Thursday, September 30

Fall Reading

I have a humongous Amazon wishlist and it just keeps growing.  When I get a good book recommendation I start following trails and add several items to my wishlist in one sitting.  I don't want to own all these books, it's just my running list of what I would like to read.  Because I feel like I'm in a bit of a growing season right now I know the list will only get bigger if I don't actually get to it.

I can't afford to go buy 81 books so I used my local library and they came through with four books from my list on my very first try.  I love that place.  So, here's what's on my list to get through before Christmas:

A Room of One's Own (Annotated)  Truth & Beauty: A FriendshipSpiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of FaithPraying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God (Active Prayer Series)The Pearl (Centennial Edition)The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your LifeThe Middle PlaceThe Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, Second Edition

In addition to these there's a little one in there about a doing a coming of age birthday for my son.  This idea has been in the works since before he was born and it's already getting close. (!)  There will also be a couple of marriage books in there in preparation for a retreat we'll be leading in the spring. i.e. this list is not exhaustive.

I just finished Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship last night.  Most of it, that is.  I started gasping for air in the final section and skimmed much of it. I did find the last chapter to be interesting enough, so I feel like I finished well.

I've already started making a list of what I want to read next summer (that theme will be forthcoming).  In fact I think I woke up today making various lists in my head.   Enough with the list making.  On with the list-doing.

Wednesday, September 29

Apple Unit for Preschool

When my first son was a preschooler he had turned into a very picky eater.  It was (and still is) frustrating to feed him.  At that time we had dipped our toes into learning at home and he was excited about everything we did together.  So, I put together a curriculum with a monthly food theme to see if his excitement would motivate him to try a few new things.  What developed was a fun preschool curriculum that I have used with all three of my boys now.  It's my plan to post each month's "Food Fun" unit on the blog as we finish in case anyone is interested in using a fully developed and tested literature-based curriculum for your preschooler(s) at home.  Here we go:

Apple Unit for Preschool

Verse: Proverbs 7:2  Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye.  Create hand motions for the keywords.  (Keep: give your body a hug. Commandments: hold your hands like a book. Live: lift your arms up high like a cheer. Teaching:  use your pointer finger.  Apple:  try to shape one with your hands.  Eye: point to your eye.)  They remember hand motions before they remember words.  The words come with repetition, so say this with them every day. 

Letters:  A (apple), L (leaf), W (worm).
Use 9x15 construction paper.  Cut out a large chunky letter.  Your child will be decorating each letter with things that start with it.  After he does this, I attach it to a different colored full size sheet of construction paper, and write the capital letter, the small letter and the word underneath it.
A -- we cut open a crabapple cross-wise (so you could see the seed star inside) and stamped the image with tempera paint onto the A.
L -- I have a small rubber stamp leaf image and he stamped the L with green, red, and yellow ink. You could, of course, glue actual leaves to the L after a little nature walk.
W -- We glued gummy worms to the big letter W after we thought together about what other things, besides people, like to eat apples.

Books and Activities:
  • Free Art.  Cut out a full page apple outline and let him color it, paint it, fill it with apple stickers, or rubber stamp all over it.  Choose whatever he enjoys the most.
  • Apples up on Top.  Buy or make 10 apple die cuts and place them on his head, one at a time, counting aloud.  See how many he can keep up there. Take a few steps with them. Giggle.
  • Apple Stack. Try stacking some apples. We have a crabapple tree which is great for this.  We stacked about 4 or 5 at a time. Then we got out the glue-gun and strong-armed a stack of 10. 
  • Apple puzzle.  A teacher gave me an extra large die-cut apple. I cut it into jigsaw pieces and let him put it together.
  • Apple mobile.  Use your full-page apple outline again.  Cut it out of cardstock.  Cut out the inside leaving a broad border around the outside.  Cut out a cardstock "core" for the middle that you can hang inside with string so it dangles within the apple outline border.  Glue real apple seeds into the core.  Hang it up from the ceiling.
  • Apple Mosaic.  Print out your full-page apple outline.  Give him a sheet of red construction paper (or green or yellow). Let him tear pieces of construction paper off and glue it to the apple page.  Tearing is a great small motor skill.
  • Make the Big Letter "A."   

  • Make a Season Book.  Fold a regular size piece of construction paper in half and in half again to make the little book.  Use a marker to draw a bare tree on all four sides of the book.  On the front write "The Seasons of (child's name)'s Apple Tree" at the top.  Under each tree write one of the four seasons.  Your child will decorate his tree for each season: Spring (crumble up squares of pink/white tissue paper and let him glue them on the branches), Summer (tear small pieces of green construction paper for "leaves" and glue them to the branches), Fall (Ahead of time, cut yellow leaves out of craft foam.  Let him glue them to the branches followed by red apples you can make with a hole puncher), Winter (shred a cotton ball and let him glue it to the branches.  
  • Family Apple Tree.   Use a 9x16 sheet of construction paper as a background.  Cut out a brown rectangle "trunk" and glue it to the bottom of the paper.  Let your child use green ink or tempera paint to put fingerprint leaves all over the paper to make leaves.  When dry, give him circle or apple diecuts.  He can tell you the names of all your family members, write one on each "apple."  Let him glue them to the tree.
  • Make Apple Pie. The recipe in this book is a good one!
  • Growth Cycle Cards.  Create 6 sets of cards.  Each set of cards should have a graphic of 1. apple seeds, 2. an apple blossom, 3. a tree full of apples and 4. a single apple. Adhere each set to 6 different colors of cardstock (choose the colors you want your child to practice) leaving a border around the edge. You can use these in several ways.  First, teach your child the growth cycle of an apple (from seed, to flower, to a tree full of apples and then picking them.  This is basic science. If you want to get more specific, choose different images).  Go through each set of cards telling him the growth sequence.  Once he understands it, mix the cards up and have him put the sets in order again.  He can also match the images and make stacks of them, or match the colors. You can play "go fish" with the cards or even concentration.  Use them over and over again.
  • Make the Big Letter "L."
  • Leaf Match Scavenger Hunt.   Use die cut leaves in different colors (two of each).  Hide them around the room/house. Let him go hunting for them.  Then he matches his pairs up when he's done.
  • Apple Seed Match. Save those seeds from all the apples you'll cut up for lunches.  Write big numbers down one side of a paper (use 4-6 numbers).  Then have him glue the number of seeds next to the cooresponding number.

  •  Flannel Board!  If you don't have one of these tools you can make one.  (Mine is a wooden drawing board to which I thumb-tacked a flannel baby blanket).  I never thought I'd be doing flannel board stories with my kids, but they always love it, without fail. Surf the web for apple flannel board ideas and you'll find several.  Buy lots of different sheets of colored flannel from your craft store and spend an hour cutting out the shapes you need to do the rhymes you found. For this sequential book I made: an apple pie, an apple, a tree, tree roots, raindrops, a cloud, a swath of blue sky, a sun, an earth and flowers to "bloom" on the earth.  As we read the book, he puts the correct image on the board.  Then, I mix them up and see if he can put them back in the right order according to the story.  
  • Bake for a Friend.  The characters in the story share their pie with "friends."  What can you bake with apples and take to a friend? 
  • "Monster" Munch. Take an empty laundry detergent box (with the "flip top" cardboard lid) and transform it into one of the animals from the story with construction paper.  My son chose a lion... was there a lion in that book?  When it's done have the animal "eat" things that start with the letters you've learned.  Do things that start with "A" one day (applesauce, apples, airplane, alligator...whatever you have in the house that will fit in the monster's mouth).  Do things that start with L on another day (Legos, lipstick, lizard, lion, etc.)  Only things that start with that letter will satisfy the monster.  And he always says, "Thank you."
  • The Biggest Apple.  Cut out different sized images of apples and have him put the apples in order by size.  Try it with actual apples too.
  • Leaf Rubbings.  If you don't know how to do a rubbing look up how to do it online.  Your preschooler will think it's magical. 
  • Leaf Counting. Nature walks are an easy part of this unit.  Pick up leaves as you go.  Make a collage of them or separate them out and write how many of each you found.
  • Leaf Booklet. Cut out six matching oversized leaf images. Staple them together to form a book.  Ideas for the pages include: cut out magazine pictures of leaves and glue them down with a statement like, "Leaves are important to trees."  Measure a leaf, glue it down and write how many inches it is.  Toss a leaf in the air and write down how high they can count to before it hits the ground, then glue the leaf in too.  Glue in your leaf rubbing and a statement that tell about what the veins of a leaf do.  Make a picture out of leaves and glue it in the book... you can do anything.  Put a big letter L on the cover and let them admire their work.

  • Take a Field Trip.  Visit an orchard, apple farm, roadside stand, natural food market... anything that revisits the theme of the month. Try the cider, doughnuts or  other things they sell. 
  • Make applesauce cake or cider doughnuts.  Look for recipes online.
  • Matching Apple Colors.  I found a neat apple colors file folder game online and made it for my son.  If you are apple savvy, you can even put the names of the kinds of apples they might be next to each one. The color differences are subtle so it's a great tool to use over and over again.
  • Apple Prepositions.  Use your monster munch creature and an actual apple.  Have your child put the apple on the monster, next to the monster, inside the monster, above, below, over, under, into, out, around, etc. 
  • "Little Red House with a Star Inside."  Go here to see the story.  I made little "puppets" for the characters and put them on popsicle sticks.  That way I can tell the story and he can tell it back to me using the puppets. 
  • Make the Big Letter "W."
  • Wormy Apple Match.  After talking about what else likes to eat apples (besides people), we played a file folder game that I made.  I cut out 8 cute clipart images of a worm and 8 outlines of apples about three inches tall.  On each worm I printed a form of transportation and on each apple I printed the building that vehicle would go to.  (Gas truck/gas station, car/garage, etc.)  You can do any kind of association you like and have him match the worm to the apple. 

Birthday party.  You can have fun with apples in a few different ways at your own birthday party for John Chapman (Sept. 26th, 1774).
  • "Bobbing" for Apples.  In about an inch of water I put in about 4 crabapples and let him grab them with his teeth.  After he was soaking wet we added more water to see of apples would float.  
  • Apple painting.  Use a baking pan with sides or a big box with sides.  Put a 9x16 piece of construction paper in the bottom and dollop some tempera paint around the paper.  Put 3 crabapples in the pan/box and tip it from side to side, letting the apples roll through the paint all over the paper.
  • Apple planting.   Cut apart a paper egg carton, add soil and an apple seed. Tend them with sunlight and water.  When they sprout, give them to friends to plant in their yards.
  • Apple Bingo.  On your computer, use that full page apple outline graphic and create a bingo game table inside.  Fill each square with a small letter (if your child is adept at his alphabet already). Show him the Capital letter on your whiteboard/scratch paper (or use flashcards if you have them) and have him cover his matching small letter on his Bingo card.  Have a treat for him when he gets a bingo.  Instead of letters you could do colors, shapes, numbers... whatever he's ready for.
  • Smash the Apples.  Get 10 apple die cuts or cut out red circles.  Write numbers 1-10 on them.  Scatter them around the floor and call out the number. Have him jump on the correct apple.  
  • Apple Dips.  Make several different kinds of dip for apples:  peanut butter, caramel, yogurt, toffee, etc.  Slice different kinds of apples and let them eat.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of everything we've ever done.  We add some workpages as we find them, cutting practice, and other activities.  There are a lot of other apple themed books and websites out there so go exploring and enjoy the unit!

    Tuesday, September 21

    The New Burgundy

    When dh and I were on staff in our first little church 16 years ago, the pastor there bought me a Bible.  I don't know why.  It's not as if I didn't have one. He just showed up with it one day and said he thought I'd get good use out of it.  Maybe he didn't like my contact-paper-held-together-NIV, but he bought me a NKJV Experiencing God Bible.  (Yes, I've read Experiencing God and yes I've lead a, 6 groups through the workbook.  Hold your comments, please) I used it for a long time, wrote in it, studied from it.  It's kind of like a little home with a ton of  memories attached to it. 

    For the past couple of years I have enjoyed reading Peterson's The Message paraphrase of the Bible and have just read it for what it is, envisioning the people, places and circumstances.   I haven't studied with it (you really can't), haven't written in it, just read it and let the fresh words spin the Word in a new way.  Reading it is kind of like visiting a close cousin's house where the rules are bent a little but the experience leaves you refreshed and sometimes breathless.  Eventually, though, you have to go home again.

    The problem is, I can't move back into the old one.  Those observations scribbled in the margins come from a different mind with a different hermeneutic.  The authors I quoted then aren't the authors I read now.  The whole Experiencing God phenomena has come and gone and I'm not sure I'd be such a Blackaby proponent anymore. 

    It's time for a new home.  Which, it turns out, is actually an old home.  Nearly 9 years ago when I graduated from seminary the Lockman Foundation gave all the graduates a new leather-bound NASB. Can't say it's my preferred translation, or my preferred color but I'm sure neither of those things matter when it comes to spiritual formation. 

    Just ripped of the plastic -- I'm anxious to see how these new walls speak to me.

    Thursday, September 16

    The Perfect Homeschool Science Project...

    ...was not done at home.

    My oldest, who is in a charter school for the first time ever, came home with this assignment:  Create a 3D (animal or plant) cell model out of any material you choose.  Label all the organelles clearly.

    It was pretty much a blank-check A-grade.

    He chose to do his out of brownie and represent all the organelles with candies from Lola's, our favorite candy shop in Littleton.

    I was not home the evening he did the project. It was all his work (though I'm sure Dad gave some good supervision).  He got 50 out of 50 points.  And then we got to eat it. 

    Seriously, baking, labeling, learning... could have been a great homeschool project.

    Wednesday, September 8

    How to End Class

    When I was prepping the school year I thought back to when my older two boys were preschool age and remembered one thing: how fun it was to teach them.  Even with all the little cut and paste projects, sorting shapes and objects, scavenger hunts for things that start with 'a', constructing big wall murals, their excitement is the key that makes it so much fun.  Those little guys just beam when you say, "O.K. it's your turn," or "Let's read this book," or "Shall we play a game?"  And so I joyfully planned this year with my most recent four-year old feeling almost as lightheartedly silly as he was.

    I had forgotten something.  As much fun as teaching preschool is, it is equally exhausting.  Preschool doesn't take much time (maybe 45 minutes a few days a week).  Preschool doesn't take much study.  But preschool does take some preparation.  I'm not talking only about cutting out shapes and collecting tactile items, but also about that mental preparation of being ready for anything; switching gears, moving to the next thing, suggesting more activities he can do while I work with his brother.  You really have to be on your toes to teach this age.

    The mental creativity is made greater by the fact that he's not my only student, but I don't want him to feel pushed aside while the "real" students get their work done.  And when all that work is done, I am tired of the mental gymnastics and need a little break.  However, he still wants to do more.  This is the hardest transition for me because as much as I'd love to lay on the floor and play one more game or read one more book with my Final Four there are bills to pay and papers to file and appointments to make and dishes to do and personal enrichment for the teacher.  So, I devised a simple plan to let him know when his "turn" is and when our learning activities would finish for the day. This helps him know when we've done enough and Mom needs to move on and meet some other needs. 

    My simple method: I write out a list of all of our activities for the day in order on our whiteboard. I write his older brother's items in black ink and I write my preschooler's items in blue ink.  I start with one activity for my younger else he'd feel instantly neglected and sabotage his brother's learning time.  Then I do three items with my older making sure the last one is an independent activity. We erase each one as we go down the list so my younger knows that when the two blue items are next, his turn is next.  Then I happily fill his little attention tank and move to the black items for his brother again and the cycle continues 2-3 times until all the work for the day is finished.  When the board is wiped clean, the boys go play and I move on.

    So far, it's working.  Though I'm still exhausted.  What are your methods for teaching with a preschooler at home?