Tag Archives: preschool

Lepidoptera


DSC_0008Tuesdays and Thursdays this year have been filled with lunches with friends, and gym and art classes for A and S.  For G, it has meant preschool.  Out-of-the-house, pack-your-lunch, play-with-friends preschool.  It has been a great thing for our four-year-old guy.  Up until now he has tagged along for the ride, sitting back seat to whatever the brothers were involved in.  Preschool, however, has been wholly his.  He has loved each moment.  

With fewer than twenty students, our little church preschool has been a wonderful place for G to learn, play and grow two days a week.  Not only has it provided him opportunities for learning and social time, but it has also given our family support.  G sees his teachers as positive, loving reminders of his own capabilities.  We are so grateful for that.

This month they have been concentrating on caterpillars and butterflies.  The teachers have displayed monarch caterpillars in jars.  They have learned about the chrysalis.  They have talked about colors and defense patterns, such as false eyes.  Watching the process from caterpillar to butterfly only serves to excite him about his own growing and changing body.  G seems to have a direct understanding that because God created everything, he has executed it all in astounding and loving ways.  I wanted to capitalize on their studies and explorations  at school, and bring them home.  I love how they are able to observe live caterpillars.  Below are some of our favorite butterfly books.  Here I need to give kudos to our local librarian who helped me become acquainted with two of these titles recently.  They are both new favorites with G.

Butterfly Literature-


51rVkztDKyL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_A  Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long – I cannot describe how exquisite the details of this book are!  The illustrations are like something to be found in a high quality nature journal.  Both the text and colorful artwork urge you to race outdoors….to sit and observe.

eb14c1abc1a3212fd824c758cfd6b3caSummer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle and Julie Paschkis tells the true story of Maria Merian, who as a teenager, became a lepidopterist and artist of nature during the Middle Ages when the wisdom of the day stated that insects were evil and sprang up out of mud.  Maria was insistent and carefully studied their life cycle.  The simple text is a gentle introduction to the beauty of science and learning, giving children an inspirational role model.    The illustrations are bright and colorful, almost folk or naive in style.

61J9X28RWPL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons is one of the best places to begin to understand details of the life cycle and habitat of the popular orange and black lepidoptera.  Her books of non-fiction are some of our favorites.  This one introduces vocabulary such as migration and proboscis.

51mofq0deWL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel and Nick Bruel is an incredibly sweet, witty story of two friends – an earthworm and a caterpillar.  When one of them grows and changes, the other feels neglected.  Not only is this a story of the differences in creatures, but a tale of the importance of friendship.

Gottago-210-expGotta Go!  Gotta Go!  by Sam Swope and Sue Riddle – The persistence and intrepid spirit of the monarch caterpillar is contagious in this repetitive and charming book.  The basic illustrations add to the sweetness.  Your little one will enjoy chanting along with you, “Gotta go!  Gotta go!  Gotta go….to Mexico!”

G has been bringing home butterfly crafts, but we wanted to do one more simple one at home.  This is where my creativity breaks down a bit, so I need to keep art projects as basic as possible.  On a folded sheet of paint paper I drew half a butterfly.  G painted it in and we folded the page over to press the other half of the butterfly to the other side – symmetry!

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I’ve watched you now a full half-hour;

Self-poised upon that yellow flower

And, little Butterfly!  Indeed

I know not if you sleep or feed.

How motionless!- not frozen seas

More motionless! and then

What joy awaits you, when the breeze

Hath found you amongst the trees,

And calls you forth again!

~William Wordsworth “To a Butterfly”

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G used tempera paints for his creation.  Because there were no green or orange in our box, we had to mix up our own colors.  Not only did G enjoy swirling his paint brush about on his paper bag “palette,” but it was a gentle reminder of what red/yellow or blue/yellow make.  Another bit of science for us.

Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.

~Vladimir Nabokov

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The Bible Verse Box

He pointed to the far corner of our upstairs loft, motioning to the bottom of the end table by the couch.

“Let’s get out the Bible verse box,” suggested my four-year-old.  We had already done some activities with Little Passports, read a leveled reader and sang a couple of nursery rhymes from his What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know.  Generally G is much more eager to re-enact epic superhero battles with me, than engage in my planned out activities.

Like any typical four-year-old, G’s proclivity to be guided into an organized lesson waxes and wanes.  Because he has already begun reading so well, simply through story time, I have allowed him to read on his own when he chooses.  And he chooses often at the most surprising of times.

Cereal boxes at breakfast.

Billboard advertisements on the freeway.

Random books from his shelf.

My private emails over my shoulder.

Sports results from the bottom of the t.v.

Some educators refer to this as environmental print.  G calls it “reading his words.”

On this day, however, he was focused, so I continued letting him choose the next activity.  And apparently he had several things on his mind, including the Bible verse box.

Our Bible verse box looks like this:DSC_0026

An old, cardboard box covered over in typing paper and decorated by a five and four year old A and S, has sat on top of select back issues of Appleseed and Cricket magazines for several years.  We originally created this and filled it with Bible verses on love, bearing with one another and patience, in those early first days of sibling rivalry.  What began as a way to infuse a bit of kindness and respect into my boys, has unwittingly become another way of encouraging literacy.  Add a colorful card stock backing and apparently we have an appealing way to include a little Bible in our family’s morning Together Time.

We don’t make use of this box regularly anymore, but occasionally G asks for it.  Instead of pulling out our Bibles for a lengthier read, A and S still like participating with G, choosing a purple or green-backed proverb, a yellow reminder from Ephesians.

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The Bible verse box also houses trading cards of the apostles and the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. You can print them out here.  Unfortunately, they have started charging for them now.

If G is determined to read, I am happy he is reaching for these words of wisdom, even from an old, cardboard box.

Early Reader Chuckles

Somewhere between the insipid and obsolete Dick and Jane books and the latest preschool television-character phenom lies a wonderful collection of early or emergent reader books.  These books not only emphasize age-appropriate character development, but also infuse the reading with clever facial expressions and witty lines even you as a parent or adult facilitator would appreciate.  In short, they are not mind-numbingly dull.   My apologies to Dick and Jane and the BOB books.  Authors like Arnold Lobel have intuitive books with beloved characters who speak in repetitious ways without boring their readers, young or old.  Thank you, Mo Willems, Arnold Lobel, Kate Di Camillo, and others for providing us opportunities to share a giggle together on the sofa, growing closer, growing in literacy.  Here are our favorite early reader chuckles.

MO WILLEMS

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The Elephant and Piggie series is a brilliant blend of facial expressions, font choices and speech bubbles.  The text is simple.  The plot is basic.  The vocabulary is repetitious.  The personalities are HUGE.  I dare you not to laugh at Elephant’s irritated expression, or Piggie’s elated grin.  There are many choices to choose from in this series.  Truly, any of them will instantly become your favorite.

 

 

 

ARNOLD LOBEL

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This classic series is priceless for many reasons.  Written in simple sentences, replete with endearing illustrations, these very early chapter books are also full of life lessons and sweet reminders of friendship.  There is always a reason to giggle at Toad’s worries and Frog’s laid-back approach to trouble. Cut out a pair of toad or frog foam feet for your young reader and turn these brief stories into fun, impromptu plays.  These two will always be our friends.  Titles in this series include Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad.

 

 

KATE DICAMILLO

DSC_0001_2636Just look at that face – pure exhilaration!  This is how Mercy Watson approaches most adventures.  From wearing a pink tutu to an adventurous Saturday drive the “porcine wonder” of Deckawoo Drive charms her owners, readers and sometimes even her grumpy elderly neighbors.  Each adventure includes giggles, mishaps and a tall stack of hot buttered toast.  Honestly, I would read these stories even if I didn’t have a young one next to me.  Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) deftly places humor in simple sentences.  And Chris Van Dusen’s glossy, gouache illustrations only add to the merriment.

 

Go ahead, let your little one read to you.  You will not be bored.

What does preschool at home look like?

Although we plan on continuing to educate our boys at home, my husband and I are still trying to decide whether or not to send G to preschool next year. The poor kid is just dragged along to whatever big brothers are doing. He might need a place that is just his.  Regardless of what our decision is, what does preschool look like at home?

As a task-oriented person, I often feel the need for productivity.  For example, I never just listen to music, although I may listen to music WHILE folding laundry.  My constant need for [the sensation of] productivity can, at times, strip the days of their natural joy.  Attempting to force this on my naturally joyful three (almost four!) year old son would be devestating.

My mother-in-law taught preschool-handicapped children largely overseas through the Department of Defense for nearly 30 years.  She loved her job and was fully committed to it.  She often said, “I love teaching preschool.  It’s just like being a mom.”  The unexpected order of her statement was not lost on me.  I would think someone might say, “Being a mom is like being your child’s first teacher.”  But no, mothering is the primary occupation.    Ultimately, we should set down our agendas, and be their guide.

WHAT TO DO FOR PRESCHOOL

1.  Playing is the same thing as learning.  The oft repeated mantra is true:   a preschooler’s job is play.  He makes sense of the world around him through testing, experimentation, and through imaginative play.  Play with beans and noodles, water and sand.  Play with crayons and play dough.  Play dress-up.  Play with their toys, and let them play with sticks and rocks.  Follow your child’s lead.  Play outdoors.  Play with light sabers and swords, or other weaponry that might maim.  Play with them.  And leave them some time to play alone.

2.  Life skills: getting dressed, brushing teeth, pouring juice, taking turns, picking up toys, dusting furniture, sorting laundry, helping bake cookies.  Mastering tasks that are age appropriate will fill her with confidence to achieve the next challenge.

3.  There is no need for a set curriculum.  Read stories while he is cuddled up in your lap. Take turns telling each other stories.  Play games with the neighbors, or friends from the community.  Work on gross motor (ride a tricycle, swing a bat), fine motor, (crumple up pieces of paper, cut with scissors, or draw outdoors with chalk.  If she is  really ambitious, she can write letters on the sidewalk.)  Count.  How many ducks are in the pond?  Cars in the driveway?  Dots on the ladybug?

4.  Talk…..Tell him about the new recipe you are using for dinner, about the book you are looking for at the library, what the sky reminds you of, your favorite movie when you were little, a funny dream you had last night, how you calm down after someone is mean to you… Talk…and Listen.  Listen to her retell the dream she thought was so hilarious.  Even if it is painfully long and tedious for you.  Listen to her ideas on how to build a giant robot,  or the world’s largest cupcake.  Listen when she disagrees with you.

5.  “School” doesn’t have to be from 9:00am to 12:00 weekdays, or whatever the local preschool schedule would be.  There are many days I feel G is largely neglected, left to play alone, or sporadically tended to during “school” hours.  However, just like any home school schedule, learning should not be relegated to certain parts of the day.  Preschool education can take place before breakfast, right before bed, or on Saturday afternoon.  It probably will not entail doing a worksheet at the kitchen table, but it will always be learning.

Isn’t this what moms do, homeschooling or not?  Isn’t this what all little ones love to do?

 

Preschool Prepositions

Amazingly, G is learning to read at lightning speed.  I have tried to tell him that the whole language approach is out of fashion, that phonics is where it’s at, but so far he is not listening.  The other day he wanted to play a children’s Bible trivia game, but I was unsure whether or not we could play just the two of us.  Who would read ME the questions?  G didn’t seem to think it a problem.  He immediately picked up the first card, and READ the question.  Word by word he read the question to where I understood it.

DSC_0011_2394After the game I made a big deal about how he read those questions ALL BY HIMSELF.  Obviously proud of himself and hiding a grin, he feigned a nonchalant gesture, “Yeah, I can read, ’cause I’m three.”

Ok, G, let’s practice some prepositions.  This was a very spontaneous activity.  Basically, I was trying to occupy him while the big brothers were finishing up some more demanding grammar and math.  I told him we would  need to enlist the help of some of his “buddies.”  I had written a few directional prepositions on slips of paper, asked him to read the word(s), and place the stuffed animal friend where indicated.  Here they are:

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Lewis is ON the bed.

 

 

 

DSC_0019_2389Bubby is IN FRONT OF the bed.

 

Bubby-Crab is UNDER the bed.

 

 

DSC_0016_2387_edited-1Hooey is NEXT TO the bed.

 

 

 

 

My favorite is how he figured out what to do with the teddy bear.

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Grandma-T bear is climbing OVER the bed.

In Season

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of each.

                                 -Henry David Thoreau

If I may take this quote horribly from its context, I enjoy its apparent sound, severed though it may be from its original body.  Our family lives in a part of the world which truly experiences the variety of seasons.  While we struggle at this time of year not to complain and bemoan being shut up indoors, or shoveling the driveway yet again, I am inspired by God’s creativity and regularity in fulfilling his promises of creation.

The day is yours, and yours also the night;

you established the sun and moon.

It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;

you made both summer and winter.

Psalm 74:16-17

We may be covered in snow and ice, yet the daffodil and crocus are indeed slowly rousing themselves from an exceedingly long winter’s slumber.  They may not be visible here in the Midwest, yet we have the promise of their existence.  Their return is imminent.  By faith and hope I look forward to a dot of yellow appearing in between the browns and greys. Even now  I smile as I notice the buds swelling, coloring the trees out front.  Sandhill cranes have been spotted.  The robins have returned, not in full numbers, but occasionally they sing their sweet songs in the mornings.

G has been wanting to step outside a bit more.  I ache for the day – may it be soon-  when we can walk through the wooded trails, seeking out newly migrated birds, shoots and buds about the trees.  The boys are ready to mount their bicycles and taste a bit of pre-teen freedom.

While we praise the Creator for all his handiwork, we are particularly mindful at this time of changing seasons, transformative times.  Good and Holy One, may you renew my heart as the rest of the world awakens from its dormant, frozen state.

And so, here are a few preschool books on the wonders of the changing seasons which G and I would like to share with you.  All four of these gems are beautiful in their brevity, as well as inviting illustrations.  There is so much to draw readers in on each page that G and I can write our own stories through our discussion of the pictures.

First Comes Spring by Anne Rockwell moves the reader through each season with Bear Child.  The same neighborhood scene is displayed for each season and the same question is posed, “What is everyone doing?”  G loves to name everyone’s activities.  “They are jumping in puddles/camping/ picking pumpkins/sledding.”

Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller is a gorgeous book with a nostalgic feel.  The illustrations have an endearing 1940s flavor, although the book was originally printed in the Netherlands in the mid 1990s.  The text is simple, focusing on the cyclical nature of seasons.  G and I drew circles in the air to show how spring always comes back around.  The children’s expressions as they laugh, play and learn make you want to join right in.
City Dog, Country Frog is a story told by Mo Willems and with watercolor illustrations by Jon J. Muth.  These are among two of my favorites creating children’s books today, but usually with very different styles.  Here we have a sweet story of friendship wrapped in the context of the changing seasons.  There is a bit of a surprise ending that could help initiate some gentle discussions with your preschooler.
Finally, Carry Me! by Rosemary Wells is a lovely, shimmery bedtime read.  Written in sections, the author encourages parents to carry, talk and sing to their children throughout the seasons of the year.  This book has quite organically become part of our family vocabulary.  Once I wrap G up in his towel after bath time, he invariably asks, “Carry me.”  As we dance down the hall to his bedroom we sing together, “Carry me over the river.  Carry me under the sea.  Twirl me away in the evening air.  Fall asleep with me in your chair.”  Sweet memories regardless of the season.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air…..
Spring, we eagerly await your return.  We already love your every leaf.  May we be compared to a
“tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:3

Of Octopuses and Other Invertebrates

A painting by S of a giant squid from just a few months ago.

S was not quite four when he became deeply enamored with octopuses and squids, but especially octopuses.  Especially the Giant Pacific and the Blue-ringed octopuses.  I remember this now, because G is almost exactly the same age.  I learned things about these invertebrates I never expected to learn in my entire life, much less from my stilll three-year-old son.  Like that they had beaks made from keratin.  That there were approximately 250 species of octopus in the oceans.  Even things concerning life span and fertilization.  One day when picking S up from preschool I met a mom leaving as I was coming in the door.

-You are S’s mom?

-Yes, that’s right.

She then proceeded to tell me how much she had enjoyed his show and tell.  At first I wondered why, because he had just brought in a plastic bath toy of….you guessed it….an octopus.  She then told me he had stood up and began talking (in what I am quite sure was a heavily lispy voice).  “The Blue-ringed octopus lives off the coasts of Australia and Indonesia…”  I am quite certain his classmates were not as interested, but I was proud of him.  He has always loved to share (i.e. show off ) information.

Four years before I had an idea that I would one day be educating S and his brothers at home, I was inspired by his and A’s enthusiasm.  They came home from school each day ready to play and to learn.  That summer after S turned four we did a full study (well, at least what our library afforded us) of octopuses.  We read about them, acted out octopus dramas in the living room and at bathtime, created arms showing hundreds of suckers represented by Cheerios, and even visited one at a nearby aquarium.

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2014-winter 002 Eventually, we created our own Blue-ringed with a paper bag and some poster paint.  Click here for a photo of an actual Blue-ringed octopus.

I feel quite nostalgic for those days.  My boys were preschoolers back then.  The world was exciting, and we were wrapped intrinsically in each other’s worlds.  I love S at ten, as well, but it is a different time, with different joys.  He still reads about octopuses and other invertebrates, but not with the same frenetic pace.  It is an occasional reading.  He has other interests.

I need to learn to appreciate this ten-year-old S.  It seems this will be who he is forever, but now I appreciate how Laura Ingalls Wilder ended Little House in the Big Woods.

“They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now.  It can never be a long time ago.”

And yet, as if she has siphoned herself mysteriously away, the Blue-ringed octopus already seems to be fading into the recent past.

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