Category Archives: Early Learners

Teaching the Alphabet -WITHOUT a Curriculum!

Teaching Alphabet

 

One of the first things a child learns in preschool is the alphabet. We have all sang the ABC’s with a young preschooler, and most of us have practiced letter sounds. Teaching the alphabet to our children can be a lot of fun, and it doesn’t require a curriculum!

I have found children learn best when they are active, and many children are hands on learners. Teaching the alphabet with worksheets may work for some, but it won’t work with everyone! And, it isn’t exactly the funnest way to learn, now is it?

Here are a few hands on activities I have found that tend to make learning the alphabet easy without a curriculum!

  1. Make a Rice Sensory Bin: Rice is a great sensory tool and other than needing swept up is not really messy. Find a plastic bin and fill it with rice. Get plastic spoons, funnels and cups and put them with the bin. Then get alphabet tiles or another form letters and bury them. See how many letters the child can find and identify. If they don’t identify it correctly, tell them the right answer and bury it again.
  2. Fun with Cotton Balls! Gather up some cotton balls, glue, a marker and a piece of construction paper. Write a capital and lowercase letter of your choice on the paper. Show the child how to make glue drops onto the letter. Then have them tear up the cotton balls and place them onto the glue drops.
  3. Play a game of I Spy! Get a pack of alphabet flash cards. Pick a letter, then “spy” something that starts with that letter. Then, have your child try to find what you are referring to. “I Spy with my little eye something that starts with the letter sound T-“ta, ta”. Have them try to guess, if they say something that doesn’t’ start with that sound correct them by saying something like “Hmm, no that starts with the letter B. B says ba, ba “ then refer them back to the proper sound. Take turns playing the game. This helps the child learn to recognize the sounds the letters make.
  4. Let them play in the Dirt! What child doesn’t love to play in the dirt? Grab a stick and go outside! Find a good flat area where the children can draw or write in the dirt. Make letters and ask the children which letters are in their name. Have them copy the letters. If you have room write out the alphabet in the dirt and sing it with the children.

Learning the alphabet is a huge part of a child’s life. It sets the foundation for reading, writing, and spelling. However, teaching the alphabet CAN be fun, and it doesn’t require a curriculum!

 

Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List

I try to have a sample reading list ahead of time for each child to ensure they pick out good, quality literature. Yes, I let them make their own selections, but I also recommend a few titles that I think they will like.

Through the years, we have read countless books. Many of these I believe would be great for most children. Here are a few of our favorites that you may consider putting on your summer reading list.

Babies and Toddlers

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, By Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (there are a few in this series like Baby Bear, and Panda Bear that are also great!)
  • Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
  • Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon,  by Crockett Johnson 
  • Babies (So Tall Board Book) by Gyo Fujikawa 
  • Peekaboo Books (babies LOVE these types of books)

Preschool

  • Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman 
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  • If You give a Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond 
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Edwina, the Dinosaur that didn’t know she was extinct by Mo Willems
  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
  • Corduroy  by Don Freeman

Elementary

Early Readers

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • Seuss Books
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean 
  • Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Aweibel
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett
  • Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems
  • Splat the Cat by Rob Scotten.
  • Amelia Bedeliabooks by Peggy Parrish
  • Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
  • Harry the Dirty Dogby Gene Zion

Independent Readers

 

  • Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Historical American Girl Series (Authors Vary)
  • Circle C Beginnings by Susan K. Marlow 
  • Bindi Wildlife Adventures by Bindi Irwin and Jess Black
  • Magic School Bus series by Joanna Coleand Bruce Degen
  • Sisters in Time (Authors Vary)

 

These books we have not read, but they have gotten rave reviews by other homeschool moms and are on my kids summer reading lists.

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Runaway Ralph . by Beverly Cleary
  • Summer with Elisa by Johanna Hurwitz and Debbie Tilley

 

 

Middle School

  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks
  • By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman
  • Because of Winn-Dixie   by Kate DiCamillo
  • Love That Dog  by Sharon Creech
  • Hol es by Louis Sachar (Newbery Medal winner, 1999)
  • Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien and Zena Bernstein 
  • Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Fiderle

Have you ever heard the phrase “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents”? I whole-heartedly agree with that statement! Read alouds are a favorite in our home. We have read every book on this list, and my kids love to have that time together as a family. Our read aloud time is during lunch, but really, you can carve out time anywhere in your day to sit down and read a book as a family. Just find a time that works for you!

Read Alouds for the Whole Family

  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor 
  • Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh and Leonard Weisgard
  • The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Charlotte’s Web by EB White
  • Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • All of a Kind Family by Sidney Taylor
  • Mr. Poppers Penguins by Richard Atwater
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  • Animal Stories by Thornton Burgess
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • In Grandma’s Attic by Arlette Richardson

So, take this list, or make your own and go to the library! Summer reading programs can be found at your local library and most bookstores like Barnes and Noble.


 

Make Summer Learning Happen!

Make Summer Learning Happen

It is summertime for most of us. The books are closed, and summer break is here! As homeschoolers, we have luxury of understanding that learning can happen anytime, even during the summer. But, what does summer learning look like? Whatever you want it too! There are many ways to let the learning continue throughout the summer.

Science

Let your children explore your backyard, or park if you don’t have a back yard. Let them find things in nature, like twigs, rocks, bugs, flowers or whatever else they find that is interesting. They can gather their items in a bucket or jar and take them home. Let them identify what they found, study it, and let it go back into nature.

Stay up late one night and watch the stars. See if you can find the big dipper or another constellation. Talk about the stars and why you can see them some nights and not others.

Art

There is a fantastic program I found recently called Easy Peasy Homeschool. It is a free comprehensive homeschool curriculum and it is all online. They offer a once a week art lesson that my kids have really enjoyed!

Another good art idea for summer is to have a smorgasbord day. Gather all the art materials you have in your home and let the kids have a free day! See what kind of amazing creations they make J

Take your kids for a walk and let them gather a large rock. Bring it home and paint it. They can make an animal, a person, or another item of their choosing. Just make sure they wash it first!

Reading

Summer reading programs are in full force. Check your local library to see what they offer. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble also tend to offer summer reading programs throughout the summer. If you’re looking for book recommendations check out my Pinterest board for some great books!

History

With 4th of July coming up it is a great time to learn about American History. Check out some books from the library about our founding fathers. Another great resource for American History is Liberty Kids. You can get the complete series for a reasonable price on Amazon.

Talk about your local state history, and visit an area near you that you have never been to before. There are probably untapped resources within an hour or two from your home.

There are many ways to keep learning happening throughout the summer. Learning does not have to happen just during the school year, or only with a textbook. Summer learning can happen any time you want! Just make sure the kiddos don’t realize they are learning while having fun :)

Author: Misty Bailey

Misty is a homeschool mom of three and has been homeschooling for over 4 years. You can read about her homeschool journey and more on her blog, Joy in the Journey.

 

Over Twelve Great Family Read a Louds

Family Read a louds

Do you want to make sure your child gets the best education they can? Do you want to ensure that your child has a head start in academics? If so, then the most important thing you can do for your child is read to them!

A study completed years ago title, “Becoming a Nation of Readers” found that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success is reading”. Research has also found that reading is an accrued skill. Meaning that the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Reading to a child at a young age encourages them to read later in life. It becomes a habit, it is engrained in them, and honestly it helps them to develop a love of literature.

So, what are the best read a louds for families? Here are a few of my favorites!

  1. The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  2. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  3. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
  4. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  8. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
  9. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
  10. Stuart Little by A.A. Milne
  11. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  12. Paddington by Michael Bond

These are just a few of some of our families favorite read a louds!

 

 

Homeschooling and Grade Placement

Grade placement in homeschool

I recently shared a shocking homeschool confession post on my blog. In that post, I also shared that I don’t worry about what the grade number is on the front of my children’s books. One of the luxuries of homeschooling is that we don’t have to work on grade level. We can let our kids work at their own pace. This is a luxury for them, and us.

When you first begin homeschooling, you may assume that you can go with whatever grade they “should” be in. But, that is not always the case. I have found that some homeschool curriculums work about a ½-grade level above where our local public schools work. Some curriculum companies work below where our local schools are. You cannot trust the number on the front of a homeschool curriculum and assume it is “grade level appropriate”.

When thinking about where to place your child there are numerous things you can do to properly place them into a curriculum. Check the publishing company’s website and see if they offer grade placement tests. These tests are usually free and can be downloaded onto your computer and printed out. They will likely tell you about where your child should be placed in the publisher’s curriculum.

Another thing you may want to do is see the curriculum in person. This can be done at a convention, through a local homeschool friend who may use the curriculum, or at a curriculum swap and sell. This helps a lot because there may b some material in a curriculum your child has covered, and some they haven’t.

As homeschoolers, we can let our children work at their own pace. They don’t have to worry about what the number on the front of the book says as long as they are mastering the material along the way. Some people do consider grade levels important and where we live we do have to share what grade level our children are in when we turn in our notification. In this case I would consider what grade they WOULD be in if they attended public school. If someone asks my children, what grade they are in they will tell them. This helps in Sunday school classes, Jr church programs, scouts, and sports. Grade levels are not bad; they just aren’t always necessary or accurate when it comes to actual curriculum.

So, when thinking about grade placement for your homeschool child, for record keeping purposes, go with the grade they would be in if they attended public school. For curriculum purposes go with where they place academically and don’t worry about the number on the front of the book! Let them work at their own pace, regardless of what “grade” that may be!

Misty Bailey is a wife to Roger and a homeschool mom to three beautiful blessings. She resides with her family in Southern Ohio. She loves helping new homeschoolers and has a Homeschool 101 eBook for those getting started. She shares her struggles with time management, becoming unglued and finding joy in the everyday moments on her blog Joy in the Journey.