March 25, 2014

Preschool with a one-year-old and a two-year-old

When summer began coming to an end and other people talked about sending their kids off to school, I suddenly decided that I was going to homeschool my kids, starting immediately. My husband was tickled when I told him what I was going to do, and my mom giggled that the Littles were one and two and that I felt they needed more structure.

The point was that WE needed more structure to our days. Yes, the Littles have a fairly-strict schedule as far as meals and naps, but being a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers can become monotonous and dull. I actually like to combat that by giving us more of a schedule, more of an eventful routine.

When I look online for educational activities, I usually find things geared to 3-5 year olds. That is what is considered preschool age. Before having children, I taught preschool. I worked with 2-year-olds. Knowing what we did with them every day made me confident I both knew what I was doing and that such little people can learn a lot. My Levi started asking me what the letters were when he was about 21-months-old. When I started teaching him, I assumed we wouldn’t get far, but he could recognize every letter, big and small, by his second birthday, and then he started figuring out what noises they make. If you put in a little concentrated time, I do think that very young children can absorb an awful lot, and they enjoy it. We try to spend about an hour a day on “school.” My Littles can stay interested about that long, and it’s more than enough time to cover a lot.

I set up our school area, where we can all sit on barstools together. I put a bookshelf up off the floor, so that I could keep some things there that Rhynn can’t get to all the time and scatter around the house. Every afternoon, I gather stuff for the next day: Books we own that are in our letter/theme, items that start with our letter, supplies for our art project.
C is for Caterpillar

The first day I told Levi we were going to do school, he was confused, obviously. I sat them both down and did our lessons. By day 3, both Littles knew exactly what we were doing when we sat down, and they were excited. They learned the songs quickly, and Levi began to ask every day, “What are we going to learn about today?”

They know that school has begun when we sing the" Good Morning Song." It’s silly, but then they both know it’s time to pay attention. They both put their index fingers up and sing along:
(Tune of “Frere Jacques”)
Good morning (Good morning)
How are you? (How are you?)
Very well, I thank you (Very well, I thank you)
How about you? (How about you?)

 Next we sing the Days of the Week Song. Levi guesses every single day that it is Wednesday, so he is right once a week. Sometimes he mixes it up and guesses Friday.
 (Tune of “Oh My Darling, Clementine”)
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
There are seven days, there are seven days,
There are seven days in a week.

He is always so proud of his work.

Third, we count our ten fingers in English, then in Spanish. I was amazed how quickly Levi picked up the concept of counting in a different language. Numbers were an easy connection for him, and it made him curious about other Spanish words. My husband grew up in the Dominican Republic and speaks Spanish, so I encourage him to speak it with the kids. My Midwest accent does not lend itself well to Spanish!

For Bible, we like the Jesus Storybook Bible. The wording is sometimes slightly advanced for our Littles, but I just explain more when needed. Although Levi likes David & Goliath and Jonah & the Big Fish best, we have been trying to read straight through, one story a day. I also found this list of short scriptures for toddlers to memorize. I write the verse on a card in large letters for Levi to be able to see it clearly, and we repeat together several times a day. I make sure to explain each word, to assure that he actually knows what we are talking about. Levi can say four of them now, and HE tells me when he feels one applies to a life situation (My most quoted to him is “Children, obey your parents. Ephesians 6:1”).

Next, we have been working on one letter at a time. I felt like one day per letter was too little time and one week per letter was too long. We usually work on one letter for two or three days, or until I have exhausted my activities and Levi knows it well. We like the Sound Box Books by Jane Belk Moncure. (I have been able to find them at our library and can reserve the next few we need each week. That way I can just drag lead my two Littles to the desk and pick them up). Levi thinks these books are funny, and the whole story revolves around one letter’s noise. We use letter and number magnets a lot for activities. They can usually be found at dollar stores and are great for matching, identifying, and spelling. Another way we have reinforced letters is through signing the alphabet. I am no expert, but seeing my own kids use signs makes me believe that making the letter (or word) in a tactile way solidifies understanding at a new level.
Working on "B is for Bumblebee."

In future posts, I hope to share some of the other fun activities we do, but for now I just wanted to encourage moms who are home with little people and feeling bored and overwhelmed. Sometimes, at the end of the day, it’s nice to feel like I have accomplished something with the babies more than just loving them. It’s not expensive or difficult. If you are thinking of homeschooling in the future and feel like it might be a challenge for you, start now! When they are tiny it’s so easy, and you and your Littles can learn together, as the content gets more involved.

"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  Deuteronomy 6:6,7

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