Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Schedule, Circle Time, and Starting Preschool

My goal this year was to do some kind of intentional learning every day with Emery. I wanted to keep it short and sweet since she is still little and has a short attention span and I didn't want to burn her out before more rigid homeschooling starts, but I wanted to get her in the learning mindset. Playing is extremely important and a part of learning at her age so that's what I really want her doing most of the time, but I also don't think she's too young to start memory work, reading poems, exploring art, reading short stories with me, practicing tracing, printing, counting, and other skills.

More importantly I really wanted to stick to a schedule everyday, or as often as possible, because we all do so much better when we know what the day's activities will be in advance. I've noticed that everyone seems to have a better attitude, we stay busy and focused, and everything just feels more productive throughout the day. More gets done, yes! Obviously things change, schedules aren't perfect, Declan decides not to sleep much, we all get sick, something comes up, and then it gets scrapped all together, but such is life with kids. And, admittedly, we haven't been doing this for very long yet so we'll see if things change in the future.

Another life changing addition I recently added to the schedule is daily (or at least almost daily) time outdoors. This is really wonderful! Of course we live in Minnesota so this isn't always possible, but for the most part we can dress weather appropriate (even if it means covering every inch except our eye-balls!) and head outside for at least a little bit everyday. And it's such a great way to burn off some extra toddler energy, collect fun things, explore, get dirty, learn about the weather and nature first-hand, and just have fun for a little while. Once the weather gets nicer I'm hoping to do circle time outside and spend more time exploring nature and the world God created.

Here's what our day usually looks like:

7:00-8 - Get up, dressed, beds made, laundry put away, hair done, etc.
8:30-9:30 - Breakfast + clean-up + play for a bit
9:30 - Declan takes a nap
9:30-10:15/30 - Circle Time
10:30-12:00 - Snack, pre-planned open-ended activity
12:00-1:00 - Lunch time
1:30-2:30/3 - Em has quiet time in her room with a quiet time bin and Declan naps
3:00-3:30 - Em goes outside to play
2:30-5:30 - Play with daddy, play, read, help with dinner, chores, etc.
5:30-6:30 - Dinner
6:30 - Declan goes to bed
7:00-7:30 - Wind-down time with Em (read books in bed, jammies on, brush teeth, sing songs, pray)
7:30/8 - Em goes to bed

What Circle Time looks like:

I just started calling it Circle Time because the place where we actually do the "Circle Time" is on the circle pattern in the middle of our living room rug. I wanted to stick to the same place everyday, so this is it. We sit down here together and get started.

Our Circle Time spot
1. Read a chapter in Big Truths for Little Kids (or one of the books below) and pray together.
2. Go over our catechisms, recite and sing them together (this and this are excellent).
3. Read a couple of poems or look at (or listen to) a piece of art. Discuss.
4. Review scripture memory verse.
5. Practice manners and character building with role playing.
6. Look at our calendar, move the card to today's date and talk about the date, day, how many days until certain events, etc.
7. Take a look outside and discuss the weather.
8. Review our letter and number of the week (we just use basic flash cards and keep the number and letter of the week in a pocket of our calendar).
9. Occasionally we practice printing our letters and review the ones we've already learned in our wipe-clean books. Or we'll have fun making letters with a container of toothpicks.
10. Sometimes we play a "fill the bag" game, where I have Em walk around the house filling a bag with things that are round, square, a certain color, find 5 things, 7 things, things that start with "A", etc.
11. Sing a few simple silly songs.

Some books/CD's we've read during circle time that I'd highly suggest:

-God's Wisdom for Little Girls. They also have one for boys here.
-Jesus Storybook Bible
-God's Names
-The Westminster Shorter Catechism Songs Don't even hesitate, just buy these. They are an excellent way to help memorize catechisms (both you and the kids!). We've listened to these since Emery was just born and she can sing most of them. So wonderful, I would like to personally thank Holly Dutton for putting these to song!
-The Prince's Poison Cup
-The Priest with Dirty Clothes
-Manners Can be Fun
-How to Behave and Why
-A Child's Garden of Verses
-Poems and Prayers for the Very Young (I remember having this as a little girl)
-The Big Golden Book of Poetry (No, we didn't buy it for $80+ on Amazon. Found it at a thrift store for $0.99!)
-Prayers for Children
-My Little Golden Book About God
-Arch Books I had many of these when I was little and we've grown quite a large collection of them from thrift stores.
-The Llama Who Had No Pajama (This is Emery's favorite poetry book)

Books/Other we plan to add to Circle Time:

-The Art Book for Children
-Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery, Mr. Bach Lives Upstairs, etc. (CD's)
-My ABC Bible Verses
-The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature
-The Church History ABC's
-Nature Friend Magazine
-God's Promises
-The Donkey Who Carried a King
-The Squire and the Scroll
-God's Little Princess
-The Princess Kiss

We don't necessarily do everything listed here at each circle time, but we stick with the most important things (i.e. prayer, scripture memory, catechisms, manners) then add some other things in. After that we move into doing some kind of open-ended activity. This takes some planning (and I'm still working on it), but I try to have the activity pre-planned and ready for the day. Then I don't have to dig around searching for the materials needed because they're all ready to go for the day. I am then able to get a few things done around the house while she plays and Declan's still napping.

Examples of open-ended activities include:

-Play dough
-Sensory bins (beans, rice, water beads, endless possibilities) - These are the best, cheapest, and Em's favorite activities!
-A craft
-Felt boards
-Activity book
-Quiet time bin
-Beading (either with real beads and yarn/string or these)
-Kumon books (not quite open-ended, but fun and great learning activity nonetheless)
-Fun with a tub of water in the kitchen
-Other random creations (we consult with Pinterest often) :)
-Here's some Pinterest ideas: crafts, activities, Holiday themed

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Catching up, and what we've been up to...

Wow, these last couple months have seemed like a whirlwind! Obviously I haven't blogged for quite some time because things have just been a little busy around here. Here's a little recap:

First, we moved out of our cute little home in Saint Paul. This was the home that Dustin and I first looked at on our wedding day then moved into a month after we were married. This is where we labored for 6 hours with Emery and nearly had her right in the kitchen. This home is where I gave birth to Declan. We had our first Christmas together as a married couple here, camped out in the backyard, and planted our first successful garden. This was a good house. It was tiny, I'm talking 700-800 square feet, with two bedrooms (8X8 and 8X9) barely large enough to fit our full size bed, a crib, toddler bed, a couple dressers, and book shelf, plus a cozy living room and kitchen that barely fit our tiny table, with tiny closets, and no garage. It wasn't big, but it was our home. Full of memories. I'll definitely miss our huge backyard. It was the only huge thing about that house.

Our (old) big backyard: best play area, picture place, and best place to get dirty.
But moving out means that we also moved in. Moved in to a much bigger home! One with bedrooms for each of the kids, two living room spaces, a garage, and a dining room big enough to fit Dustin's grandparents large wooden table! We are so thankful for the space, especially during these winter months, when everyone can get a bit cramped up indoors during the cold and snowy days.

So much more room to play!
And be silly, of course!
Moving with kids was not an easy task, however. It meant one of us (Dustin or I) was moving stuff while the other was watching the kids, making food, getting naps going, cleaning after kids, playing, etc. So it took a lot more work, a lot more patience, a lot more time, and a lot more help from others. Thank you family and friends!

In the midst of the moving process we were presented with a wonderful gift from my sister. She was unable to use some tickets she had purchased for Florida (plus a hotel stay at a wonderful hotel with lots of water and kids activities!) so she gave them to us and we left right then and there for a week to Florida! My parents gave me a birthday present of a couple tickets to Magic Kingdom so we spent a whole day there as well! What an unexpected and amazing blessing in the middle of a hectic and crazy time! We all had a blast!!

I think we need more family photos...
Pool at our hotel. It was so nice!
Picture with a princess :)

Having so much fun!
When we came home we continued the moving process, helped family move as well (it seemed everyone was moving at the same time!), and began to settle in.

October was insane. I don't think Dustin or I sat down for longer than a few minutes at a time when we were awake. November was much better, Thanksgiving came and went and now we're enjoying spending our first advent and Christmas season in our new place.

More catch up later!