve. The goal ultimately for modeling grace is that it also continues to build the relationship and foundation for lifelong learning and love of Christ, and bringing that light into a world that desperately needs it.

Preschool Unit Study: Trees

The last three months we studied trees, guided by the family Bible lessons from Sonlight Education ministry. We started midsummer with all trees dressed in bright green leaves. While I’m writing this blogpost, it’s the last week of September. Fall is here! We have been seeing some change in the colors of the leaves, and so we have played and learned with pine cones, acorns, chestnuts, almonds, and more. I want to share with you what we did. And, I hope you gain some nice ideas.

We started our theme with a nature walk in a forest. I asked my children, “What is a tree?” My daughter pointed at a willow. Then I asked, “What about that elderberry bush? Is that also a tree?” “Noooo, a tree has a trunk and branches!” Then we talked about the parts of a tree.

At the small park at the end of our street are many different trees. (We take a walk through that park several times a week.) During our walk, we collected all types of leaves. At home, we pressed and dried them. Later we used a tree identification book and an app to find out which leaf belonged to which tree.

This also made us think about how to recognize a tree when you can’t look at the leaves. Flowers, fruit, and seeds are easy to use to identify a tree, but how can you find out what tree it is in the middle of winter or in early spring? It made my children think about the other parts of the tree. The bark, the twigs, the leaf buds and blossoms — all are also possible ways to recognize a tree. Let children touch the bark and feel whether it is smooth, rough, or maybe flakey like the bark of a birch.

To see and learn about more different types of trees, we went on a field trip to a botanical garden. They set up a scavenger hunt for the children. We looked for the tallest, the biggest, the fastest growing trees and plants, and so on.

One week we learned about palm trees, but we don’t have palm trees in our area. Therefore, we looked at them in books and on the internet. Then we painted a palm tree. We used our fists to stamp the leaves, and fingerprints for coconuts.

Since our street has many oak trees, we decided to spend extra time on this type of trees. We went outside to fill a bucket with acorns. We added some chestnuts and pinecones to the collection. Then it started to rain and we went inside to learn more. I found a cute acorn worksheet that involved cutting, pasting, and numbers. My daughter, almost five,followed the instructions and did a great job. My three-year-old son made his own rules. He did some counting while using the acorns, and he loved cutting the worksheet. We also read a poem about acorns, and we did a coloring page.

For an easy and fun fall craft, we made little owls out of pine cones. We used the “hats” of the acorns with googly eyes inside for eyes, added colored feathers, and used a little piece of orange felt for a beak and feet. The children could do most of it by themselves, and the owls looked so cute.

Then the season of harvesting started. By the end of August, our apples were ready to pick. The children both have their own mini tree. These are only one meter high, so they are able to pick their own apples. Later we processed the apples into juice, apple syrup, apple sauce, and apple turnovers.

We met some homeschooling friends at the forest to pick elderberries and blackberries. The children had a great time. By the end of our walk the children ate all the blackberries!

The children also helped picking our almonds. From a little distance, they threw the almonds in a bucket. That was a fun game. Afterwards we peeled the green skin off and found out all kinds of insect hiding there. We saw little spiders, ladybugs, rolly pollies, and a cute green bug. My daughter wanted to keep that bug as a pet. And so, we ended our tree unit study and transitioned to our next nature theme: insects.

Preschool Unit Study: “Towers”

During our family vacation our three-year-old son showed a lot of interest in a tower standing on the dike. We made a boat trip and every few minutes he asked, “Can we still see the tower?” He was so happy if he spotted it! So, we decided to make a unit study out of it.

Thinking about towers, the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy and the Eiffel tower in Paris, France came to my mind. Maps are also a point of interest of my son. The idea came up to introduce my children to some famous towers in Europe and link it to a printable map of our continent.

My children loved making a theme book to “read” and to show to their grandparents. The theme book wass made by stapling worksheets, flat crafts, and coloring pages together. I searched Pinterest and printed the following:

  • a map of Europe,
  • a “connect the dot” Eiffel tower from Paris,
  • “find the differences” Big Ben, London, and
  • coloring pages of Barcelona, Berlin, Moscow and Pisa.

The Bible story matching this theme was, of course, the tower of Babel. I added a printable of this tower to the theme book. While working on the booklet, my son asked for the letter stamps. That was a nice idea: stamping letters matches well with the confusion of languages. My daughter made the stamping extra confusing: she mixed up the stamps and the caps. Later she put the right caps on the right stamps. Great letter recognition activity!

We also read the Bible story several times, from different children’s Bibles. I told the story in my own words and let the children retell it to me.

On several occasions we talked about character — about being proud, like the builders of the tower of Babel, and how we need to be respectful to God and His commands. We talked about being polite and humble, and about being equal. Jesus loves every one of us!

We learned a song about the tower of Babel, which helped us remember the Bible story and not getting too proud. And, we learned a little bit about different languages through the chorus:

“Pardon moi

Was sagt du

No comprende

What’s that dude!

No entiendo

No capisce

Say what?

Dat begrijp ik niet!”

Last but not least: This unit study wouldn’t be complete without building. So, we played with our Duplo blocks to build a house and a big tower! Then we went into the kitchen to build a tower snack. We made some vegan whipped cream and counted cookies. Each got five cookies to build a tower, spreading the whipped cream on the cookie to hold them in a pile. Then we got to eat the tower. Yummy!!!

Preschool Unit Study: The Ark of Noah

We recently started the little children’s family Bible lessons by Sonlight Education Ministry. This week and last week we learned about Noah and his ark.

I want to share with you what I have done with my four-year-old daughter and my three-year-old son. I hope you gain some ideas.

We started our study with reading from the Bible. During this two weeks, we read about Noah in different children’s Bible story books. I told the story in my own words, and I asked the children to re-tell it to me. Sometimes it was difficult for them to tell the story in their own words, so I asked them questions like this: “Why did Noah build an ark?” or “Who told Noah to build the ark?” Repeating the story in different ways helped them to get more familiar with Bible history and the important parts of it.

For our preschool math, we had two fun activities. The first was Nijntje ahoi. This is a balancing game. My son and daughter had to take turns in placing Nijntje (also known as Miffy), her family, and the animals on the boat. Make sure there is a place for everybody! Don’t let any of them fall off!

The second activity was called “porcupine.” For this game we took 12 clothespins. When they were all mixed up, it was not easy to count them. Then we made four rows of three clothespins. This way it was easier to count. Then came the time to give the porcupine her spikes. My daughter knelt down and closed her eyes. I clipped some clothespins on her shirt, and she guessed how many spikes she had on her back. Then she could look at the remaining clothespins and count again.

For this unit study, we went to Batavia werf, a yard where they make a replica of The Seven Provinces, a battleship from the 17th century. We saw the wooden frame of The Seven Provinces. It was only 43 meters (a little over 150 ft.), but it looked so big. Noah’s ark was even three times bigger! We were amazed, realizing how much work Noah and his team had done to build the ark.

In an old Bible activity book from the thrift store, we found some nice little crafts. One was an ark and animal finger-puppets to color and cut out. Another activity was coloring the rainbow with only three colors. My daughter loved mixing colors to complete the rainbow.

We loved learning about Noah, and I’m sure we will study this Bible story again someday.