Monday, October 17, 2016

Our Favorite Spooky Reads

I feel it's my duty to warn you, the holidays are coming and I happen to be a completely insane holiday lover. I actually refer to them as the "HOLLA-days!!" :) So, I hope I don't scare you off with my intense crazy obsession ;)

There, I feel better with that off my chest. I don't know how it works at your library, but at our library you have to reserve holiday books waaaaay ahead of time in order to get your mitts on any at all.  Because of this, I pour over other amazing blogs' booklists ( ahem, Cutting Tiny Bites) get out my phone and reserve away. 

We've discovered a bunch of new favorites this year and we are still a couple of weeks, and a whole bunch more reserves, away from the big spooky, amazing day!

Before I get into it, I guess I should confess one more thing. I am a book addict and Kinley seems to share my love of all things written. We go to the library at least twice a week and I plan on sharing nothing but the best of the hundreds and thousands we devour.

Here goes, ultimate favorites first:

The Spooky Wheels on the Bus is definitely our number one pick! More and more adorably spooky creatures board the bus as the book moves along and they all do some kind of wiggly dance. We wiggled and shook right along with them 10 or 12 times :) It's adorable and you can sing the entire thing to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus", of course! Preschool perfection.

 If you don't know the joys of Room on the Broom you better just go get in the car and head to the library to pick it up! It's sooo cute--a nice witch is flying through the air on her broom with her faithful cat, but the wind keeps blowing her stuff back down to the ground and each time they swoop down to look for it they make another animal friend who wants to go with them on the broom, and even though her cat is not pleased, the extra company turns out to be very helpful when they encounter a witch-eating dragon! There's a claymation movie version of it on Netflix that's super adorable, too. We actually read this one year-round cause we love it and it's not actually Halloween-y other than the witch :)

Melly is heading to her cousin's house for a Halloween party, and luckily she's a super brave little monster. Nothing scares her! Not skittish skeletons or goblins or creepy black cats. Okay, so maybe she's a teensy bit scared...but you guys won't be because Greg Pizzoli's illustrations are the cutest! (We've been obsessed with that guy since The Watermelon Seed!) Love this one :)

Poor cute little Skeleton overhears the witches talking about having him for dinner, and he runs Chicken-Little-style all over the forest warning the other creatures about their plans. But, they don't want to eat him and the other creepy critters, they want to invite them to their dinner party! How can you not love a book with a skeleton as cute as this one? :)

Skeleton's mommy sends him on an errand to his grandma's house before he can meet his buddy and head out to trick or treat, but on the way there he hears creepy noises and realizes someone, or something, is following him! I won't tell you what happens cause that's part of the awesome, but this is a great one for reading aloud and it's easy to get all "WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN?!" Trust me, it's a good one :)

  Lots of spooky creatures live in the mansion! This is a counting book and Halloween book all rolled into one. You get to count the spooky critters as trick-or-treaters show up and go inside for a Halloween party.

This is another great read-aloud story! Don't blame me when it gets stuck in your head for days ;) The rhythm is just so dang catchy! The little band of trick-or-treaters is headed to trick or treat at the witch's house and they run into lots of spooky critters along the way and they are more than a little freaked out. Good news though--when they finally make it to the creepy old witch's house, things take a much friendlier turn :)

Just in case you need a few more recommendations, here are a few more that we loved! I've got about 12 more (yes, 12 more. I told you. I have a problem!) reserved at the library, so I'll add to the list if any of them are winners! Hope you found a new one (or fifteen) to try out :) 

Happy reading!!  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

We're back and we're ready to party...ehrmmmm...PRESCHOOL!

Hey y'all! We're BACK! For real this time. Have you missed us?! I've definitely missed writing and I can't wait to get back to it!

Before I get started with the preschool fun, I wanted to tell ya how I came up with our curriculum.  I am planning on homeschooling Kinley long after preschool and I don't plan on buying an all-out super serious curriculum until at least first grade. The idea is to take a late 80's approach to preschool, you know, the way WE were preschooled. No hours of tracing letter worksheets and drilling sight words. Just play, fun, art projects and more fun! Plus, there are so many awesome tried-and-true ideas from moms and preschool teachers floating around on Pinterest and in books and magazines, there is definitely no shortage of fun inpiration for teaching just about any subject you could ever possibly want to cover.

So, with all of these amazing ideas floating around, where exactly do you start? Well, I just chose a start date and an end date for our first year and got to planning! You've gotta start somewhere and I decided to begin with planning our monthly themes.

I chose some that I wanted to cover (holidays, seasons) and some that she requested (cooking/healthy foods, weather) and filled in the rest with things I knew would be a hit (fairy tales, birthday). Kinley already knows her shapes and colors and most of her numbers, but I thought it would be good to review them, so I added those, too.

Okay, that was a good start, but what in the world would we do daily? Circle time. Language Arts. Math/Science. Motor skills practice. Sensory. And, fun. LOTS of fun :)

Before I get all in-depth, I have to tell you about a blog that is pretty much a lifesaver when it comes to planning your own preschool curriculum. Angela is one heck of a blogger and whenever I am looking for info on anything preschool, Teaching Mama is one of the first sites I head to! This post is especially helpful in planning and she even gives ya a printable planning sheet.

Subjects: check. But, what exactly should I teach her about Language Arts or Math/Science? I used Angela's helpful post and several other books and websites to come up with a list of things that are typically covered in each subject in traditional preschool and chose what was important for me to cover this year. Rather than make a wordy paragraph or 12, I'll just leave this list right here for you to use if you decide to do what I did :) (Just in case you are wondering, I picked the ones in bold.) And, if you aren't sure what kind of activities will teach each of these subject areas, just stay tuned or get busy searching on Pinterest!

Language Arts 
  • listening
  • reading (to her, not her reading)
  • writing (she tells me stories/journal entries/descriptions, and I write her words)
  • speaking
  • ABCs
  • listening skills
  • phonics (think letter sounds, not necessarily sounding out words)
  • rhyming
  • handwriting
  • counting
  • colors
  • patterns
  • number recognition
  • one-to-one correspondence
  • shapes
  • sorting
  • money
  • ordering
  • matching
  • subitizing (know how many there are without counting)   
So, once I got all of that figured out, I bought myself a teacher planner from the Target One Spot and planned our entire year. Yep, I'm nuts. And I've already had to skip a week and learn to go with the flow, but at least I don't have to worry about planning the other half of our year at Christmas-time!

Just in case you need a little extra inspiration, I'll dive a little deeper into what we do.

Circle Time
This seems kind of strange with just one kiddo, huh? I mean obviously two people don't make much of a circle, but this is one of our favorite and most important parts of our day. We sing songs, go over the letter of the week with songs and letter hunts, practice the color, numbers and shape of the month in Spanish, put the new number on the calendar, check out the weather, do felt board stories and songs, read stories and learn poems. I'll do a more in-depth circle time post soon. I try to go with the flow with this part of our day, if she's into it we do more, if she's grouchy and whiny, we just do the basics and move on to other things.

Language Arts
I made a goal that Kin will be able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet by the end of the year. I don't care if she can write them, but it would be cool if she could pick them out! I bought an ABC curriculum last year when we gave preschool a go (she wasn't ready and rather than stress and force it, I just let it go and we picked it back up about a month ago,) and it's absolutely awesome! There are activities and worksheets and I just love the adorable artwork. I am planning on using it all through preschool, Pre-K and Kindergarten cause it's got activities for younger and older kids for every letter. It's from The Crafty Classroom and you can check it out if you want to by clicking here. I teach her one letter a week and then review the last three letters every fourth week (for example: Week 1--Letter Aa, Week 2--Letter Bb, Week 3--Letter Cc, and Week 4: Review Aa, Bb, and Cc)

So, anyway, besides the couple of worksheets and bingo included in that pack, we do a letter craft (like turning an E into an elephant, or and F into a fox), a journal entry in her little composition notebook or I ask her to tell me about her art projects and write down her words, and play a game or two that don't have anything to do with the letter, but focus on other aspects of language like rhyming or listening skills.

Kinley is a girl who loves math and science. The word "experiment" makes her dance and leap for joy. She counts EVERYTHING. She weighs stuff in the produce department at the grocery store until I bribe her with a free bakery cookie and she has known her colors since she was one and a half. She pretty much already knows all of the things I have chosen to cover this year, but I just wanted to go over it and make sure she wasn't blank in any area.

To keep her from being bored with all the review, I make tons of games, magical experiments of course ;), cook and bake, make patterns and sort random objects (noodles, little figures, paperclips, gems, etc.) and hoard Pinterest ideas like it's my job. What did we do before Pinterest?!

Large/Fine Motor Skills
Large motor is easy enough while it's nice outside--go for a walk, play soccer, head to the park or for a bike ride. We haven't had to worry about cool weather large motor yet, but I have a giant Pinterest board full of ideas for when that time comes--it's called Wiggle Busters in case you need some inspiration yourself! 

And for fine motor, we do things like picking up beads with tweezers, tracing and placing stickers on zigzag lines, using scissors and clothespins, practicing with hole punches and, of course, holding crayons/markers/pencils with correct pincer grasp :) Once again, Pinterest has hundreds of thousands of fine motor ideas--here's my board full of favorites.

Sensory is our ultimate favorite! We use one of those giant under-the-bed storage containers for our sensory bin. Sometimes we do super messy sensory activities like shaving cream and water beads (LOVE this one) and sometimes we do easy things, like playing Play-Doh or fingerpainting. Our old never-fail to please sensory bin fillers are unpopped popcorn kernels, dried peas, colored rice, water, cloud dough and colored noodles.

We've recently discovered the joy of small world sensory bins, too, and if you have a kiddo who loves to pretend, I'm sure you guys would love them as much as we do! They are pretty much invitations to play. One of our favorites so far was an alligator swamp I put together for Aa Week that included sand, flat clear and blue glass marbles, a paper towel tube/craft foam palm tree, plastic alligators and some craft foam grass and flat rocks. She played with those alligators for hours. She buried them in the sand, pretended one of them was a bad guy, took them swimming in the marble "water" and made up a million other hilarious/awesome 3 year old stories.

So many Pinterest ideas for this subject, too. Shocking I know! ;)

Okay, I'm definitely not gonna tell you how to have fun :) Just don't forget to plan some field trips and getting out of the house days! 

I think that's all I've got for now! I hope this has been helpful and not overwhelming. I should mention that if you happen to be a Pinterest-hater and still want some cool ideas, check your local library for Mailbox magazines or any of their best-of books. They are collections of favorite ideas from preschool teachers and they are pure gold baby! :)

If you have any questions at all, please ask! I'd love to help if I can :)
I'm so excited to share all of our fun stuff with you again! Happy Mom-ing, y'all! :)