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!

 

5 Tips to Boost Your Toddler's Language

OUR BACKGROUND

When my first child was born, he failed his newborn hearing screening. The test administrator acted very nonchalant about the results and said that failing is very common in babies born cesarean because the fluid doesn’t get naturally squeezed out through the birth canal. We brought our son home, and everything seemed normal in regards to his hearing. Titus woke up to loud noises, turned his head to sound, and was comforted by my voice. He loved being sang to and got startled if something was too loud. The follow-up hearing screening a few weeks later was a huge ordeal. The baby had to be completely still for two hours during the test, and if there was too much movement, then the entire test would be considered a fail.Titus failed that screening as well, but once again they said it was likely due to the fluid from birth or because he moved too much. The doctors suggested that we take him to an ENT. Month after month, appointment after appointment, back and forth from the audiologist to the ENT, we got no clear answers. We ended up dropping it because Titus was responding to sound and we were tired of the dead-end appointments.

Fast forward to when Titus was 18 months old. He babbled and responded to noise like every other child his age, but we started noticing that he would hold toys that made noise up to one ear. We wondered if there was fluid in just one ear or an ear infection, so we went back to the ENT. Another four months of appointments back and forth, we finally got answers when Titus was 22 months old. He was diagnosed with sensorineural moderate bilateral hearing loss. In a nutshell, this means that there is a disconnect between the sound that comes into his ears and his brain. I was shocked. The reason he responded to sound is because he does not have complete hearing loss. Without amplification (hearing aids) he is unable to hear all the pitches of all the speech sounds, and in turn not given the ability to speak correctly.

When Titus was 18 months old and we were going to all these appointments, I had also just delivered my second baby, Josie Mae. She also failed her newborn hearing screening. We were told the same thing as we did with Titus at the hospital, but this time around we were much more aggressive. I was recovering from a second cesarean, managing a newborn and a toddler, and dragging my children to weekly appointments to figure out what was going on; it was the craziest season of my life. Thankfully, Josie had no signs of fluid and was a better sleeper than Titus during the retest. As a result, we were able to get her diagnosis early on. She was diagnosed with a slightly more mild loss than Titus. When we got her diagnosis I was shocked once again. Neither my husband nor I have any history of hearing loss in our family, nor did I personally know one person with hearing aids. Now I was being told that both of my babies needed hearing aids and that it was very likely that any future children we planned on having would have hearing loss too.

Since Titus didn’t get his hearing aids until he was just over two years old, and up until that point he was unable to hear all of the speech sounds, he had zero words until the week he got his hearing aids. In that first week he said three words! We couldn’t believe it. Since then he has caught up a lot, but he is still behind his peers in both receptive and expressive language. Along with going to an auditory-verbal therapist weekly, we work very hard to encourage his language at home, which is a huge focus of our homeschooling. I have learned so much sitting under some of the best therapists, devouring blogs and books, and learning from experience with my son. These tips are great to boost any toddler’s language, but especially for those struggling with speech delay.

1. SLOW DOWN

In our culture, we are so used to living, thinking, and talking fast-paced. If we have a desire for something, we want it met instantly. Even though the toys, entertainment, and calendars in our culture are go-go-go, that doesn’t mean that our children’s brains have the ability to be. So slow down. Talk slowly to your child about everything you or they are doing and seeing. It’s ok that they don’t understand yet, just keep talking. Get down on their level and look at their face. Encourage them to look at yours. Bring the item you are talking about up to your face when you say what it is. This encourages them to look at your mouth pronouncing the word. Pause and wait for them to respond, in whatever way they know how, instead of speaking for them and rushing to the next thing.

2. PLAY

This seems obvious, but sadly, unless we are intentional, we can look back on a day or a week and realize we didn’t play WITH our children. Sure, they were kept busy, but we didn’t actually get down on the floor and make the cow say “moo” as we walked it into the barn or the train go “choo-choo” around the tracks. How else will they learn? Assign speech sounds to toys and consistently play with your child using them. For example, we said “ahhhh” for airplanes in our house so Titus could work on that sound. He just thought we’re playing, but there was a method behind it. Tell your child over and over what they’re doing as they do it. It seems unnatural, but that is how they will be introduced to new vocabulary. Model something with a word attached to it and encourage your child to follow suite. For example, when playing with blocks, go sit beside your child and say “I see you stacking the blocks up high. Up, up, up go the blocks” Say the word “up” every time you put a new block on the tower, then hand one to your child and say “up” as he stacks it on. See if he will continue the pattern.

3. SING, SING, SING

Start with simple songs about things that interest your child. Sing them everyday, multiple times a day and do hand motions if they have some. If they don’t, make some up. Some of our favorites when they were really little were “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Five Little Monkeys”, and “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. Once you can tell your child recognizes the song when you sing it, pause at different points of the song and look at your child, encouraging them to fill in the blank. Make up songs about things they do everyday, like getting into their highchair, washing their hands, or waking up in the morning. We have a song about eating mac-and-cheese and it was during that song that Titus mastered the “ch” sound for the first time.

4. CLEAR OUT DISTRACTIONS

Our homes can be so noisy – the random toy going off in the bedroom, the dishwasher running, and the tv on in the other room. Hearing and speaking go hand-in-hand, so help your child by clearing out the noise. They need to hear you clearly to understand you and to develop their speech properly. Go more natural with open-ended toys or at the least, take all the batteries out of their toys to encourage them to be the ones making the noises. You want to hear your child’s voice making the firetruck siren, not the plastic toy making it for them. Here is my list of must-have open ended toys.

5. READ, AND THEN READ SOME MORE.

You knew I couldn’t write a post on this topic without including reading. Find books on topics your child is interested in. Make good use of your local library. Go to weekly storytime and come home with loads of books. Keep books available in every room of the house for your child to easily access. Say yes to one more story! We have a designated reading chair that can fit one adult and both kids. I try to be mindful to read to them, fully focused and in a quiet environment, multiple times a day, every single day. Pause when you read to allow for questions and discussion if your child is speaking. Even if they aren’t, ask questions and discuss aloud thoughts about the story to your child. It is amazing to see the language structures and vocabulary that kids pick up on just by being read to.

All of the tips shared have one thing in common: a parent’s presence. I have seen so much growth just by slowing down, quieting our space, and intentionally engaging our children. I would love to hear what other strategies you have used in your homes for language development.

How-to Use 3-Part Cards

I first discovered 3-Part Cards when researching the Montessori method of schooling. The official name for these cards are “Nomenclature Cards”, coming from the Latin word nomenclatura, which means “assigning of names”. They are basically an image with a corresponding label. They come in a whole form and in a split form. The whole cards include the word and image together on one card. The split cards separate the word from the image. This provides endless opportunities for matching and word recognition. 3-Part Cards can be used in every subject area, and the main purpose is for vocabulary building and reading.

We first began using 3-Part Cards when I discovered Kaitlyn from Simply Learning. She provides them with her free literature units, which is what we were using before The Peaceful Preschool. I saw my 3-year-old begin to put meaning to words, and I was amazed at how quickly he caught on to them. I truly believe that 3-Part Cards were a huge contributor to his early reading.

Kaitlyn now uses The Peaceful Preschool as well, and is a great resource for supplemental ideas and free printables, including 3-Part Cards for each letter of the alphabet. I love using them so much in our schooling that I began to create Real-Life 3-Part Cards to correlate with her illustrated ones. I wanted to introduce my children to the real animals and items, unlike they see in most picture books, which aligns with Montessori teaching. For each letter of the alphabet, I will be creating Real-Life 3-Part Cards to correlate. So far, you can find A-L here.

I prefer to print our 3-Part Cards on cardstock and laminate them. I plan to use these cards for years with multiple children, so they really benefit from durability. I love this color printer and use this inexpensive laminator with these laminating pouches. Scissors will do for cutting out laminated cards, but having a paper cutter for this task makes prep so much faster.

There are multiple ways you can use these cards, depending on the ability and interest of your child. It is also fun, but not necessary to have small items for your child to use for matching as well. Here are four main ways we use them.

1. Basic matching of any combination. Item to picture, item to word, picture to picture, word to picture, and word to word. I often leave them out on our Tot Tray shelf for the children to explore on their own throughout the day.

2. Movement matching. I also use movement games when we are matching, such as having them pick a word, complete a short obstacle course, and match the word to the picture at the end.

3. Memory matching. Flip all of the cards face down and take turns flipping them two at a time to try to make a match. I suggest using the whole cards for this, so that they are constantly seeing the word as well. If you have a reader, you could do the same game but match the split picture to the word.

4. Hide and Seek matching. During sensory play, hide the split pictures in rice or lentils and keep the words on the table. For my younger daughter I will hide one form of the pictures and the other form of the pictures will go on the table. They will dig to find a picture and then find the correlating word on the table to match.

There are endless ways to use these simple cards and I know over time I will just continue to find new ways to use them to engage my little ones. How do you use them? I would love to hear!

Tot Trays, Simplified

I adore Tot Trays. If you have never set them up for your children, they may seem like a lot of work from the outside. They could be, but they can also be incredibly simple. You can usually find a mix of super low-prep and moderate-prep trays on my shelf at any given time. Here are the two main reasons I love having Tot Trays as part of our schooling.

They encourage independent learning.

I typically introduce each tray to my children by sitting with them to complete it until I can tell that they understand. Typically after one or two demonstrations, I don’t use the trays in a scheduled teaching time. From them on, they are available at my children’s level to take off the shelf and interact with on their own. Sometimes they ask me to to work with them and other times my two preschoolers work together with each other. I do not push them to explore any one tray. However, our homeschool shelf which holds all of our trays is in the living room where we spend most of our day. Throughout the day I frequently see them each go over to the shelf and pull something off to explore.

They require one-time prep for lots of repeat learning experiences.

Have you ever spent forever preparing a preschool activity to have your child reluctantly half-complete it and then toss it to the side? A few experiences like that is enough to make you want to stop home educating all together. I love Tot Trays because what my child might have zero interest in on Monday, they may love by Friday. Usually, I rotate our trays out every weekend, but some stick around longer if they are getting a lot of use.

There are endless amounts of ideas online for setting up tot trays. I use light-weight trays, baskets, and small bowls. Sometimes, even a cookie sheet. Whatever you have that your child can pick up and carry. We have an open shelf in our living room that my husband built specifically for this purpose, but any shelf at your child’s level will do. When preparing to set mine up I look for a few key things. I want them to be realistic in prep time, not require constant supervision (not messy or dangerous), and the activity should reach the perfect balance of my child’s abilities and a challenge. My shelf usually has at least one sensory tray such as beans with small bowls and Helping Hands tools. I also always have a tray with our current letter’s 3-part cards, which I offer as a free printable. The rest of the trays are usually activities to practice counting, matching, and fine motor skills. Sometimes they correlate with a book we are reading or a theme we are studying.

Here are some examples of recent trays I have set up:

Supplies used:

Cookie tray | Mini broom & dustpan | Little bowls | Black beans

Supplies used:

Tweezers | Pom-poms | Trays | Construction paper

Supplies used:

Basket | Preschool scissors | Construction paper

Supplies used:

Tray | Small bowls | Sticks | Toilet paper roll | About Birds

Supplies used:

Tray | Construction paper | Single hole punch

Supplies used:

Basket | Small bowls | Illustrated 3-part cards | Real Life 3-part cards

My favorite Tot Tray Supplies not pictured: