Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Working on our Spatial Reasoning, Sorting and More this Month

Growing up, I was always either really great at a subject in school, or really struggled with it. Anything that involved studying history, literature or science on a broad level peaked my interest and that reflected four times a year on a piece of paper sent home to my parents.

Math was not one of those subjects that I was not excited to delve deeper into; and I never found myself proudly telling my parents a 10 question math quiz score. Later on in my education, I learned that I had some more specific learning struggles, but was always "smart enough" to get by. One challenge that you may never even think of in a child's education is spatial reasoning. I couldn't line up questions with the fill in the bubble answers on a standardized test. I was terrible at geometry, because concepts never clicked and even things like drawing a picture with perspective in elementary art was a chore.

While my son is preschool aged, I do see some similar struggles. We sometimes do workbooks, and I noticed that he skips lines of work, or struggles space out letters if he wants to write a word. He also seems to need a bit more repetition when it comes to mathematical concepts.

I am not overly concerned about any of this at this given moment. However, knowing what it feels like to have struggled in certain areas, I feel it only makes sense to equip my child with strategies and tools to make his education as smooth and enjoyable of a process from an early age.

Over the last year that we have used the Mother Goose Time curriculum, we have received so many amazing math manipulatives, patterning cards, as well as science and art project ideas that help my son work on things that might not come as easily to him.

This week, we made icicles with tin foil, straws and silvery pie cleaners. My son and I both participated. While we worked, I mentioned the notes about icicle formation that Mother Goose Time provided. I also asked him if he could make a collage of icicles grouped close together, and help me make mine more spaced out. It is amazing how simple, creative projects can help build his understanding of spatial reasoning.

We also made snowmen. My son made his own, start to finish. At the beginning of the project, I asked him to the write the letters of his name in the circles provided, and then glue them into a snowman. The one detail I told him I wanted was to be able to see all of the letters in his name, even after he glued the snowman together. It took extra concentration, but he blew me away with his work.

We also practiced our color sorting, counting and some addition with our math manipulatives. We searched for items in our winter wonderland poster and discussed how things related to one another based on there direction.

This Mother Goose Time box was provided to our family in exchange for our honest experience with the program. I am so glad it was, since it has even be extra tools to work on challenging areas of education in a fun way.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Creating Alongside your Children

This is the time of year that we all make the effort to bake cookies, create decorations and make memories with our children. I love that. Plus, as a family that celebrates Christmas, I love the wonder, the songs the Balsam tree scented candle merriment of it all.

Throughout 2017, I have made a more conscious effort to create alongside my son, and incorporate him in the more day to day creativity of home life. I feel like we've done a pretty good job of keeping up with this resolution of sorts.

We invested in a kitchen helper stool, that brings my son to counter height. This way our on can measure, pour and mix right along with us. We have taken nature walks and collected bits for collages and encouraged our son to take some of his own photos of what he would like to learn more about later. We have also invested in Mother Goose Time. You've heard me say it before, and I will say it again, it is a great investment. This month we received the curriculum for free in exchange for sharing how we incorporate it into our lives.

With Mother Goose Time, we have explored the rain forest, our amazing bodies, community helpers and more. While we are a family who is supplementing preschool with this educational monthly subscription; it has become a core part of the the creating alongside my child resolution that I made for 2017.

Every month, we have set up science experiments (sprouting potatoes in water has been this month's bit hit,) followed recipe cards, created holiday celebrations for our family, and we have done it right along with our son. When my son created a rain forest collage, I created one right next to him. It made for an entire afternoon's worth of discussion about why we observe things differently, who prefers what attributes about the topic and how we can both make something so different using the same materials. I have memories of my school days where an art teacher might create an example for the class of a project that was going to be made that day. I remember being one of those kids that would study that example and try to remake it.

What I have tried to do over this last year with Mother Goose Time, is set up an environment where we are creating together. Yes, my son notices where I glue my sloth photo, and sometimes wants to copy, but he also is in real time asking me why I'm making my artistic choices. Everything from willingness to make mistakes, thinking outside of the box and exploring new language is being touched upon in our daily activities.

If you want to make a creative New Year's resolution, I highly encourage checking out Mother Goose Time. The program will not only provide the foundation for preschool education, but encourage collaborative creativity in your home.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

How was Thanksgiving? What did you Learn on Break?

So how's school break going? What have you been up to? Cooking, eating, doing dishes, shopping online, watching the movie Frozen and wearing pajamas all day? Yep, I am right there with you.
We've done all of those things, plus we incorporated our home school curriculum into our holiday break. Mother Goose Time not only includes 20 plus days worth of activities, but a special holiday family celebration kit that represents the season.

This year we made a lovely thankfulness poster, and my son reflected on all of the family, friends and screen time that he is thankful for. Minor eye roll on my part regarding the feather that says "TEVE." We made festive, scented, homemade play dough turkeys. We read a short story about the first Thanksgiving. We made some cranberry and toothpick structures and even did a turkey dance.

The great thing about Mother Goose Time is that you can take a holiday, themed project, game or story and spread it out to fill those break times or let family in on your preschoolers learning. We also continued on with our rain forest theme. Grandma and Papa helped us make colorful parrots and play the chasing butterflies board game. Dad helped make some alphabet coconut trees read one of our favorites, "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," to the whole family.

Overall, our little holiday break was a great success, in part to Mother Goose Time. We were lucky enough to receive this month's box in exchange for our honest experience. If you are considering trying this educational subscription box, I highly recommend ordering next month's box. The theme will be winter wonderland. I guarantee that it will fill your break with art, learning and family fun.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Engaging the Whole Family in the Educative Process

When your child attends preschool, the teachers, administrators and room parents often work together as a team to keep parents informed and engaged. When you home school, this picture is painted a bit differently. As the parent and teacher, I am holding the reins and driving my son's education forward with our curriculum and day to day activities. So it may seem like family engagement wouldn't play a role in our education style, but it does.

If you've kept up with our family over the last year, you know that we use and love a prepackaged curriculum called Mother Goose Time. The program includes all of the lesson plans, adaptive strategies, manipulatives and creative work needed to educate your toddler or preschool at home, in a more traditional preschool setting or in a daycare setting. This includes newsletters, information and questions that a teacher would send home to parents to help them not only understand what their child is learning, but ask informed questions that start meaningful conversations, after school is done for the day.

As a homeschooler of an only child, I don't want these tools to go to waste, so we use them to create conversations with other family members. When Dad gets home from work he checks out the questions on the newsletter or invitation to create to start a conversation at dinner. When my son goes to his grandparents house, he is often sent with the daily topic poster, an artistic activity and a book all from Mother Goose Time.

There are also weekends where Dad takes over completely. My husband, lover of animals, has rescued turtles, snakes and more over the years. Some have been kept as pets and others donated to a local wildlife sanctuary. This week with Mother Goose Time we have been talking about the many animals that live in the rain forest. When I noticed our snake had shed (I get that that's not an every household occurrence) I asked my husband to run the show and take over home school on that Sunday afternoon. My husband and son discussed sizes, patterns, and used bubble wrap and the snake shed to create a beautiful painting. You will be surprise how the random knowledge or expertise from a spouse or grandparent will come in handy one day!

Being read to and taught by different adults helps build a child's comprehension and ability to engage in dialogue. So while my husband can't be at home for lunch to help my son with pattern puzzles, he can read my son his monthly Mother Goose Time book and ask him questions that might be different than mine.

Whether you are a homeschooler, or parent hoping to broaden your child's vocabulary, perspective and reasoning skills, I encourage you to reach out to family and friends and get them involved you your child's learning. We have been lucky to receive this month's proram in exchange for our experiences. Also, check out Mother Goose Time, their program makes an excellent, creative supplement to young learning, that will also guide you as the parent along the way.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

As the Weather Cool Down, We are Warming up with Mother Goose Time

As the orange leaves crunch beneath our feet, we have been exploring the green canopied rain forest with Mother Goose Time.  It is kind of a nice escape to be discussing a warm, vibrant environment as we brave the ever cooling air in Chicago. We literally spent the entire weekend in the house, so I used it as an opportunity to focus on fostering a sense of responsibility toward caring for our triangle family and our home.

I went ahead and set up our invitation to create station and math lessons at the kitchen table. Together, Mr. Personality and I loved decorating our J for Jaguar cutouts, transforming the simple letter into a tree climbing cat. After we set our creations aside to dry, my son pointed out the amount of glue and paint that now decorated our table. We took pause. My son and I had both participated in the creative, messy time. So instead of jumping down, washing his hands and taking off, I suggested that we both clean up the mess. He obviously picked using the bottle of spray cleaner and wiping the table, and I was more than fine with that.

While we were cleaning, the washing machine beeped. My son paused. I said, "Hey your laundry is finished washing." I suggested he open the machine, transfer the clothing to the dryer and start the dryer. He then suggest, " I do my share." I may have rolled my eyes, but I did. I told him to find the words power and start and press them. He looked for a P word and a St words and we were rolling.

After snack, I set up mushroom math. This Mother Goose Time concept was a hit. My son popped out the paper mushroom cap shapes and decorated then with letters, because my son is in a phase where he wants to write his name on everything. Also, its worthwhile to mention that any opportunity you get to have your child pop out shapes in paper, I recommend you take it. There might be some rips, which is partially why I order two sets of crafts from Mother Goose Time, but it is a great lesson in patience and refines fine motor skills.

We then created a rain forest floor-like surface from play dough and played a game that had us select number cards and plant each of our personally created fungi. All the while, I utilized points and facts provided in the Mother Goose Time Lesson Plan book. My son then invited daddy to come play and informed him mushrooms can grow on the rain forest floor because they don't need a lot of light. He also has been informing friends and neighbors alike to not eat mushrooms they find outside, no matter "how awesome they look."

Finally, on a chilly Sunday afternoon, I opened my son's bedroom door to reveal a Mission Impossible style maze. With a 30 cent roll of streamer paper I created a web of craziness and placed a stuffed worm, bird, snake and other animals that we pretended were indigenous to the rain forest throughout the room for him to rescue. He seriously spent an hour doing this and making new changes and ideas for the game. That was a real win for me, as you know attention is not easy to come by in this house.

Overall, it was a fun first week exploring a more tropical world than our own with Mother Goose Time. We are grateful that Mother Goose Time has share this month's curriculum box with us in exchange for our honest experiences. I recommend this company to any parent trying to supplement their child's education and fill rainy, cold weekends with indoor fun.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sensory Friendly Preschool Time

My days are filled with weighted blankets and breathing techniques, and that is okay. Sensory regulation is something my family is trying to manage on a daily basis. It is a small snippet of the bigger picture that is my beautiful, bouncing three ear old boy. As a former early childhood educator, I always made it a goal to address every child as an individual who learns and grow in their own way and at their own pace. Now as a parent who is hoping to enrich their child's education at home, I am tasked will not only addressing my child's unique style of learning, but also meeting his sensory seeking and avoiding needs.

A little over a year ago we began using a home school curriculum called Mother Goose Time. In the last year, the company has taken a lot of feedback from parents and educators and really improved the products and even taken into account fulfilling the needs of children with delays, aversions or sensory needs. We've used a lot of their tips when tailoring our work to our son's preferences.  Because what is the point of buying a toy, going to play place or paying to educate your child if you are just forcing a square peg into a round hole?

I want to give my readers a snapshot of what my three year old's typical day looks like, and how Mother Goose Time fits into that day.

We wake up anywhere between 6:30 and 7:15 am. My son and I race to the kitchen and he grabs the milk and picks out his cup. I make my coffee and my son foams some milk for me. This is a very important job, obviously. I pop some french toast or waffles into the toaster and cut up some fruit. We then sit at the table and read a few books and enjoy breakfast.

We then brush teeth and get dressed, which often involves me chasing him with each individual piece of clothing until he's put together like a ragged paper doll. We grab his "chewy stick" and head out the door to his therapeutic based school. For two hours his therapeutic needs from Occupational Therapy to Social Emotional Regulation are met. I then pick him up and we head either home or to the park.

It might sound crazy to head o a park after two hours of school, but this child needs some heavy work and input. Swings, climbing and jumping or riding his tricycle meet those needs. We then head home and have lunch.

While my son is at school, I take ten minutes and review the Mother Goose Time lesson book and set up a craft based activity, get a book ready and whatever writing or science station we might be doing. after lunch, we usually spend about 45 minutes exploring with Mother Goose Time.

Mother Goose Time does a great job of creating a full sensory experience, so that keeps my seeker engaged. I also make small adaptions that help him stay with the learning a bit longer. If we have a project with paint, Mother Goose Time encourages paint with different materials, from feathers to balls. I will take it one step further and let my son help me make the paint into shaving cream infused puffy paint or let him finger paint at the end.

In any given 45 minutes of Mother Goose Time, we could be blending colors with water and eye droppers on coffee filters or collecting leaves and pine cones to decorate a tree and make a den for a bear to hibernate or even practicing our phonics and reading by making letters from tin foil and play dough or writing in shaving cream. I always keep my son's Z Vibe chewy stick handy and if possible let him take brain breaks and bounce on an exercise ball.

When we have wrapped up, its time for a warm bath to remove all of the dirt, paint and who know what else. Afternoon baths have really allowed my son to slow himself down and not hit that 4 pm crash so hard. We then will either read and use our Mother Goose Time magnetic story pieces and tell stories, play a game or do some math work with the manipulatives. This usually is a 15 minute time frame. Then he watches some Daniel Tiger, Super Why or Thomas for a half hour while I prep dinner.

I hope this peek into our day allows others with children that have sensory regulation issues to see that it is possible for their child to get a lot out of their day with some simple adaptions and a sensory friendly curriculum like Mother Goose Time

Friday, October 13, 2017

Where We are on Our Reading Journey

This year, our local library joined the 1,000 books before Kindergarten initiative. We have been on this bandwagon for a while now, and I think it's a great call to parents of the youngest babies to begin reading as soon and you wipe the sleeplessness and coffee haze out of your eyes.

When my son was teeny tiny, he would hoot and holler after his bath and while being changed into his pajamas. The only thing that would calm him was reading a Star Wars ABC book. It got to the point that I would recite, "A is for Anakin, Anakin is an Amazing Jedi...B is for Boba Fett..." when my son would wake up for a night feed, to lull him back to sleep. We would flip through the pages and his eyes would widen at the bold character and rhythmic lines.

While I refuse to credit Star Wars for my son being an early ABC aficionado, I do believe reading to him everyday from the week he came home from the hospital helped.

Fast forward and he is three years old and we are mixing my own phonics style with the multi-faceted Mother Goose Time curriculum.

We began by pointing to words in books and on signs that we notice in our everyday life. I then came across this series of Montessori books, and the Letter Work book has been a staple in our home for over a year. While a full Montessori style of education wouldn't suit my son that has some emotional and sensory regulation issues, I do love the sandpaper letter and number system. They enhance memorization and pre-writing skills.

Everyday, we spent 5 minutes going through this book to solidify each letter's sound and tracing the letter shape. I love that the book reminds the adult and child the correction pronunciation, like "K - KUH like in King." Sometimes as adults we had in our own preformed habits, like saying K - KAH. So I appreciate this books style.

Next we moved on to CVC flash cards and Montessori reading blocks. While I am not a flash card person per say, I do like the simple three letter word on the front and image on the back. My son wants to guess based on the picture, which is okay, he is using context, but that isn't going to work in the future when there are several words on the page. We do a handful of either method at the dinner table most nights.

Then I began my search for early or pre-reader books. We found the Bob books, but at times they incorporated a few too many sight words for a first book. We then found the Flip a Word books at the library. My son really enjoys these. He does try to guess the words based on the pictures, but when it comes time to read the full sentence, I cover the picture with printer paper and then do a little reveal when he's completed the sentence.

We also love how our Mother Goose Time curriculum subscription box incorporates early literacy skills. Every month, we receive a book, magnetic story pieces, and I Can Read book, which combines sight words with words that follow phonetic rules. My son loves using the arrow pointers to read his book. He also enjoys having a book than he can color in and customize. The Mother Goose Time monthly books also do an excellent job of introducing literacy skills. The books follow the monthly theme and engage the children by asking questions, highlighting certain words and most importantly reinforcing the importance of comprehension. This year, Mother Goose Time introduced magnetic story pieces that have been a big hit.

Mother Goose Time sets up the story to make the book a reading experience one that lasts over the whole month. First we read the story. Then we re-read and use the story pieces to act out the story as we read it. Then I ask my son to retell the story with the pieces on our magnetic chalk board. Next, we often do a craft surrounding the topic and incorporating language from the story. Finally, we do a puzzle that is made up of an image from that story.

As a parent who is supplementing their child's education with Mother Goose Time, I don't keep a physical portfolio to track learning, but rather a simple two part method. First I photograph everything. I'm already a Momarazzi type of mom, so this comes easily. I then save his Mother Goose Time learning photos in a Flickr folder. I also save the projects he does and really loves in a Rubbermaid box under the bed. Also in that box, I save the I Can Read books and pointers. Every month or so, I pull out one or two older books to re-read and reinforce his learning. I also tend to leave out a book if the words haven't really stuck in his brain that month.

In this way, Mother Goose Time does an excellent job of repeating and reinforcing a concept in a way that is fun and new for the child that seeks novelty. If we are reading about a bear in winter, we might see the word snow, which is a word that we haven't covered in our CVC cards, but a word that pops up in the lives of children on a regular basis. Over the last week my son has seen the word in his Mother Goose Time books, activities and art projects, so now, snow is an easily recognizable word that he can find going forward when we read our bedtime stories. If you have a child ramping up to read, I highly recommend jumping on the 1,000 books before Kindergarten and Mother Goose Time bandwagons. Feel free to check out the other resources as well and see what works for your early reader! This month, we are lucky to have received the curriculum box in exchange for sharing our experience.