Friday, December 6, 2013

Caps for Sale - Five in a Row style

The boys and I have definitely read Caps for Sale more than five times.  They love it. They love "acting out" the part where the peddler is shaking his hands and stomping his feet.  Our copy from the library came with the story on cd, so we have enjoyed "reading" it that way, too. Here are some of the go-along activities we did with the book:

We drew our faces (Bubby did his own, I helped Bugaboo) and then we glued hats on it.  Mr. Independent Bubby had his own idea on how they should be stacked.


We stacked all of our hats on our heads and tried to walk around the house, "slowly, slowly."




Bubby worked on -ap words.  They rhyming and spelling were a piece of cake for him, but he wanted to write them himself. He normally hates to write, he just likes to spell aloud, so this was a surprise.  He didn't want my assistance. Then at the end he just wanted to get crazy on the dry-erase board. Oh well. You might be able to make out a couple of scribbled -ap words here.


During story time at the library last week they had a monkey theme which was perfect for us. They each made a monkey puppet, and Bubby made a banana tree which had the trunk going from big to little.



I had great plans of making banana smoothies or banana bread, but it is pumpkin season around here, so that didn't happen. I really need to purchase Caps for Sale to add to our collection because I think it is one of our favorites!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Angus Lost - Five In A Row style

Wow! It has been awhile since I posted on here. I have a couple of things to catch up on, and perhaps I will be more regular at doing so. Or perhaps not since I do have a four year old and a two year old. But I will try.

At some point this fall we read Angus Lost, a sweet story especially for my dog loving family.  Once again, even though the story was old fashioned, the boys didn't seem to mind the repetition. (Although I don't think it was Bubby's favorite book.)  We read a lot of other dog books to go along with this theme. One of our family's favorites is Oh No, George! So I checked it out again from the library.  The boys also enjoyed Mercer Mayer's Just One More Pet (we love Little Critter), Nobody's Diggier Than a Dog, A Dog is a Dog, and a book we own and read over and over again, Wet Dog.



Since the book is about a dog getting lost, we watched a Sesame Street DVD called Getting Lost featuring Big Bird. It led to lots of great discussion several different times on what Bubby should do if he gets lost or separated from us. It is always unnerving for me to talk about this with my preschooler, but not having the conversations scares me more.



We took a trip to the local farm/park that had animals including goats and cows - since goats came up in the book as well as a milk wagon.  The boys each made a D is for dog picture.  Bubby did some tracing, although I can't locate the source anywhere. (Please let me know if you know it so I can give proper credit.)  And of course we have daily play time with our beloved-when-she-isn't-running-away-or-digging-hole-dog, Scout.



The remainder of October we took a break from Five in a Row and did lots of autumn books and a few autumn crafts on top of our normal routine of checking out a million books from the library.  A post on our favorite autumn activities should be coming soon!


Monday, September 23, 2013

the simple ways of learning

September has been full. Bug has his weekly therapy appointments at home and away from home. We have Awana one evening a week, and this year we started BSF one morning a week.  Bubby asked to do soccer again, so I signed him up and that started last week right during the dinner hour. On top of this have been various medical and educational appointments revolving around the three-year-old transition as well as our new diagnosis. All of that to say, there hasn't been a lot of structured learning around here this month.

And that's okay.

The youngest has developed the fine motor skill of putting together towers and creations using Duplos. The oldest is at that in-between Lego size. He has started making airplanes and other structures to which I kindly say, "Tell me about that one," instead of, "What is it?" They sit in their room most afternoons together and build. My heart fills to overflowing, and I know that the best learning is happening as the sun streams through the warped mini-blinds.



We make it to story time most Tuesdays now, which is one of the benefits of no longer doing childcare.  The librarian has learned their names, and after the stories and music there are art projects and sensory activities.  I haven't done Five in a Row in a couple of weeks, but it doesn't really matter.  The boys bring me stacks of books to read over and over again.



Babushka sent Halloween costumes. As we wait for the October days to enjoy the new costumes, the boys turn the box into a firetruck wearing mixing bowl helmets and using big plastic spoons as hoses.  The weather has decided to finally be beautiful. We have spent the last two afternoons outside with bubbles and chalk and me yelling, "Watch out for the poop that might be over there!" When I am exhausted we watch PBS DVDs from the library, which is usually every day after lunch for a bit.



I make pancakes and chocolate chip cookies, but not on the same day. Each time I get thank you's from Bubby, especially if I have let him help mix in the ingredients. I take them by myself to the zoo on Saturday because I am a little bit crazy. I let them use Play-doh after I vacuumed today, and from that I realize I am learning just as much as they are.

I am letting go. I am learning. Life is messy. Life is good, even when it is hard. And we are simply learning. Together.




Thursday, September 5, 2013

Katy No-Pocket - Five in a Row Style

While talking on the phone with my sister-in-law tonight, she mentioned this blog. Then I realized how much I have been slacking on both blogs lately, but especially this one. Last week (I think!) the boys and I rowed Katy No-Pocket. Although I was familiar with the Curious George books (same author), I don't think I had ever read this book. The story was a little sad to me - a kangaroo without a pocket for her joey, but both boys really liked it.  Some of the highlights included:

Checking out a few non-fiction books about kangaroos. The kangaroo life cycle was pretty unique. I learned some fun facts, too, such as a kangaroo can hold an embryo until her other joey is ready to climb out of her it pocket. Interesting, right?

I taught my boys the Australia is a Mighty Fine Place song that my second grade teacher taught me. Yes, I remember the words AND the actions. I also taught them the Kookaburra song.  There was also a really neat picture book from the library called Kangaroo and Crocodile by Bronwyn Bancroft. I was surprised how much Bubby liked the pictures in the aboriginal type of style.

I made paper pockets and the boys drew the animal they would want to carry in their pockets.  Bugaboo picked giraffe (his favorite animal lately), and Bubby picked a skunk because he is ridiculous. Later that week we smelled a skunk on the road, and I asked if he still wanted one in his pocket. He said no.


On Sunday I took Bubby to Lowe's for our first Build and Grow Clinic. This was perfect since Katy No-Pocket meets a carpenter who shares his apron. Bubby and I built a very sad looking airplane. However, he loved it, he got his very own apron, and we both had a pretty good time.


Our other art project I cannot find anywhere around the house. We did aboriginal art. I put them up to dry, and then they got moved when I was making dinner - and now I can't find them. It makes me sad because it was a multi-step project that turned out really great, but I only have pictures of the first step.  The idea was from this blog, but the directions can be found here. I made a kangaroo template for the boys, and then they painted it. We glued it on other paper and then I showed Bubby how to do the dots around it rotating colors in a pattern each rotation. He got the hang of it pretty well for a four year old. Bugaboo liked making dots with the paint on his paper, so that worked on his fine motor skills.



Bubby did a lot of bouncing this week, and as always we are working with Bugaboo in physical therapy on how to jump.  We have taken several days off from FIAR as we are still trying to figure out this new semester.  This week we have just started reading Angus Lost.  Our own dog, Scout, escaped from the yard a week or so ago, so I thought this would be a good next choice.

Monday, August 26, 2013

back to school picture

Incase you are new to my blog, I thought I better put this out there again. I never really thought I would send my kids to preschool.  I never went to preschool. I believe in homeschooling. But although most of the learning my kids do is at home and with me, last year and this year we have sent Bubby to a great preschool at a local church.

It was very helpful in getting Bubby to come out of his shell last year. It also helps me to have some one on one time with Bugaboo for his therapy/special needs.

Yes, I homeschool. Yes, I plan on homeschooling. But two mornings a week Bubby learns away from me. It's not for everybody, but it's for us.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

The ABC Bunny - Five in a Row Style

I'm over a week behind in updating what we've been up to around here.  We had fevers. The Hubs started back to his third semester of nursing school.  Bubby started back to his two mornings out of the house for preschool. Bugaboo keeps on with his therapies. Awana started up again.  Life.

So here is the recap of us rowing The ABC Bunny. I didn't take very many pictures of this unit for the aforementioned reasons.

Once again I was surprised by how much the boys a) love the "old fashioned" looking books Before Five In A Row uses and b)love the repetition of reading it (nearly) everyday.  During this unit we read lots of ABC books. Bugaboo (yes, Bugaboo!) knows most of his capital letters, so I am looking for some lowercase ones. Both boys enjoy reading through new (and old) alphabet books, not just with this unit, but throughout the year.  Some of our favorite ABC books that we discovered the last couple of weeks:

  • An Edible Alphabet: 26 reasons to love the farm
  • Curious George Learns the Alphabet (has upper and lowercase)
  • Spot's ABC's (lowercase)
  • Z is for Zookeeper
  • Z is for Moose (we've read this before this unit, and we all love it)

I made a sensory bin with craft-pompoms we had on hand and crepe paper shredded. I threw some magnet letters in, and both boys enjoyed that several times this week. I am trying to push myself to do more sensory bins for Bug's benefit. They used spoons and measuring cups and tongs to scoop and dig.


Bubby and I "graphed" the names of our family using index card letters and the mini-pocket chart from Target's dollar spot. (Sorry, no picture of this. The idea I found thanks to Pinterest.) We watched Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on video for an extension of our ABC theme. That has never been my favorite kids' book, but the boys like it.

Just like many weeks, the boys played with the LeapFrog letters on the fridge and the wooden blocks with letters. I am finding most activities that have a worksheet feel to them I don't want to do with my kids. I think worksheets are fine for handwriting and reinforcing math, but I can't justify using a bunch of ink to print off a bunch of things I don't think my kids will be into. I may change my mind on that, but so far we are not too big on worksheet type of activities.



For another sensory and ABC activity this week I let the boys draw letters in shaving cream.  With Bug I just wanted him to make circles and lines. For a kid who usually craves input, during our OT sessions he hasn't liked the shaving cream activities. So I was pleasantly surprised at how much he liked this.  He even smiled! It is usually so hard to get him to smile for pictures, but not this time.  I encouraged Bubby to write his name and practice his letters, but it wasn't too long before he just wanted to play in it, too. Fun times for all.



Sidenote: Due to Missouri legislation, I no longer have/can be paid for Amazon affiliate links. I think this is unconstitutional, but any links attached to my blog which could have had a financial contribution for my family no longer will do that at the end of this month.




Sunday, August 11, 2013

Not Back To School - School Room Week

This is the second week of the Not Back To School Blog Hop. It's school room week. We do not have a school room for a few different reasons:
1. My children are still preschool age.
2. My house has does not have the extra space or room for a school room.
3. My budget does not have the space for a school room.


I also believe one of the best things about teaching my kids at home both now and in the future is that life is our classroom. We spend a lot of time playing and reading books in the boys' room. We also read a lot on the couch.  We do art projects and math at the kitchen table. Our school supplies are kept in The Hubs' office.  Some of the supplies/resources are on top of the boys' dresser and some are inside the dresser. (Their clothes also take up some of the dresser which, yes, is in The Hubs' office - evidence of a small house.)


Play-doh, paint, and glue are stored above the fridge for obvious reasons. The boys have lots of books in their room. We have favorites we read all of the time together and board books the boys will "read" with or without me. This weekend I even rearranged the shelves a bit to get out the early readers because Bubby may be ready to read them in the not-to-distant future. We also have puzzles and other fine motor/educational toys on the shelves and in nooks and crannies.


This week I made a calendar board for Bubby. Of my six years teaching in public school, I only spent one in first grade. One of the things I did not enjoy was calendar time. However, Bubby is obsessed with knowing what is going on in terms of time/schedule, so I thought maybe this would help. He also likes calendar time on the two mornings he goes to preschool, so with resources from Royal Baloo, 1+1+1=1, and my own preferences, I created a calendar board. We will use it in the morning in Bubby's room or at the kitchen table, but it will be stored in the office because our dog would probably chew it up.

The map I just taped up in a nook in the boys' room. I've had it since my first year teaching, but I just got it out as Bubby has also become interested in where things are. We will use it during calendar time and from time to time when we read stories.


So that's our not-school-room for not-back-to-school. Like everything else in my life, so far it seems simple and efficient and no-frills. Someday there may be frills for us, but not today.

(sidenote: I did not clean up every piece of clutter in the boys' room for these pictures. Just keeping it real here, friends.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Blue Boat - five in a row style

(Disclaimer: Post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase from the links, my family is blessed to receive a small portion which goes into our family budget.)

The last two weeks have been full for us. I finished up my last week of baby-sitting. We have had a couple of extra appointments on top of our usual weekly ones for Bugaboo. There have been play-dates with other moms and kids from church. Each time Bubby has come home happily caked in dirt or mud.  We have also been soaking in the last days of summer before The Hubs returns to being a full time nursing student on top of his counseling job. This has meant trips to the pool. Bubby and I also spent an afternoon at our local hands-on children's museum.  So it is easy to see why it took us two weeks to go through My Blue Boat.

This book was simple and sweet. We had natural conversations about new words (harbor, swell, fleet). Bubby liked the story each time we read it, and he was fascinated with the lighthouse. Bugaboo is starting to become obsessed with letters, particularly the letter O. Therefore, we did "O is for ocean and O is for octopus" to go along with the book and his favorite letter.

Here is our "O-octopus" made from supplies we had on hand. Bubby worked on coloring withing the lines, which is not his favorite thing. I was pleasantly surprised how well he cut out the outer circle for the O.



We also worked on fine motor skills. Bubby traced/painted W's and O's using paint on Q-tips. He is not a fan of using a pencil to work on letters, so we have used this method in the past. It works so-so in my opinion, but he enjoys it. Bug wanted to use a paintbrush with his fingerpaints, and later had a meltdown when he was using his fingers to paint. Ah, sensory issues.



I had high hopes to make boats, do some sensory water play, and even make a cute Solo cup whale I saw on Pinterest. But we did not. Bubby and I drew a boat out of crayons to work on drawing simple shapes, and then we water colored over it. He loves to paint, so he sat there for quite awhile trying to cover every spot with blue paint. Usually he likes to do his own thing and paint with all the colors, but today he stayed with the blue shades for the water/sky. I couldn't believe it. He did choose to make his boat orange instead of blue like the book or brown like I suggested.


We read books about ocean life for our non-fiction selections.  To go along with My Blue Boat we also read The Puddle by David McPhail and Max Lucado's The Boy and The Ocean. Bubby really enjoyed that one, so we read it more than once.I am really enjoying the flexibility and ease of doing learning activities based upon book suggestions of Before Five In A Row. Next week we will be looking at The ABC Bunny to build on Bugaboo's interest in letters.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Not Back To School Blog Hop" 2013-14 Curriculum

So I think I can call myself a homeschooler now. Much like everything else in life, there is no perfect label for me or what I do. However, I am excited to share what I am planning on doing with Bubby (4) and Bugaboo (2 1/2 with special needs) this school year on this blog hop.

I feel like I must first mention I don't do anything extremely formal.  All of the resource I use I only use on the days Bubby is interested. I follow his lead, and his interests because he is a preschooler. For instance, he didn't want to work on learning to read this week, so we didn't. We just did our normal read lots of books together and play a lot. Everything is a learning activity when you are four and two. Or thirty-two.

2013-2014 "curriculum"



  • The Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading - This is simple. No bells and whistles. It works for us at this point. I feel it gives a strong phonics foundation. I also write the lesson he is to read on notebook paper because the print is kind of small for my four year old's focus. We also use Bob Books and other phonics readers from the library from time to time.
  • Math-U-See Primer -we are only a few lessons in - Bubby loves working with the blocks. He also likes the worksheets which is funny because he is not a worksheet or coloring book kid in most other circumstances.
  • Handwriting Without Tears - Bubby is not a fan of writing or coloring. He would paint every day if I would let him. I am hoping this will be a painless introduction into handwriting since he can sound out/spell simple words, but he has no desire whatsoever to write them down.
  • Before Five in a Row/Five in a Row literature and activities. We started these books and activities this summer, and we love them.
  • For family devotionals we are using the Wondrous Works of God. I am also pondering using the Bible Road Trip (the preschool level).
  • Bugaboo, even with his mysterious delays, has really picked up on letters for some reason. Therefore I plan on doing some informal letter activities with him, as well as of course letting him participate in Bubby's activities as much as he wants and is able. We will keep working on his speech and language goals, his sensory activities and fine motor skills  for OT and gross motor skills for PT.
  • I also send Bubby to a Christian preschool two mornings a week. It allows me to get some one-on-one time with Bugaboo. I feel it helps him not feel left out since Bug goes to a lot of therapy activities where Bubby just has to sit, watch and be quiet.
Mostly we just spend a lot of time in our house reading books together, singing, playing. I am blessed that I get to stay home with my kids and take this type of a role in their education. Everything is flexible. My main goal is to help both of my boys with their strengths and their weaknesses and to instill in them a love  of learning.

Friday, August 2, 2013

there are other things to learn besides phonics

This week Bubby hasn't been interested in going forward with any reading "lessons." I could try to force the issue or guess the reasons why he says, "No thank you," when I ask if he wants to learn to read today. But the simple fact of the matter is he is four. We have the next several years for reading lessons. There are other beautiful lessons to learn each day.

So we keep doing what we do best - which is spending time together. We are reading books about boats and sea creatures this week, but we honestly haven't even done that the last couple of days. He has been playing a lot with his cars, trains and Legos this week. My favorite part of that is how Bugaboo plays with him or parallel to him.

Life is full for us even in the simple things. Between therapy sessions on Wednesday, we go to the big library. The boys climb on the turtle, play with the puppets, and we sit on the bench and read some books.  Bubby likes being able to use the self-checkout with a little help from me.

I am mindful of the need to soak in the goodness of having a four year old.Yesterday I watched him play happily with an assortment of friends on of the families' backyard fort/slide. I was glad to see my introverted little boy engage with a crowd of kids. He was sad when it was time to got, and it was a great way to spend a chunk of our Thursday.

 This morning our family of four went to the pool, and we pretty much had it all to ourselves. Bubby was finally brave enough to let us get him up to his chin in the water. This is progress.

I think I am writing this to remind myself to not just always do the activities that are my children's strengths. Go with their interests and enjoyment. Push them out of their comfort zone a little. But most importantly embrace the simplicity of the lesson of just being together in the everyday gift of lifelong learning.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I am an artist - five in a row style

We didn't do as much with our Before Five in a Row book this week.  In fact, I think we only read the actual book, I Am An Artist, three times.  I think it was little above my kids, even though there were just a few words on each page.  Bubby and I did have a good chat about reflections in the water because of one page in the book, and we talked about some new words in context with sunsets.

Early in the week we did cloud painting with white paint on blue paper using marshmallows and pompoms. I had to keep Bugaboo from eating the marshmallows since we had just had s'mores last week at our friends' house. We had painted a polar bear using the same supplies last winter, and I think that project was a little more fun than this one.


I had planned on doing a nature walk with the boys, but between my baby-sitting and Bugaboo's therapy schedule this week, it did not happen. I improvised, and we talked about things like the shapes of the cloud as we drove places.  Then on Friday, it was a rainy morning, so we all piled in bed and listened to the rain for a little bit. That was my favorite part of the week.

We read lots of books on art and nature and weather and clouds, and most of them were just so-so.  We did enjoy Little Cloud by Eric Carle, but I can't even recommend any of the other dozen books we read. Quite a bummer.

Yesterday, we did another art project just for fun using different sized circle objects (cups, lids, toilet paper rolls) to stamp on our papers. I think both boys liked that once I was able to get Bubby to understand the importance of sharing the paint.


Next week it looks like we are reading My Blue Boat. I have some other cute fiction picture books to go along with that, as well as books about the ocean since Bubby is always asking about sharks and squids and such.

Disclosure: Post includes Amazon affiliate links. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How (and why) I'm teaching my four year old to read

Over the last month a few friends and one of Bug's therapists have asked me questions about reading. Specifically how to help their young children read. I gave them a couple of general suggestions or some books to try. Honestly I don't think there is one answer for everybody. Every family and child is different.


I am teaching Bubby to read because he is interested, and he is able. He has known his letter sounds for a long time. He could identify his letters before he was two. Letters and words are a strength of his, so I have been trying to find a balance in not pushing him but not holding him back either.



So how does this look in our house, and what advice can I offer?

  • I have read to both boys almost every single day since the day they were born. Even in the NICU we would bring books to read - our favorite then was Are You My Mother? Each of my boys in their toddler years have fixated on Brown Bear, Brown Bear - a book I honestly hate because it reminds me of my year I taught first grade. But since they liked it, I keep reading it. All of that to say - read. 


  • Read aloud to your children daily. Throughout the day. Read the same books over and over again, and introduce new ones.
  • Another thing I know that has been important in our house is for them to see The Hubs reading. Not only do the boys see The Hubs read his Bible in the morning, but they also see him studying, they see his "books for enjoyment" around, and The Hubs reads to the boys.

  • Go to the library at least once a week. Let them pick out their own books. The pick out books for them, too. Our library has a great online system, so I use that and go to the library drive-thru probably three times a week to pick up our new books.
  • Get letter magnets. Find both capital and lowercase if possible and play with them together. Point letters out everywhere and what sounds they make.  

  • I am not a huge fan of many "educational" toys/movies, BUT the LeapFrog Letter Factory was given to the boys, and they both have loved the repetitive song with the letter sounds. They also have liked the LeapFrog bus and magnets. I haven't found the other LeapFrog movies as helpful, though, but maybe that is just our family.
  • Speaking of movies, I strongly believe in limiting tv time.  We watch DVDs here because quite honestly, there are times when Mommy needs a break. But the boys know that unless it is a sick day, they won't get to watch more than one show a day. Some days we don't watch any. But we will always read!


That's all nice, but how do you teach them to read?

If you are reading to them regularly and they recognize letters, you can probably start if they are interested.
Start with teaching the letter sounds.  Then when they have those down work on sounding out three letter words with a consonant-vowel-consonant. ("CVC words")  We did this a lot with Bubby with his letter magnets - changing the first letter or having him change it. (for example: -at words: cat, bat, sat, rat; -ad words: dad, bad, sad, mad, etc.) Once they get good at that game, you could probably begin with simple phonics readers or a program.

I've started Bubby on lessons from Ordinary Parents Guide To Reading. The first 26 lessons are about the letter sounds - we didn't do all of those since he knew them. About lesson 30, I figured out Bubby would do well with these lessons if I I wrote them out in my own handwriting. (The print is kind of small for a three/four year old.) It is a pain, but it works so much better for us.  I'm hopeful that someday soon I can transition back to reading from the book.  We average a lesson a week, but I usually do a lesson more than once with him. Repetition is a very good thing.

We are also reading some of the BOB books. He likes the simple pictures, and it really helps his confidence. Often the books that are labeled "easy readers" are not for true beginner readers. I would recommend not starting with those. I am a strong believer in focusing on phonics more than sight words. (Though sight words do have a place). As Bubby has learned to sound out words, the words he sees more often he has started knowing by sight.

As wonderful as it was to have lightbulb moments with my students back in my teaching days, there is nothing like watching your own child learn something new - whether that be reading new words, riding a bike, or singing a song.




I'll end by saying this. I think there is a lot of pressure on parents and kids to be the best or the first or both at everything. It is hard not to get sucked in. Children do not need to know how to read at four or five or even six. As long as you are providing consistent, natural opportunities (and there isn't some learning/developmental issue), your child will learn to read in his/her time. Just keep reading, let your child learn to enjoy reading, but most of all become a student of your own child and enjoy him/her.

Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.