Thursday, August 30, 2012

Learning with Toy Story

(30 Months)

I love how wonderful the online homeschooling community is.  They support one another, share what works and are not shy about what doesn't work.  One of my favorite sites is Carisa's 1+1+1=1.  She has incredible preschool theme packs, letter packs and creative art projects.

Since we are working on drawing horizontal and straight lines, the letter T is a great place to start a Toy Story unit.  The kids love Toy Story.  They have several Toy Story books, several of the mini figurines, two of the wind-up toys, and when we flew back home we watched Toy Story together on the plane (Wild One wouldn't take his eyes off the screen, Little Miss watched about five minutes and then wanted to do something else)- so yes, we like Toy Story.  When I came across Carisa's Toy Story unit, I was giddy.  I chose several activities for the kiddies to do, some they loved and others... Well...  Let's first look at what they liked.
Little Miss quickly drew the letter Ts and then asked for "more please".  
She is really good at tracing the lines.  I started reading books about left-handed
writing strategies and was surprised to find out that most children that are left-handed 
form their letters from right to left.  A light clicked, that's why she traces her lines
from right to left.  Sometimes she traces them from left to right, but mostly it's from
right to left.  

 Now we move onto the graphing portion.  Little Miss didn't think it was fair that Buzz had two squares colored when Jessie only had one, so she kept rolling the die until she landed on Jessie.  How cute is she?

We also tried doing some patterning, but she kept sorting the piles of cards instead of following the pattern.  "No Momma, the Buzz goes here, the Woody goes here."  I kept trying to show her that I was making a pattern, but she wanted to sort them instead.  The girl likes order.  We'll put this away and come back to it in a month or two.

We also took out our figurines and I asked which letter does Buzz, Woody, Jessie, Ham and Lotso begin with.  They love that "game".  Sometimes they say the letter, other times they will jump on the foam letter floor tile, or they will choose one of the magnetic letters.

I'm so proud of them!  I love that we learn through play.

Picking Grapes Off a Stem

(30 Months)

We've still been slicing the grapes in half for our little ones, then my parents bought for my birthday an Edible Arrangement with the grape spears on it.  My daughter grabbed a spear and began taking one grape off at a time.  I watched, with my breath held in mild panic (yes, I'm overly cautious) as she placed one in her mouth, and then I quickly reminded her to bite down and chew.  She did it!  Ok, of course she did- but to me, I was so proud (and relieved- no choking).  She even recognized that she did something that big kids do, because she kept repeating "I don't need my grapes cut anymore."  Another milestone reached, we no longer need to slice the grapes they can eat them on their own.

The next day, they wanted more grapes.  I pulled two small bunches from the fridge and gave one to each of them.  They sat at the table, carefully pulling a grape from the stem and then eating it.  We take it for granted, but that simple activity of picking grapes from their stem is perfect for fine motor skill development (plus, it's a healthy and tasty snack).
It's 91 degrees outside, yet my daughter wants to wear a fleece hoodie!
My little ones are growing up more and more each day.  I'm so proud, yet so sad.  Why are these precious days flying by so fast?

Our First Kumon Book

(30 Months)

I looked at so many activity books before choosing Kumon's Uppercase Letter Workbook.  I love how the workbook is organized, plenty of guided practice and gradual independent practice.  I found it interesting how they first have the child practice drawing horizontal and straight lines, then they move to the letter L, not A.  This is brilliant!  The letter A is more challenging to write, due to the two diagonal lines. However, this Kumon book is categorized by letter formation, not letter order.  We completed six pages, or three lessons, and they still wanted to keep going which is a perfect time to pause for another day (always leave them wanting a bit more- like a cliff hanger in a movie).  

Little Miss was so happy to see that she had her very own book that she can write in.  I love how they love learning.  I hope it's always this way.

At first Wild One didn't want to do "school work", he was busy creating long, curvy tracks for his trains.  Then, he saw his sister busy and he came over saying, "I want to do some too."

It's amazing watching these two work.  Little Miss is so particular and deliberate with her work.  Whereas, Wild One races from one end of the line to the other.  I noticed it was a bit harder for Wild One to stay within the guidelines, due to his need for speed.  This is just practice and we're only 2 1/2.  Right now, I just want them having fun while they are learning.  There is plenty of time for perfecting their lines and letters as they grow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Our First Plants

(30 Months)

Little Miss and I were leaving Wal-Mart last week (we were there to pick up our first Kumon book, more on that in the following post), when she asked to look at plants.  She's never asked to look at the plants before.  I love that something sparked her interest, I wonder what it was though.  I let her lead the way and we leisurely looked at the various types of tropical flowers that lined the aisles of the garden section.  Then an idea struck, lets look at herbs and have a quick sensory tour.  I asked if she wanted to smell some of the plants, and her eyes lit up as she squealed "yes!"  We walked over to the herbs and I showed her how to rub a leaf in between her fingers and then smell the oil that is on her fingers.  She was amazed at how she could sniff pungent scents of cinnamon (basil), cilantro, mint, chocolate mint, rosemary and basil.  She really liked the chocolate mint - "Momma, that's chocolate!"  She went back to that plant several times.  We wound up back in the store purchasing three plants.

The next day, we painted our planters with Grandma and Grandpa.  Then the following morning, we potted our first plants!  Little Miss was so excited to show her brother how to smell the plants.  "Like this, do it like this."

Their favorite part of planting the mint, chocolate mint and basil, was spraying the plants with water.

Tomorrow, we're going to harvest a few chocolate mint leaves to make mint tea.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Favorite Books

(30 Months)

I love that we'll frequently find Wild One sitting somewhere "reading" a book.  Sometimes he's reading out loud for all of us to enjoy.  Other times, he's quietly sitting reading to himself.  It amazes me that a boy with as much energy as he's got (always running, jumping, galloping), can sit still for 15+ minutes and "read".  I hope he always loves to read.

When it comes to reading, they definitely have their favorites.  Right now, they are:

This is a Mo Willems classic.  Wild One and Little Miss LOVE the various inflections of Elephant and Piggy's voices.  They laugh hysterically as Elephant and Piggy are laughing.  Another Mo Willems favorite of theirs is The Duckling Gets a Cookie.  These are just as fun for the parent, as they are for the child.


I love how this story has rough tough little girl pirates with their own pirate ship.  The kidabunks love the repetition and were "reading" the first few pages to us as we would read the story aloud to them "Down, down, down the dark, dark, street they came..."

I love this version!  The font is large.  There are pictures to help the pre readers identify which animal comes next.  When Wild One picks up this book, he really looks like he's reading it (even though, I know he has it memorized).  I love watching him read this story aloud to us, he holds it up the way I would as he reads.  When he finishes a page, if we don't clap, he says "claps" and then of course he receives thunderous applause.

I have searched and searched and searched for the version that tells the Piggies to always work hard at what you do and not to take the easy way out.  However, in every version that I have been able to get my hands on, it's vaguely alluded to.  This version is the nicest one that I've found so far.  We made stick puppets for the kidabunks to use when we read this story.  They love retelling this story.  In fact, now before they knock a toy over they say "I'm the big bad wolf.  I huff and puff."

My incredible cousin bought this one for the kids and they completely surprised us when they started reading along side us.  They memorized another story!  We change the characters names in almost all of our books to their names, and at the end of the story when the little brother yells "Pinkaboo"Wild One excitedly says "that's me!".

We've been reading this story to the kids since they were itty bitty newborns. We know this story line by line, page by page.  For the first year and a half, we read this story every night.  I'm not sure if they now ask for this book because they like it, or because it's become a part of them.

The kids call this "the color book".  Little Miss says that the "Hacken Kracks are crying because they miss their Mommy and Daddy."  Wild One is always asking (on each page), "where did the boy go?"

I remember when my adorable nephew "read" this book to us.  I was so impressed that this little man of less than two years of age was able to "read" the entire story.  We started reading this story to our kidabunks and one day they started "reading" it to us.  I love the looks in their eyes as they "read" the story.

We didn't check this one out of the library until the kids were 26 months old.  I wish I knew about this book before though. There's hardly any words in the story.  However, the pictures detail beautifully what is happening and allows the "reader" to create her own story, make predictions and retell the story.

Sadly Brown Bear, and Ten Fat Turkeys (favorites from a year ago) have been sitting on the shelf.  Hopefully, they will get noticed again soon.  Still, it's sad when a favorite doesn't get picked.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Favorite Puzzles

(30 Months)

Last week our Tangeos Jr. arrived.  If you have a toddler, this is a perfect puzzle for her (ignore the ages 4+ label).  When we opened the box, Little Miss and Wild One were so excited.  I didn't even get a chance to explain how to complete the puzzle before Little Miss started working on it, correctly!  She placed piece after piece in the right spot while I just stared at her dumbfounded.  When she finished, she proudly exclaimed, "I did it!"  Then, she started putting each piece back in the travel case (that's right, she put her pieces away).  After she put the last piece away, she chose a new puzzle and began working again.  She repeated this process again and again and again.  After the fifth puzzle, we tried level 2, but it was too challenging without the piece guidelines.  Little Miss tried several times, but then flipped the card over and started working on level 1.  "I like this one better Mommy."  Now, what about Wild One?  Well, he didn't get a chance to work on the new puzzle by himself.  She tried to let Wild One work on the puzzle by himself, but if he didn't place the puzzle piece fast enough, she would quickly point out where the piece belonged.  When I would tell her to let her brother work on it, she would reply, "Momma, he needs my help."  This is from a two year old.  Thank goodness for technology.   I quickly did a search on my phone for tangram toddler puzzles and came across Tangams Lite.  Wild One loves this one.  He especially likes "the boy" puzzle.  Finally, Wild One got a real turn using the Tangeos puzzle (Little Miss kept saying, "look Momma, we're sharing"  I'm so proud of her). He quickly found the cat puzzle and began working on it.  At one point when he needed to flip the piece over, he said that the piece was broken (how cute).  Then, he put the piece back and took it out again and "Mommy, it's fixed now."

Another puzzle that Little Miss has liked playing with is her knobbed cylinders.  This is a classic Montessori tool that encourages problem solving, spatial reasoning and develops the pincer muscles for fine motor development.  I love watching her solve this puzzle.  We place two or three of the blocks on the table at the same time (with the pieces already removed and mixed together).  She'll then work piece-by-piece identifying where each cylinder should go.  Wild One prefers working on them first thing in the morning, after that he's too awake to sit still and finish the puzzles (he has so much energy- he barely sits still even when he's eating).

I was going to put this shape puzzle away, since she completes it so quickly- I felt it wasn't offering a challenge.  However, I found her playing with it again and again, so on the shelf it will stay.  Months ago, we used it to sort pom poms by color.  I'm planning on trying that again, except instead of the kidabunks using tongs, they'll use their new chopsticks.  These are fantastic!  They have three little rings to hold the three fingers properly in place.  Plus, they even make it for left-handed tots like my daughter!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Letter B Week (Day 3)

(29 Months)

I knew when I saw these adorable butterfly counting pages, from Confessions of a Homeschooler, that Little Miss would love them.   I printed the set on card stock and then applied the sticky dot magnets to the back so that we can play with these on our magnetic trays.  It was so precious watching her point to each butterfly and count how many there were (she would count from right to left, but she did get the number right).  Wild One was interested for about two minutes.  He was able to complete the second page (numbers 2, 3 and four), and then lost interest (he said he wanted to count with his eyes closed).  Oh well, we'll try again another day.  Little Miss counted all the way up to ten.  She knew the number zero, but wasn't confident which box had zero butterflies until I told her "none" and then she chose the right box.  It's incredible how quickly they pick things up.  They are always amazing me.

We used to practice jumping on shapes, but for some reason we haven't done that in awhile.  Hmmm.... we need to do that tomorrow.  To be consistent with our B week, I drew a bunch of shapes on a butterfly to assess which shapes they knew and which ones we still need to work on.  Instead of just pointing to the shape, I asked them to put a magnetic pom pom on the shape (when I called out a shape I did not name the color).  I noticed that they automatically chose the corresponding pom pom color to the shape color (wow- we must really do a lot of pom pom activities).

When Wild One knew the shape, he quickly found the correct color pom pom and placed it on the shape.  If he was unsure about a shape, trapezoid, he would look at me as he placed the pom pom on it with a look of "is that right Mommy?"  I let him place his pom poms where he thought they should go and made a mental note of which ones we need to work on.  Little Miss completed the first six shapes correctly and then decided that she wanted to line up the pom poms instead.  We'll come back to this one another day.

The lowercase b, d, p, and q are so unfair.  I wanted to see if they could identify each of the four letters when they were all jumbled together.  It was hit or miss with Wild One, so I'm not sure if it was luck or not that he got the answers correct.  Little Miss was completely absorbed in drawing with markers at the time and then the day escaped us before we had a chance to revisit this.  That's fine though, we do plenty of review days (non-post days).