Friday, September 22, 2006

C week: plans

Here are the plans for C week:
word cards: caboose, construction, cloud, color, cookies
Caterpillar Crawling

One little caterpillar crawled on my shoe,
Another came along and now there are two.
Two little caterpillars crawled on my knee
Another came along and now there are three.
Three little caterpillars crawled on the floor.
Another came along and then there were four.
Four little caterpillars watch them crawl away
They'll all turn into butterflies some fine day.

Monday (science): clouds. We'll talk about the different kinds of clouds in the sky (and read The Cloud Book by Tomie de Paola) and then make clouds from cotton balls to glue on blue construction paper.

Tuesday (math): Counting from 1 to 20. We'll just practice doing this, probably dancing while we do it or counting our fingers and toes. Right now Connor counts like this after 10: "eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen, eleventeen...oh, and fiveteen."

Wednesday (scriptures/gospel): Christmas/Christ. We'll talk about who Jesus Christ is and why we have Christmas to celebrate His birth. We may watch the scripture video of the Nativity too.

Thursday (movement/activity): construction fieldtrip. We'll go for a drive to a place up the street where they're doing construction and watch the construction trucks work.

Friday (art project): colors. We'll mix the primary colors to make the secondary colors. Connor is already catching on to this idea, so it'll be fun to have some hands-on time with mixing paint colors and making new colors.

Other C words that might come up or spark ideas for activities: camping, community, cookies, caterpillar, clown, clock, castle.

NOTE: This week is about the hard sound of the letter C. It's important to focus on words that start with this sound and not bring in words like circus and circle. Of course, you can always explain to your preschooler that C has two sounds, but for the first exposure to C, you should stick with one sound.

B week: day five

I had a question in a comment about how I schedule preschool throughout the day. I spend a total of 30-40 minutes (more if the activity is more time consuming, particularly on art project Fridays) each day doing preschool with Connor. It's not very long, but it's consistent that we do it every day. I think the repetition of the calendar, day of the week, weather, five senses, words, and poem is important for Connor.

Today we read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Connor loved this 1948 book. It was a Caldecott Honor book. It's a great story, good for making predictions and the pictures are nice because they're just one color.

Instead of building with boxes as I had planned (today is a busy day!) we worked on the two B worksheets I printed from STARFALL. I downloaded their entire set of letter worksheets just to have for days when the planned activity doesn't quite work out. And Connor loves to pull out his binder and his pencils in a zipper case and do his schoolwork.

So it was a quick and fun preschool day since we were getting ready for a new friend to come over and play.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

B week: day four

I was a little worried this morning when Connor said, "it's not still B week?" because I don't want him to get sick of a week and be forcing him to enjoy preschool every Thursday and Friday. But it was only because "the bear [on STARFALL] is scary" so we just did part of the letter B site today.

If you have kids, you should check out the site (link to the right). For each letter there is a "book" that they click through and hear words that start with the sound and then there's a capital/lowercase sorting game at the end. It's really cute.

Connor loves the part in the letter B one where the boy says, "I am a boy" and clicks on it a few times to hear it again and again. But next comes the bear. So we have to stop after the boy.

We read a Berenstain Bears book today about a Big Red Kite. Connor loved it. It was just your basic Berenstain Bears story.

Then we had Annika come over to play and they made Balloon Boppers. They colored on paper plates and then we taped them onto paint stirs. Connor kind of took on a teacher role and was telling Annika what to do since he's done it before. We blew up balloons and they bopped to their hearts content. It was cute to see them reaching and jumping to bop the balloons.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

B week: day three

I love that Connor is learning to use the computer as part of preschool. He knows where the bookmark links are in my toolbar and can find STARFALL to do the calendar and the letter of the week and WEATHER to check the weather for the day. He thinks he's pretty cool when he's using the mouse, too.

Today we read The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss. It was a silly Dr. Seuss book, as you may expect. A little over Connor's head, but he liked the sound of the silly words. When we finished reading it I asked him if he liked it and he said, "no." It probably won't be one we repeat all week like the great beach one from yesterday. But it was a fun read.

We learned about the Book of Mormon today. I read him the introduction in the illustrated (like a comic book) Book of Mormon and we talked about Joseph Smith. He said that he remembers being in the Sacred Grove where Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We were there almost a year ago with my family.

Then Connor got to go play at Caroline's house. He had a great time playing with Caroline (something about hammers and they had to take turns), especially jumping on her trampoline. I love that he's making friends and having fun with them. He insisted on wearing his Frankenstein hat to Caroline's house. Silly boy!

Can you tell that in this picture he's explaining something very important to me?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

B week: day two

Every day I am so glad that Connor still loves doing preschool with me. He laughs and laughs at our poem (about the butterfly not being made of butter). He is already catching on to our 5 B words. He is getting more into the five senses thing, although we forget to do that some days.

Today we read two cute books about the beach. Beach Day by Karen Roosa. Cute, but not excellent. Don't go out searching for it. And How Will We Get to the Beach? by Brigitte Luciani. Very cute. A woman wants to go to the beach and she's taking five things with her (one of which is her baby). Since her car won't start she's looking for another way to get there, but each mode of transportation she tries would make it necessary to leave behind one of the five things. You have to guess which thing won't be able to come with each mode of transportation. And of course in the end they find a way to get there and have a great day at the beach. Connor and I both highly recommend this book.

Singing Time was at our house today, so we had fun singing and playing with our friends. I read Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing to the kids and they (and their moms) loved it. Connor was so into it when I was reading it. Like he was the proud owner of this great book. He was helping me read it and explaining the pictures to the younger kids. It made me so happy to see him get so giddy about a book, especially about sharing that book with his friends.

After all our friends went home we went to the post office to mail Connor's birthday invitations. We are excited to have an ABCs and Green party for his 3rd birthday since those are his two favorite things. He enjoyed putting the "Happy Birthday" stamps on the postcards and handing them to the postal worker to be mailed. (On a side note, Glenn, our friendly and quirky postal worker is retiring this Saturday. We'll miss him and all his weird comments, especially since all the others are very straight-faced and monotone.)

Then we went to the bakery so Connor could spend some of his pennies on a cookie. The man there gave him the cookie for free, but pretended to take a few pennies from his "spending" cup. He picked a horseshoe shaped cookie today.

Monday, September 18, 2006

B week: day one

Photos wouldn't upload, so I'll try to add them later.

I think Mondays are going to be tricky for preschool. I like to clean the house Monday mornings. I cannot clean the house if I don't do it first thing in the morning (after mentally preparing myself for it the night before). So that means that preschool on Mondays will most likely be happening in the afternoon. It's also better because we've started to meet a group of friends at the duck pond on Monday mornings (usually after I've finished cleaning everything except the bathroom).

So this afternoon when Connor woke up from his nap we jumped right in. Actually, he came in to me and said, "we have to go to Starfall, Mommy." (That's the first website we visit each day.)

He is catching on to the two-thousand six thing with the date. It's cute. He's not getting the days of the week very quickly (he thinks it's Sunday if it's sunny and yet knows that Sunday is Church day, hmmm), but he knows that it's 2006 and was very excited that I added that to our calendar today.

Connor was excited to watch the letter B at Starfall today. Five days of watching the letter A was enough. But not too much. He didn't get bored with it, but said today that he didn't want to do A again. Good thing, because it's B week now!

We skipped reading today because I knew Abby would wake up and wanted to get our activity done before she was awake. We used Connor's brand new scissors and glue to cut pictures from magazine to make a timeline. We first talked about babies and how we get "bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger." Connor often goes on and on about how he's doing just that. We talked about how we grow into little kids and then big kids and then teenagers and then grown-ups and then parents and then grandparents.

I was talking about how we are dads and moms first and then we get to be grandparents. But I guess because I was thinking about myself I said, "and then you get to be a grandma." Connor immediately said, "no-o. 'Cause I'm a boy. I can't be a grandma."

We cut pictures of kids and grown-ups out of magazines and glued them onto construction paper. He was getting tired of it by the time we got to teenager, so we just did grown-ups and then called it quits (no dads or grandpas). The picture we found of grown-ups is They Might Be Giants. That's cool because Connor has loved their Here Come the ABC's DVD.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Philosophy of Preschool Education

I've been thinking a lot lately about my philosophy of preschool education. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why do I teach Connor the way I teach Connor? How do I feel about preschool? What are the beliefs that drive me in educating my preschooler?

I'm going to attempt to answer these questions in writing so that I can free up some brain space and have a source to come to when I need reminding about the important things in educating Connor.

First and foremost, I believe that children are supposed to have fun when they're learning. I read an article in Newsweek (September 11 issue) about how competitive kindergarten and first grade are becoming. I started to try and summarize the article, but I can't do it justice. Basically, young children are being required to focus so much on academics at the ages of 5 and 6 that they're getting burnt out. It's too stressful! Young children have a natural love of learning and discovering. It's our job as parents and teachers to help them nurture that love of learning so that it doesn't die.

Second, I believe that all children learn at their own pace. Does this mean we sit back and let them do their own thing? No. This means we figure out how they learn and help them learn, understanding that they will have strengths and weaknesses. Particularly as toddlers and preschoolers, children develop differently. Their strengths and interests are already manifest in what they talk about and what they catch on to quickly. As parents and teachers we have to look for these things and use the teachable moments we have to expand their knowledge.

For example, Connor loves letters. He loves words. He picked up sign language amazingly quickly and well and then transitioned to talking brilliantly. He listens to words and thinks about how they're related to other words. He notices the way letters are formed and how they relate to each other. He hears a word once and stores it away in his little brain to use later, and he uses it appropriately most of the time. Language is Connor's "thing." So as his mother, it's my job to help him develop it. Not to force him to develop it, but to give him opportunities to learn more. To lovingly guide him in his discovery of language.

Does that mean that I ignore other areas of learning because they're not his favorite? No. He's still 3, so he loves learning anything. He just asks to learn about language. He loves learning about numbers and the way things work and people and relationships.

Which leads me to number three, a belief that has always guided the way I parent. I believe that kids can handle the answers to their questions. Okay, there are a few subject areas that I will not give him full details on until he's old enough. And I always give him answers in language that he can understand. But I give him the correct information when he asks me a question. I think this is one of the reasons he retains so much information. Because there aren't "holes" in the way he understands things. Because I tell him all about it.

For example, if he asks me what "chair" starts with I'm not just going to say, "Oh, you'll learn that later" or bypass the question or redirect him. I'm going to say, "chair starts with /ch/. When C and H are together in a word they sometimes say /ch/." And he'll file that away somewhere in his brain. He may remember it. But he probably won't. I don't expect him to remember it. I just want to give him the correct answer.

That's not the best example because maybe everyone would do that. And maybe most moms and dads do give kids answers like this. But I've heard parents who just bypass subjects or don't explain them in detail because they think their child isn't old enough yet. We can't underestimate what toddlers and preschoolers can understand. They are sponges and will soak anything up. So why not let them soak up all the information they can to help their brains develop?

There are other things I could write about now, but I've blabbed about the three big things I've been thinking about:

1. Learning should be fun, not stressful.

2. It's important to understand each child's way of learning and teach in ways that will best benefit him/her. It's equally important to figure out what a child is interested in and guide him/her in developing in that area.

3. Children can handle all the information we can throw at them. Don't hold back (except in inappropriate subject areas).

I'm sure I could sit here for hours and think of all the things I want to remember as I teach Connor. And I'm sure I'll edit this post or add to it later. But for now I just wanted to remind myself why I'm going to these efforts with Connor. Is it to make him the smartest 3-year-old around? Not at all. My goals are to help him love learning. To be involved in learning with him. To nurture his interest in letters and lanuage. To foster a love of math and other subject areas. To help him get used to a school routine. To make memories with him. And to help him socialize with friends (not in preschool this year, but that's a main goal of mine).