Friday, July 20, 2007

Science Exploration

M and her dad had a great time the other day using the computer to answer some of her myriad questions about anatomy, both human and animal. Using Google Images and Wikipedia, they were able to find pictures and info about the human skeleton as well as the skeleton's of frogs and several other animals. M would announce what she wanted to see and then her dad would type in a search in Google Images to get a picture and then find further info in Wikipedia if need be. The spent the better part of an hour exploring and it turned out to be a great Daddy/daughter bonding experience as well as terrific science learning.

They also read from The First Encyclopedia of the Human Body, an Usborne reference book that is one of M's favorite reads. I would recommend it for anyone child interested in learning about the body. The Usborne catalog lists is as age 8 and up but M is happy to listen to it anytime.

This Week's Books

M filled up her stamp card for the library's summer reading program so she got to pick out a free book. She picked Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott and she love it!

Other picture books we're enjoying this week:
The Fool and the Fish, a tale from Russia by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev
New Socks by Bob Shea (very silly, reminds me of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus)
Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell (author of Apples Here, one of our all times favorites)
T. Rex by Vivian French (great for any child interested in paleontology)

We just finished reading Betsy Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelave which M adored. We'll start on one of the sequels soon. We just started the first book in The Unicorn's Secret series. M likes it so far but we've only read one chapter.

I'm reading a great historical romance by an author I've been wanting to try, Gaelyn Foley. This book is the first in her new trilogy set partially in India. I can hardly put it down. The title is Her Only Desire.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Activities To Do With A Preschooler

As mentioned below, when I was pregnant with C, I started making a list of activities that I could do with M so I wouldn't have to wrack my brain every time I needed a fresh activity or something to get up out of the house. I'd been working on the list and my plans for the summer when I ran across this post on Zen Habits and found a lot of activities I hadn't thought to add.

A few caveats: I've left activities on the list that I have found difficult to do now that I understand the reality of having a baby and a preschooler like going swimming. We regularly do lots of crafts, so I didn't include activities like painting or using markers.

Here's my list in no particular order.
Do a cooking project
Go swimming
Go to the park
Make a playdate with friends
Play in the yard
Watch a movie
Do errands we can walk to (for us that includes going to the post office, renting a movie, buying bread at a local bakery, and going to the library, buying coffee beans from our favorite roastery)
Check out books from the library
Go to a coffee shop for a snack
Go to our local nature center/zoo
Play with sidewalk chalk
Pull out a toy we haven't played with before or a new toy from my stash (I keep a few inexpensive toys in a closet for special days when we need something new)
Go to the children's museum
Play with playdough
Paint with water
Do some pages in an activity book
Go to Barnes and Noble and read and play with the Thomas set.
Go see the animals at Pet Smart
Set up the tent to play in
Go for ice cream
Do a treasure hunt
Play games on the computer (like those at PBS Kids)
Dance to fun music
Water play outside
Decorate cookies
Find an educational show like on Animal Planet, Discovery, etc
Take a collecting walk and search for special rocks, leaves, pinecones, etc.

Summer Structure

After reading a post at Parent Hacks about structured versus unstructured summers and a message on a homeschooling list about how to structure learning for a Pre-K aged child, I was inspired to write up the structure we're using for Mommy and M school.

When I was in my last month of pregnancy last spring, I worked myself into a near panic about the weeks of summer during which I would have a newborn baby and no preschool for my 3.5 year old. Being a chronic planner, I decided to make some lists of crafts and get supplies for them. I also made a list of activities we could do both at home or to get us out of the house, since I was afraid that my sleep-deprived post-partum brain wouldn't be able to come up with any ideas on the spur of the moment (I'll write these up in another post.) I also thought up a loose schedule for our early mornings. M is an early riser so we usually have several hours together before any of her friends are ready for a playdate.

As the end of M's preschool year neared, we made a chart for the fridge that shows the things we want to accomplish each day. She drew a picture for each, and I wrote a word or spelled it out for her. The eight things on our chart are: getting ready for the day (dressing, brushing teeth, etc), letter lesson (from Modern Curriculum Phonics), number lesson (from Singapore Kindergarten Math) art, chores, snack, taking a walk, and reading together. We don't do all these every day, and we hardly ever do them in the same order, but it's a nice structure for us.

So on weekdays, once we've eaten breakfast, I let M choose what she wants do to first (assuming C is co-operating) and we get started on our "school' day. Then in the late morning when C is up from her nap, we leave the house for an outing, a playdate, or errands. Our afternoons tend to be much slower, lots of creative unstructured play, occasionally with a friend, and maybe another walk or some park time, or a movie if we're tired or too hot to get outside.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fantasy Read-Alouds and Other Cool Books

I'm so exicted that M is now soaking up chapter books. She loves to be read to and is really getting the longer stories. We just finished The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and she asked for more stories about magcial worlds. I asked for fantasy read-aloud suggestions at The Denim Jumper. Here's a list of the suggestions I've gotten as well as a few from a librarian friend.

Fantasy Read Alouds

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as the other Narnia books
The Unicorns of Balinor by Mary Stanton
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
The Tail of Emily Windsap (and sequels) by Liz Kessler
Thora: A Half-Mermaid Tale by Gillain Johnson
The Adventure of the Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton
I, Houdini by Lynn Banks
Phantom Tollbooth
My Father's Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Half Magic by Edward Eager
Dealing with Dragon (and sequels) by Patricia Wrede
The Unicorn Secret series by Kathleen Duey
The Secret of the Unicorn Queen by Josepha Sherman and Gwen Hansen
Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson

Here are some other (non-fantasy) read-alouds that are on our list for the future:

The Railway Children
Little House on the Prairie series
The Wind in the Willows
The Penderwicks
Cricket in Times Square
Stuart Little
The Secret Garden
Betsy Tacy series
Harriet the Spy

Read-Alouds We've Already Done
Winnie the Pooh
The House at Pooh Corner
The Boxcar Children
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Pony-Crazed Princess Books 1-6
Mercy Watson To the Rescue (and the two sequels)

In researching these titles on Amazon, I also found a great list of read-alouds for preschoolers who are ready to listen to longer books.

Picture Books we're enjoying this week

The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Cambell Ernst
Scarecrow Boy Margaret Wise Brown
A Tree is a Plant (Let's Read and Find Out About Science Series)
Olivia by Ian Falconer
A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
Amanda Pig and Her Best Friend Lollipop by Jean Van Leeuwen
Little Rabbit Runaway by Harry Horse

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Turtles, Gingerbread, Reading and Charlie and Lola

Last Monday, I took M and C to our local Nature Center. C slept in the wrap most of the time but she did get a look at the otters. The highlight for M was getting to hold a box turtle which was handed to her by one of our new babysitters, who volunteers there. M says she wants to volunteer too when she's bigger.

We had a fun playdate on Friday where we rolled out and decorated gingerbread cookies with one of M's friends. We told her friend about The Gingerbread Girl, a book we recently discovered. We're going to have to get it again from the library.

We'd been trying to get Charlie and Lola Volume 4 to watch for the last several weeks and it was finally available. We had a blast watching some new adventures. I'm so glad M is wanting to watch something that I really enjoy too. I think the shows are well-made and Lola's personality is quite similar to M's so M really gets her. We've been enjoying the books too.

M continues to get closer to reading on her own. During our school time this week, she finished the phonics books we've been using, Modern Curriculum Press Level K and I was amazed how well she did on the last few lessons. Every few lessons there is a tear-out four page book. At first, M wasn't very interested in them, but we went back to review and she recognized several sight words I didn't think she knew. I'm loving getting to experience her journey into reading.

This morning, I described several chapter books to her since she wanted to start a new one. As soon as I said the words "magical land", she chose The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. She's fascinated by magic and imaginary worlds right now. We read the first two chapters, and she's hooked.