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.

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.

What to Teach a Preschooler

“How do you know what to teach your child?” I have had this question quite a few times since we told people we were going to homeschool our children. My answer is usually, “There are some great online resources available.”

But, sometimes a feeling of insecurity comes over me and I ask myself the question: Do I know what I need to teach my child? Am I doing the right thing? I’m not a teacher by trade. Maybe I would do something wrong.

In January my husband and I went to a curriculum fair. We talked to a nice lady of a Christian publisher, and she had a nice offer for a unit study to try. It came with three posters, the activities weren’t too scholastic, and it had also hands-on and outdoor activities. With my insecurity about teaching the right way, and all the hours I spend to create my own unit studies every month in the back of my head, we decided to buy that unit study.

At home I opened the book, and I was astonished. What stood out most were the pages and pages with learning goals. It contained 20 pages of learning goals, followed by 24 activities for three- to six-year-olds.

Observing my preschooler on 12 points while reading a short story?!? Did I miss something? Did I do something wrong? Do I need to set up an activity to teach my kids to set the table? No! We set the table three times a day. They learn how to do that. But, that is not “doing school.” Or, is it?!

Working with this curriculum made me realize I don’t have to feel uncertain about teaching my preschoolers. I know what’s important to our family. I know what I want to teach my children. We are homeschoolers, so we don’t have to teach how, what, and when the schools teach.

Buying this set curriculum had some pros and cons.

Pros:

  • low prep time,
  • meets the goals set up by the state, and
  • the children liked it.

Cons:

  • costs,
  • some activities geared towards a group, so my family with two children couldn’t do those, and
  • therefore, I was still tweaking the unit study to our own needs.

Is buying a curriculum wrong? No. You have to do what works for you in your current circumstances. It may fit your family, but in our case the cons won this time.

Did we waste money by buying the unit study? No. My children had fun and learned, and mom learned as well. Starting some kind of homeschooling so early is partly for me as a mom to learn — to learn what homeschooling is, to learn what and how to teach, to get some confidence.

I hope to encourage you with what I have learned so far:

  • You can’t do anything wrong if you love your child(ren).
  • Tell them about God and His love.
  • Keep an eye on building good, Christian character.
  • Lead by example.
  • Go outside, get some fresh air, and enjoy nature.
  • Nourish their curiosity by answering their questions.
  • Play together. Have fun!