Friday, January 31, 2014

a simple checklist for preschool learning at home

Am I doing enough? This is the question that constantly runs through my head at the end of the day.

My two boys are preschool ages, with varying interests, strengths and weaknesses.  In addition to those typical challenges, my three year old, Bugaboo, has developmental delays, and requires various therapies three afternoons a week. There are always things I need to be working on with him at home. But how do I know I am doing everything I can for him? In addition to that how do I make sure my four and a half year old is still having his needs (and interests) met, too?

I used to be a teacher, so I contemplated a lesson plan type form.  But honestly, that felt really restrictive at this phase of life. Our schedules are not typical due to the therapies, a couple of activities we choose to do, and The Hubs in the midst of nursing school.  Plus if lesson plans ended up being anything at all like my chore schedules I've tried in the past, they were likely to fail.

I wanted the freedom to go with some of my boys' interests each day, but also some self-accountability, too. It has been a long winter here, and so I never know from week to week which days I will be able to get out and run errands or take the boys out to do something fun. There are days we spend a lot of time on the couch reading book after book, and days when both boys are content to play for hours with Legos. And there are many days when I feel like nothing I plan goes as expected. 

So instead of a weekly lesson plan, I came up with a checklist.  

Activity checklist

read alouds


Five in a Row



sensory bins



beads or other fine motor


pretend play

spoon or fork practice

cup/biting practice

5 W questions or yes practice







swimming or library

outside time

Each week I print off this checklist (which I am constantly tweaking). The checklist includes individual activities for Bubby and Bugaboo, as well as things they do together. As we do an activity, I just make a check mark or a little note in the box describing what we have done.  Then I can look back over the week (or at several sheets for the month) to see what we have done a lot of and where we might be lacking.  It also shows me, yes indeed, I am doing a lot. I often need the reminder, "Relax, Mama, there are only 24 hours in a day."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Snowy Day - Five in a Row Style

Every once in awhile I plan ahead.

Just a few days before a big snowstorm here in early January, I managed to get a copy of The Snowy Day from the library. Not only is the story a beautiful classic, the fact that we ended up with several snowy days made me (almost) excited to do snow activities.  (I hate snow. I hate winter. Just thought I'd put it out there.)

Once again, this "old fashioned" looking book held my boys' interest each day, and actually into another week.  Then when we went to story time at the library last week, the librarian was reading it among the selections, and both of my boys were excited to know the story.  I loved that Bug even participated more than normal at the library because of the familiarity of the story.

So what did we do all week to go along with the story?

Well, we obviously went out to crunch, crunch, crunch in the snow. We made tracks with our feet and with sticks. Bubby made a snow angel until the dog got a little to close to him.

We did a science observation. I brought in a scoop of snow, and we watched how long it would take to melt on our kitchen table.  (We didn't just sit and watch it. We would check it every few minutes to see the progress.)

We attempted snow paint, but I wasn't impressed with the recipe I found. Maybe I did something wrong.

Bubby worked on The Snowy Day themed tracing and cutting pages, as well as the summer/winter clothes sort activity from this packet.  His cutting is getting so much better. The boys each made a paper snowman out of white paper scraps (which they had to tear and glue to help fine motor skills). I forgot to take a picture of this activity, but it turned out really cute as most snowman art projects usually do.

Some  of the other snow-themed selections we read were White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, and most of the snow/winter poems in Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky.

I have looked through most of the other Before Five in a Row books, and we have either read them already before we started rowing, they are books better suited for spring, or  I am not interested in rowing (a couple of) them. I may move back to doing some of the regular Five in a Row books for our next study. It is hard to sometimes know what is best to do with my two boys with their ages and strengths and weaknesses. I believe Katy and the Big Snow is on hold for me at the library, so we may continue with the snow theme for awhile.