This year we are officially starting preschool with my daughter. While I won’t be forcing any work on her, I want to be prepared with preschool-level curriculum that she will be able to use and learn from. Last year was our first year of homeschool and she loved sitting at the table with us while we did first grade work and I spent a lot of time searching for things for her to do and modifying 1st grade work to fit her level. While my preschooler will spend a lot of time doing creative activities and playing with play doh or sand, this year we’ll be more prepared with other learning activities.
Start To Read Pack – The Start to Read Pack introduces letter sounds and follows the synthetic phonics system. It comes with 8 beginning readers, an activity book that reinforces the letter sounds, and a colorful poster to help us identify and master our letters.
Very First Reading Set – This 15 book set includes level one readers that focus on shared reading – the parent reads one page and the child reads the next. The pages that children read helps them master word sounds and builds up reading confidence. The end of each book includes story review activities, sequencing, and phonics lessons. The set also comes with a parent guide and online resources for additional learning resources.
First Illustrated Math Dictionary – We’ve got this on our shelf already but we’ll be using it a lot more this year. The math dictionary introduces basic math concepts from counting to shapes and so much more (great for pre-k through 2nd or 3rd grade as it covers fractions and symmetry and lots of other advanced topics). It includes activity ideas as well. We’ll focus on learning the concepts and use our math manipulatives kit (bear counters, rulers, pattern blocks, etc.) that we got for our math program last year. If you want to know more about how we use our manipulatives kit (because we use it all the time) read my math post here.
Wipe-Clean First Math – This wipe-clean activity book comes with its own dry erase marker so kids can practice their early math skills in a fun way. We have others from this series and they get used constantly around here!
My First Spanish Word Book – We’ll be using this book to match words with pictures as we begin our adventure in preschool Spanish. She’ll get additional practice from the books her brother and I use that are closer to his level.
For writing practice we’ll be doing a lot of pencil and paper, but we’ll also have these two wipe-clean books on hand: Get Ready for School abc & 123 and Ready for Writing.
What will you be using with your preschooler this year?
I hope all the moms out there had a fantastic Mother’s Day. I took the weekend off from the computer, but I’m ready to get back on track. Speaking of tracks, did you know that this month marks the anniversary of the connection of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads, creating the first transcontinental railroad. The golden spike was driven in a ceremony in Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869. The decision to link the east and west coasts was driven by the discovery of gold in California, and while progress was slow, the decision to move forward with the railroad changed the lives of all Americans. It took seven years to lay tracks from Sacramento, California to Omaha, Nebraska. Imagine the work that went into this development: blasting through mountains, building bridges over rivers, the clearing of forests. It’s both astounding and sad – amazing because of the huge accomplishment the development of such a railroad is, but sad because of the destruction of wilderness. The beginning of an uncontrollable trend.
By 1850, there were already some 9000 miles of train tracks in the east, but some wanted easier access to the west coast. Before the railroads, people were forced to push through dangerous wild lands and mountain passes, fast-moving rivers and scorching deserts. The alternative was to travel by sea on a six-month journey around the tip of South America. The transcontinental railroad increased opportunities and decreased travel costs.
Transcontinental Railroad Information
Questions for Conversation
How did Americans benefit from the creation of a transcontinental railroad?
What types of opportunities may have appeared with the creation of the railroad?
What do you think train travel was like in the early days?
How do you think the view from the window of a train is different today from 1869?
Books (click on images for more information)
Did you know that the Empire State Building opened on May 1st in the year 1931? At 102 stories, it was the tallest building in the world. With the push of a button by President Hoover, the lights came on and the building was ready to go. Have you ever been to the top of the Empire State Building? I had the opportunity to go, but it was cloudy the day I visited. And between myself and the other three girls I was with, we talked ourselves out of it. I blame it on the nerves. That day, we blamed it on the clouds.
Learn about the Empire State Building here:
Recreate the Empire State Building in Legos
The 10-Minute Teacher Calendar mentions Rhinos as the discussion topic for the weekend. Rhinos are one of the most endangered species in the world. There are less than 100 Javan rhinos left, and when all five species of rhinos are combined, there are still less than 26,000 animals alive to date. Did you know that there was a woolly rhino? just like the woolly mammoth, it is now extinct but you can learn more about this and other rhinos at the International Rhino Foundation website.
Rhino Information and Education:
As we near the end of the school year, our original curriculum has been mostly used up. We’ve been making due with the books I have here at home and using some online resources here and there but I wanted to find something that helps us put what we’re learning on paper, that isn’t just filling out a worksheet or answering reading comprehension questions. My son is a hands-on kid and likes to focus on a project rather than write everything down in paragraph form. I do make him do writing prompts and reading comprehension now and then, but I want to help him learn in a way that is fun for him, because I can see the thoughtfulness in his eyes and in his work when he is doing something that he enjoys.
While I am pretty good at developing writing prompts and putting together general lessons, my creativity lacks when it comes to projects that display what he’s learned. There’s really only so much you can do with a paper plate. And while I love looking at pinterest, I get lost in the images sometimes and find that some of the projects require so many special materials that I don’t have on hand. And I’d really like to cut back on the time I spend browsing the internet. So I went and browsed the local teacher supply store and found these two books packed full of creative project ideas. Perfect!
Friday is our adventure day so I didn’t have anything planned for the afternoon, but I found an easy activity in 40 Fabulous Social Studies Activities that my son thought would be fun. He’s reading about Japan right now, so he started his own Band Book about Japan. Here is some of his work:
The band book is a few pieces of paper cut into strips, folded over, and you cut triangles off at the corners leaving the pages connected by the middle section at the fold. Wrap a long rubberband twice around at the fold and fold the pages over so you get a book with a rubberband binding at the top. Easy, cute idea that he thought looked fun and he is choosing to add things about Japan like Mt. Fuji and the raccoon dog. Tomorrow he plans on adding the Japanese words that he knows.
There are tons of other great ideas in these books. If you are like me and need some help with project development, I definitely recommend these!
What are your go-to resources for project ideas?
Our science unit right now is Objects in the Sky. We use the Science Fusion program by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I included the link for visual reference. The book is an interactive work text that the student can write in and is functional on its own. However, if you want to get the most from this program, I recommend buying it from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt directly and getting set up with the online teacher component. With the online component you and your student will have access to online lessons, inquiries, and leveled readers. There are also printable vocabulary cards, additional inquiries, assessments, and so much more. We have really enjoyed using it this year.
Anyway, we’re studying the stars, moon, sun and general changes in the sky from day to night. The unit is short and doesn’t dive very deep into the astronomy aspect, which my son loves, so we are using some of the inquiry activities (there are lots of great inquiry activities for this unit, especially for first graders who are new to this topic) and adding a few of our own explorations.
My husband has been taking the kids out at night to look at the stars, and yesterday I printed up a constellation map. Today, my son is making his own constellation map by simply poking holes in a piece of black construction paper. He is trying to recreate Orion and adding a few of his own creations.
I also found a great workbook on Education.com called Skywatchers. It has lots of cool information about constellations, astronomers, the planets, the moon and more. I’m a subscriber so I can print up as many workbooks as I want – just today I printed three new workbooks to use for our studies. I really like this site and I use it a lot to get study materials for both my preschooler and my first grader.
Here are a few books about astronomy that we are planning on adding to our collection (click on each book for detailed information about each title):
What are some of your favorite astronomy-related activities?
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We found a set of comic-style nonfiction books that are really cool. The Graphic Library books are published by Capstone Press and they have topics on everything ranging from the Vikings, to Colonial America, to the Titanic. They even have a science-themed set that covers biology, the environment, and so much more.
I like these because my son likes comics, but I only let him read the ones in the Sunday paper, these books, and the Dinosaurs series by Papercutz. Once in a while I let him get a graphic Garfield, but I like it best when he reads normal books. Still, I like to give him the opportunity to read books in a style that he enjoys, but I get the satisfaction of knowing that he is learning.
Since it’s Black History month, we’ll be grabbing a few about important people and events from this topic. There really are so many to choose from, but here are some that you may want to consider:
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Great Civil Rights Leader (Graphic Biographies)
Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad (Graphic History)
Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Graphic History)
Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion (Graphic History)
George Washington Carver: Ingenious Inventor (Graphic Biographies)
Matthew Henson: Arctic Adventurer (Graphic Biographies)
Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Track Star (Graphic Biographies)
Madam C. J. Walker and New Cosmetics (Inventions and Discovery)
Jackie Robinson: Baseball’s Great Pioneer (Graphic Biographies)
Book Images courtesy of Amazon.com