Our Plans for Kindergarten

710c20_1aaa22b2b94e4a658dfb9564018a233d~mv2_d_3014_2486_s_4_2.jpgA couple of years ago, I started homeschooling my two young children (then ages 2 and 3 and a half). I hesitate to even say we have been homeschooling up to this point because it has been very unstructured and casual. To them, it has pretty much all been considered play, but to me there has been a lot of intention behind what we do. We have loosely been through The Peaceful Preschool curriculum twice, adding in things along the way that followed the kids’ interests. Most recently, we went through The Peaceful Press’ Christmas Guide and absolutely loved it!

With that being said, as the months have gone on and my children have gotten older, I have tried to increase the structure to prepare us all for elementary schooling to begin. Now that the kids are 4 and 5 and a half years old, we are gearing up to start kindergarten in January. If my son were enrolled in school, he would’ve began last Fall, but with the arrival of our newest baby in August and the holidays, we decided January would be a perfect start time. Before the baby arrived, I started researching what we would do for kindergarten and have come up with a plan I wanted to share with you all. As much as I love The Peaceful Preschool and it has served us well, it is time to move on to something else. I am looking forward to exploring The Playful Pioneers and The Precious People when they are a little older.

Although my daughter is younger than kindergarten age, my plan is to teach them together and to adapt activities to her skill level along the way. She is always welcome to join in our lessons, but not required to. Up to this point they love to be together, and she is usually very interested in learning everything he is. I try to keep a few hands-on activities (such as lacing or playdough) near the table when we do school for her to grab and use if I need to work one-on-one with him.

After much research, I have decided to use a combination of Before Five in a Row and Five in a Row for our kindergarten year. If you haven’t heard of this curriculum, it is based completely around literature, which is what drew me to it in the first place. The concept is that you read each book five days in a row, and each day you focus on a different subject that you can glean from the story. For example, one week we will be rowing the book “The Story About Ping”, the story of a duckling who gets separated from his family. After reading the book, we may study the Yangtze River, which is where the story takes place, for geography. The next day after reading, we may do a science lesson on the natural habitat of ducks. The third day, we may count all of the ducks, create a family tree of the ducks, and then make one of our own family. You get the idea. I anticipate that using this curriculum will open my eyes that every book is an opportunity to explore and learn more in every subject. I hope it does the same for my kids.

Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) is the preschool version of the curriculum. After looking over the book lists I decided to ease us in with some of the familiar books from BFIAR such as The Snowy Day, Blueberries For Sal, and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and then move into the unfamiliar and more advanced stories found in Five in a Row (FIAR). I am using the guides Before Five in a Row: A Treasury of Creative Ideas to Inspire Learning Readiness and Five in a Row: Volume I as my foundation. I will build off of them using Pinterest, blogs, and ideas I drum up based on what I think my kids would love to learn. I can’t wait to share all of what we are doing and learning through these stories!

In addition to this, we will also be starting our day with Bible and adding in short lessons in math, phonics, and handwriting. Here is what we are using for each of these areas:

Bible: Leading Little Ones to God and Scripture Memory

Math: The Good and The Beautiful Kindergarten Math

Phonics: Explode the Code

Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten

I also plan to begin sign language lessons this year! I will be using the Signing Time K-3 Classroom Curriculum. You can find it and more resources for learning sign language here. I plan to do it with the kids a couple times a week.

A lot of exciting changes are coming up for us as we transition from preschool to kindergarten! I am sure it will be an ever-changing plan, but I wanted to share with you where we are in our journey in hopes that you would follow along. Stay tuned to see how all of this looks in real life and for overviews of the activities we’re doing for each new book that we are exploring!

The Christmas Guide by The Peaceful Press

If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know that I am a huge fan of anything the The Peaceful Press produces. We have been through their preschool curriculum twice and loved every bit of it both times through. You can read my more thorough review of The Peaceful Preschool here.

We have been on a homeschool hiatus ever since my third child was born in late August. I had plans to start things back up after the holidays, but when I saw this Christmas Guide released I couldn’t help but entertain the idea of starting back a little earlier than planned. When I looked through the preview I just knew it would be the perfect transition from our break to starting fresh in January with a new curriculum and more structure.

Everything The Peaceful Press publishes is exactly that: peaceful. Home education should be life-giving and that is the best way I can describe what the authors of this Christmas Guide must’ve had as their primary goal.

Typically you would read a review of a curriculum after the person has used it, but this is actually a preview because I haven’t used it yet. We will begin December 3rd and finish up the last week of December. I wanted to share it with you all before we started so that if you are looking for something to guide you and your preschool children through the holidays with purpose and peace, you will look no further than this 4-week Christmas Guide.

What I love about it so far:

Christmas-Themed Picture Book List – The Peaceful Press’ book lists are GOLD. They do the dirty work of weeding through the flaky flashy stories and find the treasures of rich living literature that are perfectly age appropriate. I ordered some of the books from thriftbooks.com to begin to build our holiday picture book home library. I reserved others at our local library.

Art Projects – This guide offers simple yet meaningful art projects for you to create with your child such as a hand-sewn felt stocking, a mason jar snow globe, and a popsicle stick snowflake ornament. I can’t wait to see how these all turn out!

Christmas in the Kitchen – The curriculum includes recipes to make with your children throughout the month of December like homemade marshmallows, Christmas stovetop potpourri, and Christmas granola bars.

Poetry and Songs – I love that this curriculum includes traditional Christmas songs to sing with your children as well as themed poetry to recite.

Curriculum Organization – Everything is laid out for you so neatly and ready to go. There are daily grids for what activities to complete as well as supply lists for the week. It truly is an easy, peaceful guide to follow.

Gentle Overview of Concepts – Children will review letters, counting, and exercise their fine motor skills with gentle, child-led activities like making a paper chain, counting jingle bells, and practicing words that rhyme with ‘snow’. The activities are all playful and inviting to young children.

I cannot wait to begin The Peaceful Press’ Christmas Guide on December 3rd! I would love it if you would follow along with us on Instagram. You can purchase the guide here for 20% off using the code ‘cohesivehome’ until December 10th.

Curriculum Review: The Peaceful Preschool

We have been using The Peaceful Preschool curriculum now for about 4 months, so I thought I would pause here and give an honest review so far for those considering it or who may be starting it this Fall. If you’re not familiar, The Peaceful Preschool is a simple to follow and beautifully laid out preschool curriculum that brings you through the alphabet, with a weekly plan for each letter in addition to a book list. The curriculum also includes activities for fine motor skills, counting skills, practical life skills, large motor skills, and art skills.

I personally wanted to stretch the curriculum to a year, so I extend each letter unit to two weeks instead of one. For the first week of each letter, I follow The Peaceful Preschool’s themes, suggested books, and most of the activities. For the second week, I choose another theme and books that correlate with the letter that were not covered in the first week. I develop these lessons almost purely from Pinterest. You can follow my Pinterest account here.

So far, I have been very impressed with The Peaceful Preschool. Here are my favorite things about the curriculum:

The lesson prep is simple. Besides gathering library books, a few supplies, and looking over the lesson for the day, the prep is minimal. This is perfect for those who have older children or lead busy lives. It also sets you up to add more to it if you wanted to without killing yourself on the planning side.

The materials are basic. The activities often require minimal to no supplies that you wouldn’t already have around the house. And if an activity requires something you don’t have, there are so many options that it’s not a big deal to skip an activity.

It sets you up to incorporate schooling into everyday life.I love that so many of the lesson activities are things like “bake a pie together” or “practice climbing a tree”. Facilitating connection and a love for learning in daily activities is vitally important at this early age.

The booklist is excellent. Tried and true book suggestions for each letter of the alphabet from mamas who have gone ahead of me in homeschooling is invaluable. They have chosen books that are creative, beautifully illustrated, and full of life. There is also a good range of comprehension levels in the list, which I have found useful in schooling a younger and older preschooler at the same time.

You gain a community support group. There is a private Facebook group for anyone who has purchased The Peaceful Preschool or their kindergarten curriculum, The Playful Pioneers. I refer to this group often, as people ask many helpful questions or give supplemental ideas to complement the curriculum. The author of the curriculum, Jennifer Pepito, is often on there as well, sharing insight and answering questions.

It’s a great foundation.It is certainly enough to stand alone, don’t get me wrong, but if you are like me and want to add in more lessons specific to what your children are interested in or need extra help on, it is a great beginning point in all subject areas.

It’s affordable. I wasn’t sure how my kids would take to the curriculum and if I personally would enjoy it enough to use it all the way through to Z (I know now that I will!). I was amazed at how much was included for the price that it is. It was well worth the investment.

If I had to think of something I wish there was more of in the curriculum, it would be Bible-related lessons. There are some, but I am on a hunt to find a supplemental preschool Bible curriculum to make it a larger part of what we are learning in these early years. I plan to continue onto The Playful Pioneers once my son is ready for kindergarten. I have seen photos of lessons and heard incredible things about it in the private group.

If you want to try it out, you can download the first week of The Peaceful Preschool or The Playful Pioneers for free.

Now through July 30th, Treehouse Schoolhouse readers can get 20% off your purchase of The Peaceful Preschool curriculum using the code: SUMMER at checkout.

Letter Recognition & Formation Strategies

In our homeschool preschool rhythm, my children and I spend two weeks learning each letter of the alphabet. As we move through the alphabet, we also review previously learned letters. Each week, we repeat these 8 solid strategies to expose new letters and practice their formation. I find that familiarity with the activities allows my children to focus on learning the letters, rather than how to master a new activity. At this point in their schooling, my goal is simply to expose them to the letters and their sounds and give them the invitation to practice forming them.

We usually do 2-3 of these activities each day that we have structured school time. For us, that is typically four days a week. I expose them to both the uppercase and the lowercase letters the first week, but when it comes to formation activities we do uppercase the first week and add in lowercase the second week.

1. Sandpaper Letter Tracing – I show them these cards for each letter we are learning, and then I model how to form the letter using my index finger and then an unsharpened pencil. My children then repeat what I just demonstrated.

2. Sensory Writing Tray – I often use salt for this, but sometimes I use similar items instead to go with the theme we are learning. I recently did birdseed when we studied birds and sugar mixed with sprinkles when we were reading books about cupcakes. First, I pour the sensory item onto a cookie sheet and provide a half sheet of cardstock with the letter printed on it for them to look at as they play. I model how to form the letters with my index finger on the tray. After writing a letter they lightly shake the tray to have a “clean slate” to write again. Oftentimes they will use the cardstock letter and bury it and then uncover it with their fingers.

3. White Erase Tracing – These dry erase pockets are one of my favorite supplies we have! I print an outline of the letter and slip it into the pocket. I model to the children how to form the letter using a dry erase marker and then give them a chance to try. Sometimes, my four year old does it correctly and sometimes they both just color the letter in with markers. Either way, they are watching me write it and say it and getting exposure to it. The curriculum I use comes with letter outlines, but here are some I found if you are not using the same curriculum.

4. Clay Forming – Using the same dry erase pockets with letter outline inserts and clay or playdough, I encourage my children to pinch pieces off and roll it into long strips. They then form the letter on top of the pocket. Sometimes I offer small items for them to press into the clay or playdough that start with the letter we are learning. We did coins for C. They pressed them in all around the clay letter and then pick them out over and over again.

5. Stamp It, Poke It, Write It – I get these printables from Simply Learning. She offers them for free with each letter unit. We have these capital letter stamps and these lowercase ones. My kids love stamping the correlating letters for the Stamp It section. Then, they use large push pins to poke the small circles in the Poke It section. I place the printable on a piece of foam board and tape down the corners of the paper for this. We have been using the same piece of foam for over a year. They aren’t ready for the Write It! Section yet, so I just point out what the word says.

6. 3-Part Cards – Nomenclature cards, or 3-Part Cards, are simply images with corresponding labels. They really help my children learn the letter sounds and have been one of the major factors in my son beginning to read. I wrote a blog post about how we use them in our schooling here. I currently make these cards to correlate with the letters we are working on. You can download these free printable 3-Part Cards here.

7. Handwriting Without Tears Letter Blocks – I discovered these materials when I was teaching a special needs child how to form letters. He went from absolutely hating writing to writing full stories in just a few months. They are certainly an investment, but I knew I would use them for years with multiple children. I have seen how incredibly they work, so it is worth it to me. We currently use the Capital Letter Wooden Blocks and the Capital Letter Cards. I lay the wood pieces out and give my children the cards. Then I ask them to choose which pieces they think they need and they build the letter on top of the card. Then we flip the card over and work through it together.

8. Chalkboard Write and Wipe – This is also a Handwriting Without Tears method that I learned while teaching. I model the entire process, then they repeat. First, I write the letter on a small slate. Then I dip a little square sponge into water and squeeze the excess water out. Finally, I erase the letter in the same way that it is written. My kids love it, the repetition is gold, and the pincer grasp gets a lot of work.

What letter formation activities do you use at home? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

Curriculum

One of the first questions you may ask when you decide to school at home is “What do I look for in curriculum?” I strongly believe that the answer to this question does not come in a neat and tidy package. There are many teaching styles, and it is important that you choose a plan that is sustainable and life-giving to you as the teacher, as well as your children. I think we often neglect this side of the equation. Each child in your family has a unique learning style and distinct needs. It is our job to study them and create a plan around how they learn best to discover what makes them fall in love with learning.

For our homeschool preschool, I have been using a beautiful curriculum as my foundation, and I build off of it based on my children’s interests and needs. The curriculum I am using is The Peaceful Preschool, developed by the seasoned homeschool moms of The Peaceful Press. It is simple to follow and beautifully laid out. It comes with a weekly plan for each letter of the alphabet along with a book list. The curriculum also includes activities for fine motor skills, counting skills, practical life skills, large motor skills, and art skills. I have taken their 26-week curriculum and am turning it into a year-long curriculum. I extend each letter unit to two weeks instead of one. For the first week of each letter, I loosely follow The Peaceful Preschool’s themes, suggested books, and most of the activities. I say loosely because I change, remove, or add things based on the skill levels of my children as we go. For the second week, I choose another theme and books that correlate with the letter that were not covered in the first week. For example, for the letter “A”, The Peaceful Preschool focused on apples during Week 1. For Week 2 of the letter A, our family planned activities around the themes of alligators and airplanes. I typically choose what themes and books we will be using a couple weeks ahead of time, based on what I think my children will find interesting.

We add in a lot of extra sensory play, life skills, and fine motor skill practice because these are areas that my son needs extra work in right now. Our family reads a lot, so if there is a book that my kids are really interested in, even if it does not correlate with the current theme, I will run with it and use that as a launching ground for activities and things to study.