My Favorite Preschool & Early Elementary Booklists (plus a free spreadsheet template!)

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I have learned in my very short time homeschooling that the primary resource necessary for every subject is good literature! I do not know what I would do without the public library. Over the last couple of years we have used The Peaceful Preschool curriculum whose foundation is fantastic picture books. You can read more about why I love The Peaceful Preschool here. Over time, I have discovered other incredible book lists that are full of rich literature that I want to expose my children to. Links to those lists are at the end of this post.

For the upcoming school year I will be using two main curriculums, A Year of Tales and Exploring Nature With Children. Both curriculums are so rich and full of beautiful invitations. A large part of what they offer are, you guessed it, weekly book lists! With so many booklists to keep track of, last year I found myself shuffling through binders, pdfs, and websites to request all my books from our local library. I just knew this school year I needed a better solution, so I created a master booklist spreadsheet! It was a time consuming task compiling all of my book lists into one place, but I am so glad I did it!

The spreadsheet is broken into weeks and contains the titles and the authors of all the books I need to track down. I have even added a column for the status of each book, such as “On-hold” or “Checked Out” to help me keep track of where each book is in the process.

In an effort to honor the authors of the curriculums and the work they have put in compiling the book lists, I have decided not to share my full and complete book list spreadsheet. Instead I have created a template for you to customize with the curriculum you have personally purchased or book lists you currently follow.

Download the Booklist Spreadsheet Template here.

Now on to my favorite book lists for Preschool to Early Elementary:

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The Peaceful Preschool

As mentioned above, I love the book selections used in The Peaceful Preschool. Even if you’re not using the curriculum, you can download the book list for free here.

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Read Aloud Revival

Hands-down, my favorite picture book list is A Year of Picture Books from Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival. It is broken down into months, and I especially love the seasonal and holiday books she lists. She updates it with new finds each year!

I also refer to RAR for Early Reader Books and First Novels to Read Aloud. Honestly, anything Sarah Mackenzie puts out, I advise you to get your hands on it!

Ambleside Online

If you aren’t familiar with Ambleside Online, it is a free curriculum based around Charlotte Mason principles. I really love their Year 0 (Pre-K/ Kindergarten) Book List.

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Simply Charlotte Mason

Here is another great book list for the early years that I like to refer to. This includes picture books and chapter books for read-alouds.

Honey for A Child’s Heart


If you’re looking for a resource to help you know how to select good books for children of all ages, Honey for a Child’s Heart is great! The author also has a comprehensive list broken down by age in the back of the book. I like to add some of these books to our library haul as well!

I hope you enjoyed this round up and you found it useful in creating a plan for a school year full of creating connections over rich literature with your children. Happy reading!

You can download the Booklist Template here or if you’re a Google Sheets person, like me, you can view the sheet here. Just copy a version to your own Google Drive to edit.

Curriculum Overview: A Year of Tales

Today I want to share with you the newest curriculum that I have chosen to use for the upcoming school year. I spent months trying to figure out what would be a good fit for us this year, and I even purchased two other curriculums before deciding this was the one.

Here are some of the main things I was looking for in a curriculum:

  • Could easily work for both of my children (ages 5 and 6 and a half)
  • Gentle, life-giving, inviting lessons
  • Easily adaptable
  • Literature-based
  • Inviting Morning Time selections
  • Elements of nature study
  • Hands-on, beautiful, and useful activities like baking and handcrafts

I honestly thought finding something that would check off all my boxes would be a pipe dream, but I found it in A Year of Tales!0614191501Here is how the curriculum is described on their website:

A Year of Tales is a gentle curriculum for your young learner, from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Focusing on literature and nature as a base, blending together the rich and imaginative tales from Beatrix Potter, and encouraging character and exploration, this curriculum will create a memorable year of education for both the student, and the teacher as well. The complete curriculum contains 22 weeks of lessons with additional learning included to expand the curriculum to 30 full weeks, if desired.

Each week you will study a new character trait, a Bible verse that encourages and instructs, read thoughtful and well-written literature, as well as a new tale by Beatrix Potter, expand your knowledge with vocabulary words to learn and a spelling list, introduce and learn to appreciate poetry and art, create beautiful and enjoyable handcrafts, as well as exploring nature and science together with a developmentally appropriate hands-on approach. You will also find opportunities to learn basic geography, as well as focused geography lessons for this curriculum throughout the year. Additional Bible readings on the character traits are shared for continuing your learning, as well.

Every Friday, you will break in your lessons for a very special tea and poetry time for review, connection, and remembering. At this time your child might give oral recitation of what they have absorbed and filled their hearts and minds with that week. A field trip recommendation is also given each Friday for bridging what you have learned in stories, resources, and creativity with what your child will find in the world around them.”

– Lisa Wilkinson at A Year of Tales, emphasis mine

What really drew me to A Year of Tales was getting to know the person behind it. Lisa is a seasoned homeschool mom who is still in the trenches herself. She has learned through years of schooling and lots of curriculum what really works in a home education dynamic.

I see this curriculum as a very full and rich menu. It has so much to offer that you can pick and choose what works for your individual child. I especially love that she offers elements to create an inviting Morning Time, including a character lesson, a Bible lesson, poetry, art studies, and fables.

Here are some sneak peeks inside the curriculum:06141915030614191503b0614191503c06141915040614191504a0614191504b0614191504dLisa will also be releasing a preschool guide that I will be incorporating for my younger daughter. I am just so excited to get started. We will likely begin in August once we’re all settled into the RV, and I will share our journey along the way!

 

Introducing my Amazon Storefront

IMG_20190223_103750_762I have been working on something for you guys for a little while and am excited to share it with you today! One of my favorite things about following other homeschool accounts on Instagram and blogs is discovering the resources and products that other families use and love. I love seeing them in real life in their schooling and in their homes. Many of you ask me where I get certain things and what brands things are that you see in my Instagram posts. My hope is that I can share with you what we are using and love and that is helpful to you as you make choices on what to purchase for your own journey.

Recently Amazon introduced Amazon Storefronts, which is a place for small accounts like mine to post recommended resources all in one place with links for purchase through Amazon! I get a small kickback if you purchase an item from my storefront, which helps me buy more homeschool supplies. The products that I recommend are the exact things I have bought and are tried and true by my family. I plan to add to my Storefront over time, but for now I stocked it up pretty good with things I use and love if you want to take a browse.

Lesson Preparation

These are the products I use to print, laminate, and organize my curriculums and lessons. I especially love my printer and laminator! I use both every week and have had no problems with either one. The Amazon Basics laminator is an especially good price!

IMG_20190124_130536_133Sensory & Fine Motor Supplies

This category includes everything from the scissors we love to the net swing that we have hanging in our front yard for vestibular input. I have also included things you would find in a sensory bin like the water beads I buy and fine motor tools for scooping and grabbing!

Books

Here I have listed the must-have books for your home library. They are they ones we use for tea time poetry, reference for multiple lessons, or read-alouds that we read over and over. I have also included my top reads for the homeschool mama!

What Mama Loves

This was a fun one to put together as it is full of all the random things I personally love. Shoes, home decor, and my favorite coffee making gadgets. I am a fairly simple woman, but I have a few things that really bring a lot of joy to my life that I wanted to share.

Practical Life Skills

In this category I have included the things that we have that encourage my children to work alongside me in household chores and in the kitchen – things like child size aprons and a small handheld broom. My favorite in this section is definitely the hard nylon knives that they use daily in meal prep!

Art & Handcrafts

This may be my favorite section and my favorite part of home education! You will find the exact crayons,  watercolors, and clay we love and use on a regular basis. Everything in this section we have on hand for various projects. The yarn needles and the weaving loom are amazing tools for introducing handicrafts to littles.

IMG_20190218_103603_915Toys We Love

Here I have all of our favorite open-ended toys! These are basically all of the toys we own and encourage so much imaginative play. Currently my kids are mostly playing with Calico Critters and Magnatiles!

Phonics & Handwriting

I can’t say enough good things about the products I listed here. These are the books and resources we use everyday. I have also included the pencils and pencil grips we love!

Visit my storefront to see all of these items in detail. If you found this helpful, be sure to keep checking back as I will add items as I discover new things that we are using and love!

Advent Calendar Activity Ideas & Bible Reading Plan

Okay, so before you read this post thinking I am the Advent-pro, I must admit to you first that I have never once participated (and especially planned and led) this tradition. But oh, how Pinterest and Instagram have led me into new and beautiful things. I started seeing all these creative ideas, adorable calendars, and lists galore of things to include in Advent. So with less than a week before December 1st, I scrambled to put this advent calendar together. It is not a finished product, as I know myself too well to know I couldn’t plan an entire month of activities without things changing. I think I have a solid plan though that is simple, meaningful, and fun so I wanted to share!

First off, I turned our dining room chalkboard into a paper sack calendar. My hubby and I made this chalkboard a few months ago, but this could work right on the wall as well. I ordered these mini paper sacks and these mini red clothespins from Amazon. My garland was a Hobby Lobby find a few years ago in the regular greenery section, and I stuck some berries in it to make the red clothespins pop. I just hot glued some twine behind the frame of the chalkboard and strung it across to make my paper sack “clothes lines”.

Next, I made a list of activities I wanted to do with the kids throughout the month of December. I scouted out all the free or inexpensive events happening in our town and included some of those. I also included some activities centered around giving and serving. I wanted to keep them simple. I wanted to have the ability to pick one each morning and pop it in the bag before the kids wake up depending on which one made sense for our schedule, the weather, and let’s be honest, the one I wanted to do that day. I typed them into a table so I could print them on cardstock and cut them into cards to put into the bags. Here is my list of Advent activities:

  1. Make cinnamon applesauce ornaments for the Christmas tree

  2. Drive around with hot cocoa looking at Christmas lights

  3. Help wrap presents

  4. Make gingerbread houses

  5. Get bundled up and go for a wintery hike

  6. Have pancakes with Santa (local event)

  7. Bake cookies to share with neighbors

  8. Make caramel popcorn and watch a Christmas movie

  9. String popcorn and dried oranges for the Christmas tree

  10. Throw a birthday party for Jesus

  11. Go to the train museum to see the Christmas train (local event)

  12. Buy gifts for our cousins at the Dollar store

  13. Go to Holiday storytime at the library

  14. Go see the animals at the live Nativity (local event)

  15. Be in the Christmas play at church

  16. Buy coats for children who don’t have any (local charity)

  17. Draw pictures in Christmas cards for Operation Shoebox

  18. Go to Gingerbread Lane (local event)

  19. Read Christmas stories by the Christmas tree

  20. Walk through the garden to see the Christmas lights (local event)

  21. Pass out candycanes to people on the Greenway (local hiking trail)

  22. Go to the Christmas Village (local event)

  23. Make presents for homemade gift exchange (This is an extended family tradition)

  24. Go to Grammy’s house and open presents (Christmas Eve)

  25. Go to Auntie’s house for Christmas dinner (Christmas Day)

I decided I wanted to add a biblical emphasis to our advent and we LOVE The Jesus Storybook Bible, so when I stumbled across their Advent Reading plan I was thrilled. You can see the plan and download the cards I used for free here. I printed them double-sided on cardstock, cut them out, laminated them, and put them in the bags with the activity cards. I have a feeling we will be using these again so I wanted them to last.

That’s it! My plan is to open the bag in the morning during our “Together Time” and read the activity for the day and the correlating Bible story. Then, we will sometimes do a simple ornament craft that represents the story we read and we will put them on our Christmas tree. Keep an eye out on my Instagram to see our activities and crafts in action!

Books to Prepare Toddlers for a New Baby

**Hey everyone, Lyndsey here! I wanted to introduce you to an integral woman behind the scenes here at Treehouse Schoolhouse. You may not know it, but my sister-in-law, Gabby, has been working alongside me doing all of the graphic design, website maintenance, and printable content. I am so excited to introduce you to her and to hear from her on the blog today, as she shares from a different place in life than I am.**

My husband and I currently have a 22-month old daughter, Emilia, and we are thrilled to be expecting our second child in December! Emmy is getting to an age where she notices babies in public and loves playing with baby dolls. So, I figured she’s old enough to begin to understand the new baby on the way. I scoured the internet for books to help explain the big changes coming.

I found a great collection of books that start by explaining mama’s growing belly, show her what to expect when the new baby comes home, and get her excited about becoming a Big Sister!

Here are some of our favorites:

Waiting for Baby, Rachel Fuller

This book does an excellent job explaining the changes happening to mom as her belly grows. There’s even a page where mom is shown sleeping on the couch while Dad serves dinner – ha how true to life is that! It also shows what happens when Mommy and Daddy leave for the hospital. I love that the pictures aren’t gender specific, so you can easily read this book with a big sister or brother.

My New Baby, Rachel Fuller

First time siblings are in for some big changes when the new baby comes, and this book helps prepare them. The pictures show mommy nursing the baby almost constantly, and encourages older siblings to be quiet while the baby is sleeping. This is by far Emmy’s favorite book, as we replace the pronouns in the book with her name. I say, “Look Emmy is holding the new baby!” and she begs me to read it again and again.

I am a Big Sister, Caroline Jayne Church (also available in I am a Big Brother)

I imagine this book will be especially helpful once the new baby comes or for older children. It really gets older siblings excited about taking on new responsibilities in the house by fetching diapers and helping with bath time. It makes my heart melt just imagining my two little ones growing up together.

We’ve also been doing lots of role play with Emmy’s baby dolls practicing rocking, nursing, and changing the baby. Emmy now wants to kiss the baby in mama’s belly every night before bed and even includes him in her nightly prayers.

I hope you find these ideas helpful if you have another child on the way. What are some other books you’ve found helpful to explain new siblings?

Preschool Bookclub Playdate: Go Dog, Go!

This week we have been reading Go Dog, Go! By P.D. Eastman (Dr. Seuss). It’s an adorable book that teaches positions, prepositions, and colors. Throughout the story, a whole slew of dogs are making their way to a big tree. Once they get there, they all climb up a huge ladder to join a great big dog party. Loads of dogs with party hats, treats, playing games and having a grand ol’ time. Mixed into this plot is a dog continually asking another dog if she likes his hat, to which she always replies “No, I do not like your hat!” Then they say their good-byes and part ways. Until the end when her hat is decorated like crazy with streamers, flowers, and random things and when she asks him one final time his response is “I do. What a hat! I like it! I like that party hat!”

I thought it would be fun to mix things up and invite some friends for a “Dog Party” like in the story. We asked them each to bring a stuffed dog along. We started our playdate by gathering in a circle to read the story. Then I led them in a traffic light song with some simple sign language motions. There is a stoplight a few times in the story when the dogs are traveling around in cars, so I thought this would be a fun theme to bring in.

Twinkle, Twinkle Traffic Light

On the corner shining bright

Red means STOP

Green means GO

Yellow means go very SLOW

Twinkle, Twinkle Traffic Light

On the corner shining bright

Then we gathered at the table and decorated some party hats. I offered a bunch of random supplies like feathers, pom-poms, sequins, gems, and ribbons. I had regular white glue available to the kids and a hot glue gun plugged in away from the kids for any moms that wanted to glue something a little trickier on for their child.

While they were decorating their hats I melted and mixed together the chocolate and peanut butter for the Puppy Chow. You can find the exact recipe I used here. I doubled this recipe to feed 9 kids a good amount and some mamas too. If you have never had it before, it’s so incredibly delicious. I feel like it’s a childhood staple. A few kids helped me stir it up with the Rice Chex when they had finished their hats. Then, one by one the kids came and held open up a big zipper bag for me to scoop in some Puppy Chow and sprinkle in the powdered sugar. We zipped it back up, leaving some air in there and then they shook the bags to coat the Rice Chex.

We listened to music, snacked on our Puppy Chow, blew party blowers, and wore our freshly decorated party hats. Then the kids played with their stuffed dogs, these large blocks, and a big barn we have had for ages. They built towers and buildings for the dogs and pretended the barn was a dog house. Lots of fun imaginative, cooperative play was happening!

We ended our playdate by going outside for some Red Light, Green Light. We used the red, green, and yellow blocks to hold up as a visual cue to support the auditory cue. I feel like this really helped the young ones who had never played before catch on to the game. They took turns being the leader, holding up the blocks, and calling out the direction.

It was such an inexpensive, low-prep morning and the kids had so much fun! I love making books come alive for my kids and it’s even better to invite others along too. I’m already dreaming up our next Book Club Playdate!

 

Top 10 Screen-Free Road Trip Activities

Top 10 Screen-Free Roadtrip Tips

My son was asked to be the ring bearer in my close friend’s wedding, so we took the 11 hour trip to Florida on Thursday, stayed two days for wedding festivities, and drove 11 hours back on Sunday. I am not utterly against screen-time, as my children occasionally watch movies we get from the library or hand-picked shows. But I am against starting a terrible habit of endless screen time, show after show, for hours on end. In the past that is what having access to a DVD player in our van for trips turned into. The meltdowns when the shows were turned off were out of control. Every time we got into the car for a couple of weeks after the trip the kids were asking for shows to be turned on.

A few months ago we took a 4 hour trip and discovered that the DVD player was broken. We considered getting it fixed, but I decided I would challenge myself and the kids on this trip instead. So I planned out a few simple ideas, bought a few hand-held activities, and loaded up on library resources. I was amazed at how well they did. Here are my top 10 screen-free road trip wins. Tested and tried with my two preschoolers.

1. Melissa and Doug Water Wow Activity Pads – These were by far the most popular activity. I actually only bought one pad before our trip, as we had never used them before and ended up ordering a 3-pack to be sent to Florida in preparation for the long ride back. The water in the pens lasts a while, and the variety in the different books kept my kids busy for literally hours. I must share this tip because it would be downright mean not to: use a straw and your fingertip to collect water out of a water bottle to put into the water pen, rather than trying to pour it while riding down the road. Speaking from experience.

2. Cookie Sheet Magnet Lapboard – I got two inexpensive cookie sheets and gathered a bunch of magnets that we had around the house. Some of our favorite magnets are gear magnets and these animal magnets. I also brought our Fridge Phonics which both of my kids really like and worked well on the cookie sheet too. The kids arranged and rearranged magnets over and over. I also used small refrigerator magnets to hold the corner of pieces of paper down for coloring.

3. Lacing Activities – My 2 year old daughter loves to lace things, so I brought a few options of things for her to lace. She ended up working hard on every lacing activity. I stored the materials in zipper bags and scooped out a small cupful at a time for her to hold while she laced. That way if they spilled it wasn’t a huge mess, and I could give her more as needed.

  • Rigatoni pasta and thick jute – Try wrapping the tip of the jute with clear packing tape to avoid fraying and tying a knot at the end so they don’t fall off.

  • Pony beads and pipecleaners – I made a knot on one end and when she was finished, formed it into a bracelet by wrapping one end around the other.

  • O- Cereal and pipecleaners – We had cereal for road trip snacks anyway, so it only made sense to add this to our lacing stash. After making it, she ate it all off.

4. Books and Audiobooks – We loaded up on library books for them to thumb through before we went. I propped up a basket between the carseats with all of their books so they were easily accessible throughout the entire ride. My son especially loved reading along with books that came with the audio version. We must’ve heard Caps For Sale over fifty times. For Christmas last year my son got the audiobook The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Suess Favorites, so we checked out the 11 correlating stories from the library for the trip.

5. Magnetic Drawing Board – Any magnetic drawing board will be a big hit for toddlers and preschoolers, but they really liked the animal magnets on this one, as well as the soft back for their laps.

6. Stickers and Paper – I got a few pads of stickers from the dollar store and brought some construction paper. My daughter decorated the papers, her arms, legs and her clothes time and time again. If the mess doesn’t bother you, this was a huge hit.

7. Gluestick and Paper – I handed her a full sheet of construction paper, some ripped up paper in a cup, and the glue stick and let her go to town. She used the cookie sheet as her “table” for this activity.

8. Latch Puzzle Boards – Both of my kids love the farm one that we own and it’s an easy one-piece activity to bring along. Both of these would be perfect for little hands on a long car ride.

9. Clip Cards and Clothespins – You can find links to free printables of these all over Pinterest. I just used ones I had previously printed, cut and laminated for lessons in the past.

10. Clear Pouches and White Erase Markers – We use these clear pouches all the time. You could put a variety of worksheets inside and give your child a low odor dry erase marker to complete the sheet. There is something about writing with a marker that kids love. My two year old just drew pictures and scribbles on it, then washed it off with a wipe, and drew again. My 3 year old son traced letters on his. Both of them used their cookie sheets as their “table top” and little magnets to hold it down.

That wraps up my top 10 Screen-Free Road Trip Wins! I hope this inspires you to think outside the box when planning for your next long car trip or even doctor office wait. Do you have more ideas and resources for road trip activities? Comment below!