Friday, February 15, 2013

St. Valentine's Day 2013

Some of the valentines we mailed.  First time I've sent mail to Pakistan!
So glad there are several holidays in winter to break up the monotony of indoor cold days!  I've always loved Valentine's Day as a day to show love to everyone around us (thank you, Mom, for that legacy), and lately have come to appreciate it as a day to remember and show love to the persecuted church!  Did you know St. Valentine was a real man, one who was a champion of Christian marriage, a bold declarer of the Gospel, and ultimately a martyr for his Lord?  Yeah, forget Cupid!

 We had some friends over, read The Story of St. Valentine, More than Cards & Candy Hearts, ate heart-shaped sandwiches & cookies, made valentines to send to Christians imprisoned abroad for their faith, talked about the reality of persecution in our day (just as it was a reality in Valentine's day), and wrapped up in blankets we mailed to Sudanese Christians through VoM's "Blanket and a Bible" program.  I used the Voice of the Martyr's resource pack "Letter Writing Kit" to get the photos, addresses & backstories for several Christians currently in jail, many facing death, for loving Christ fearlessly.

Jillian munching

Two of our other lil guests

Ginger hearts with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yum.

The full table

Liam, our youngest Valentine :)

Another friend!

Bouquet fresh from our backyard

Friends had been bringing by blankets for weeks! 
After naps for all, Eowyn & Liam enjoyed a treasure hunt through the house, supervised by our sweet friend from church, "Miss Jen," while Ryan & I got to try a wine-beer-chocolate-and-cheese tasting at The Community Tap.  Really fun!! Ryan LOVED the Beats Solo HD headphones I gave him for Valentine's Day (a prayed-for found deal!), and I'm excited about reading through the book he picked for us to read together!  PS the chocolate at the Community Tap is AH-MAY-ZING!!!!
Since Nina started the treasure-hunt-tradition...

... she did another treasure hunt at her house that weekend! 
 Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Looking Forward to K4...

Several friends who remember my preschool-teaching days have asked me what we're thinking of doing next year for Eowyn's school.  While much is still up in the air-- will we supplement with dance? music? What about staying at the 2-day-a-week-school where she's/we're so happy now? Will there be room for Children's Bible Study Fellowship?-- I am working on some sort of pattern or low-stress plan.

I don't really know how much, when or where.

from The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease
What I do know is that we will be doing at least a half hour of more "structured" instruction at home no matter what else we do.  I'm a big believer in the power of doing nothing more than reading aloud to your children and allowing them plenty of creative opportunities-- time outside, dress-up clothes, pretend-play toys (kitchen, babies, paper dolls, trucks), construction toys (blocks, legos, lincoln logs), and art supplies (paint, crayons, cutting, fabric, stickers, chalk).  However, I also know that the more experiences a child has with letters the more likely they are to be an early reader, and an early reader has a great head-start over non-readers.  Somewhere between rigorous formal instruction and the freedom to explore lies my philosophy of early education.  I don't sell children short on learning opportunities, as I think parents tend to do-- but much of this doesn't happen at a desk.  It happens in choosing quiet toys over battery-operated ones.  It happens in pulling up a stool and teaching them to sort the silverware and measure the milk and crack the eggs.  It happens in doing a chore chart and hanging their coat where they can be responsible to hang it up.  It comes in turning the TV off and filling little book shelves with books.  It comes in teaching children to ask questions and answer them too.  It comes in playing with them and in requiring them to play by themselves.  It comes in consistent discipline and the incorporation of Scripture into daily life.

So... without further ado, here is our low-stress "curriculum" for next year:

-- Math:  pocket calendar from Oriental Trading Company-- to learn/review months, days of week, counting, number recognition, weather, holidays, and today/tomorrow/next week/yesterday, using different songs as well as the actual calendar.  We will also practice skip counting by 2s, 5s and 10s with songs (Sounds Like Fun, Discovery Toys), fingers (high-five for 5s, two-handed high-fives for 10s), and with coins (nickels, pennies & dimes).  Other play opportunities include a "store" with her cash register, numbers puzzle and other number coloring pages.  She's already quite familiar with numbers and recognizes the numerals fairly consistently.  If I can find it on the cheap, I will pick up Saxon's K.
-- Reading:  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessonsmodified for a young child without much fine-motor strength. It's quite rare for any 3 or 4 year old to have the muscular strength and fine-motor skill to properly write. This is the reason for big chunky or triangular crayons, finger paint, and fat paint brushes on the market-- littles really just can't do the other stuff well for very long at all. That's a huge reason to really minimize worksheets and do way more "exploration" with many textures and using just the fingers-- whipped cream, shaving cream, sand paper, sand box, finger paint (add a bit of sand or glitter), glue spread with a finger that you then sprinkle with glitter/sand, erasing chalk letters off a chalk board with a finger tip-- all these allow for proper hand motion learning (start here, pick up here, etc), without reinforcing improper pencil-holding or tiring muscles that just aren't ready to hold a pencil. These give letter experiences without teaching something that later has to be unlearned.  So we'll be doing any of the above instead of the writing exercises the book suggests, as well as more standard tracing and my-hand-over-hers writing.  If I can find it I'd love to buy a Handwriting Without Tears manipulative set, but in the meantime we make letters out of blocks and E finds that exceedingly fun!  One more note:  let kids experiment with both hands, as many don't have their "handedness" determined yet.
-- Science/History: What Your Preschooler Needs to Know: Get Ready for Kindergarten... and we use each holiday as a learning point too.  The books from Voices of the Martyrs on the namesakes of holidays are great (just bought their books on St. Nicolas, St. Valentine and St. Patrick)!
-- Writing: Cursive First... I think.
-- Literature:  LOTS of reading!  Picture books from the library galore! Starting on some longer books to be read aloud too.  I refer to The Read-Aloud Handbook and The Well-Trained Mind for ideas.
-- Music-- lots of experimentation with pitched (especially xylophone) and percussive instruments, and plenty of pitch-matching games with me!  We sing songs on sol-fege regularly (a favorite is the "Tallis Cannon" at bed time), and I'm trying to teach her that we do NOT EVER end songs on "ti" or "re"!  We also like the first part of the Song of Aeolus (it's a minor song tune pitched in the relative major, so it's all about "la" instead "do.")  Also exploring madrigals and Broadway songs-- she LOVES the CD of my senior recital right now!  We will go to our first symphony concerts so she can see the instruments up close, and will do fun stuff with Peter & the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals.  
-- Language-- we are reading books and watching DVDs in Spanish (our library has a great selection!), listening to music in Spanish and French, and occasionally reading books in French.
-- Art-- I'd like to make use of this website (Deep Space Sparkle).  Also on my to-do list is a sewing kit for her!
-- Bible-- continued memorization of The Children's Catechism, and memorization of one verse a week using the book My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts (Susan Hunt).  We rotate The Beginner's Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible for nightly family devotions-- I look forward to introducing the audiobook versions for her to "read" to herself in the mornings!   We listen to the Seeds CDs, Hide Em in Your Heart, Rain for Roots, Judy Rogers' and other Bible-based songs all the time!  I hope to add in some GT & the Halo Express soon-- if I can find some somewhere!

Today my goal for the day is to make a morning-routine chart for her... I'll let y'all know how that goes!