Teach Me Tuesday: Labels and boxes – Summer Preschool? Homeschool? Just how we live life?

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I wrote this post in June but never posted it.  When I came across it while cleaning up my blog I decided to go ahead and share it.  What I am finding is that sometimes people are too concerned with putting a label on something and placing it in a box, rather than just doing what may come naturally to them.  Yes, I’m guilty of this too and am trying to just parent and live without worrying about categorizing things I do in life.

Summer is here, sort of.  Though the sun is out and shinning most days, the weather is still cool.  It only feels like summer because school is out for the next few months.

In anticipation of the school break I thought through some of the areas the kids may need extra help or areas that may not be covered in school.  Specifically I’m thinking of preschoolers, so no calculus is involved.

What I am going to say next could start a huge debate.  That is not my intent.  I am stating my opinion, and that is it.  If it were up to me, my preschoolers would not be going to preschool.  I think kids are being sent to school way too early.  If your kids are like mine, they are full of energy and imagination, are curious about everything and love to help around the house and run errands with mommy.  They don’t like to sit and do structured activities, though some are more partial to it than others.  Okay, disclaimer over.  Thanks.

So why do we personally send our kids to preschool?  We don’t have a choice.  Ours is a circumstance which I have not talked about before here on the blog, so let me explain.  Our preschoolers are our foster kids and they are required to be in a preschool once they are 3 years old.  I can see the good and bad points of this, but that is a whole different post.  For now, they go during the school year to half-day preschool that focuses on some delays they have.  Yes, it has helped, as have the activities we do at home.   School and home go hand in hand, they are not separate parts of our lives.

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The images above are of a simple activity that cost me less than $.50 – the cost of the stickers. I cut the front off a cereal box, then using the blank back side I had the kids color a scene and place stickers on it.  I chose a camping theme as we had recently been tent camping.  We talked about what the raccoon was doing in camp, why the placed the boat where they did, how to cook over a fire safely … basically whatever it was they wanted to discuss about their picture.  We also read some books where people where camping and watched a video of people camping or of some of the National Parks.

I mentioned on the Facebook page about us doing “school” here at home, and that it was nothing new for us.  From Day 1 we have sang songs, practiced colors, counted, worked on life skills, etc.  We don’t call it Homeschool.  We don’t call it Preschool at Home.  We just do it. As I was thinking of this summer I fell into the trap of trying to label it.  Once that road was started down I quickly started to feel overwhelmed and unprepared.  Then I remembered what we used to do, how simple it was, and that no labels were involved at the time of doing it.

A favorite evening activity used to be sitting on the front porch and watching the traffic go by.  It was simple and required no materials.  It was an activity that could be done anywhere.

We would say:

“Look, a blue truck.”

“Is that a car or a truck coming?”

“Is the car red or brown?”

“What color is that truck?”

“I see three cars.  One.  Two.  Three.”

Once we passed that stage, it was time to up the game a bit.  That was one reason we started on the counting this past winter; they were having trouble getting much past 10.

A Christmas gift was a small trampoline, the kind you might use for exercising. (It wasn’t bought with counting in mind, but for other reasons.  It just worked out well.) It was placed in a main room of the house and used to burn off excess energy on cold days when we couldn’t get outside.  The jumping quickly changed to counting exercises.  “Go jump and count to 5”, “Can you jump 10 times? 6 times?  To 5 twice?”, “Oh, I bet you can’t jump 20 times.  What?  You did?  That was great!”

With the new year came some workbooks to work on pencil control.  (Why?  Because I saw it at the bookstore and thought the kids would like it.  They did, and an argument ensued as to who actually was going to use it.  Honest.  How can you say “No” to kids wanting to learn?)  The one workbook we had was given to the oldest and only a page or two was done at a time.  Not only was it fun, but it became the coveted thing to have.  When the workbook was nearly finished I bought the same one for the other preschooler and some new ones for the older one.  We don’t do these everyday, but often enough that the kids know “school at home” means they get to have their workbooks.

Added to this I sometimes give them watercolors, a dry erase marker and a board to draw on or write, as well as stickers, scissors and paper, etc.

In the pictures below they are making ‘tool boxes’ with old hardware store catalogs and lids to cardboard boxes.

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“So what is our summer going to look like?” was my thought about a month ago.  I didn’t want to reproduce school here at home.  There were other things I wanted to do.  I wanted to make it a part of our day, rather than something we did before starting our day.

Since the workbooks have been a success I decided to continue on with them.  Additionally the kids LOVE to read, so books were added to the “to-do” list.

Looking at our calendar I saw there were several activities in June and July that would be fun to focus on more.  These were things like camping, traveling, visitors, etc.  While at a store a few weeks ago, I saw fun stickers.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I bought a page of stickers for each kid.  Each set of pages were from different things we were going to do.  If we did a different topic each week then I suddenly had 5 weeks worth of topics.  When added to some free printable worksheets found online and movies on the same topics we would have a variety of activities that would be fun and still keep their minds working.  I find that giving them experiences then results in them mimicking those experiences in their free play.

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“It obviously isn’t summer time now.  How does this apply in December?”

Glad you asked.  Though I had this post planned for summer, it can just as easily be done on a weekend.  The “Tool Box” activity pictured above was done on a Saturday while I was canning and my husband was grilling.  I was able to talk while I worked, but not available to do something hands on.  The kids talked and showed me their discoveries all while in the same room as me.  Everyone had a blast, and mom and dad were able to have about 30 minutes of relatively uninterrupted time.

For those of you with school aged kids, who attend school outside the home, Winter break is fast approaching.  Very quickly those “free and relaxing” days of no school turn into “bored and mischievous” days.  Oh, yes, I have been there with toddlers, preschoolers and teens.  It is no fun at either age.  Having a plan, even a simple one, can save you from certain insanity.  I chose stickers because they were easy and cheap.  Doing this one activity opens up a whole new possibility for others related to it.

Another sheet of stickers I have contain while animals.  Related activities may include: short online videos of wild animals, a trip to the zoo or aquarium, books about animals, animal cracker snacks, songs involving animals sounds, pretending to be animals, creating of our own home zoo  using stuffed animals, learning about what zoo keepers or animal trainers or wildlife scientist or other professionals do in their jobs.

Stickers with vehicles may result in: showing the kids how to check the fluids and tire pressure in your vehicle; a trip to walk around a car lot to talk about the different vehicles, how you buy one, how to read the sticker on the windows, what exactly a car lot is, and what to look for when buying a car; when stopping to put gas in you vehicle explain why you need gas, then let the kids wash the windows while you pump gas; stop by a mechanic’s garage and look at the lift; drive by a race track, then go home and hold your own races; check out some books from the library about different kinds of vehicles; watch Police Patrol and talk about the difference between a car and an SUV or between a gas vehicle and an electric one.


Emergency vehicles: a stop by the fire department, police station, hospital or any other place involving these vehicles and those working with them.  Watch the movie Police Patrol. (Okay, I admit, this is a favorite at our house.) Talk about what it is the professionals do.  Pray for emergency vehicles as they pass you during the day.  Build a hospital or fire department with boxes.

There are so many options that sometimes I become overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, or so overloaded that I can’t even think.  Having a simple, flexible plan in place gives me a starting point from which to branch out.  Taking the time to create that plan, before it is needed, helps create a calmer environment later.

What are some of your favorite activities to do with preschoolers?

 

This post is linked up at Growing Home, who just happens to have a homeschooling book offer as the main part of her post.  There are many other topics being talked about, so stop by and take a look.