Our Goals for Homeschool Preschool This Year

Failing to plan is planning to fail, right? I am a goals person. I love setting them, I love working on them, and I love chucking them when things change and the goals no longer fit.

Meaning? I’m not married to my goals. They just keep me focused. And trust me, I can use all the help with focusing that I can get.

So today, I’m talking about our goals for homeschool preschool this year. Oliver is three and is a high-energy, active boy. Translation? A lovable boy who is very much into anything that interests him ALL.THE.TIME. I’m hoping to help him focus his energy a bit more on productive activities. ūüėČ

Our homeschool preschool goals for our 3 year old. We keep it simple.

Our Goals for Homeschool Preschool

Oliver is a solid 3.5 years old as we start this homeschool year and is showing a LOT of interest in learning about just about anything. He is inquisitive and loves people.

I have the feeling he is going to prove to be a kinesthetic, social learner…the two learning styles that challenge me the most. This is actually why I am starting to work with him in a more focused manner now. I started with kindergarten age with our older children.

Writing Readiness

Basically, I want to work on his fine motor skills. Both of my boys have always had good fine motor skills, I just want to fine tune Oliver’s a bit before diving into working with pencils. I am using the following resources to guide this area:

Developing a Love of Reading

I’m of the “if you can read, you can learn anything” mentality. I want to create a love of reading in my children. This is actually a goal for all of our kids this homeschool year. I’ve let reading fall in our priorities list and I want to remedy that now.

I will work on this goal by being intentional about reading to my kids. Yes, the dreaded read aloud. I am still conquering that one. Love to read, not so much out loud.

Fostering Independence

Oliver is very independent as it is. I am trying to not see this as quite so bittersweet (mah baby doesn’t need meee!) and embracing it. I want to help Oliver develop some good habits that I wasn’t quite so diligent about with the older three when they were little. Things like helping with laundry and putting away toys immediately after use.

I also want to encourage his growing independent play time. He is the youngest (by almost six years) of four so he has always had someone to hang out with. This is a great thing for his social skills (the kid doesn’t know a stranger), but isn’t such a great thing when everyone else has something going on that he can’t help with like their own schoolwork.

That’s pretty much it. I am not one for a lot of structure when it comes to the early years of homeschooling. We are pretty relaxed to allow a lot of time for things like play, exploring their gifts and talents, and building family relationships.

These three goals for homeschool preschool are a good fit for our family. Do you have any homeschool goals for this year?

Printable Homeschool Planner

Do you have a homeschool planner that you love? I’m kind of a planner junkie. This goes for just about any type of planner. I love them all. One day in June, I got this great, absolutely crazy idea to make a homeschool planner for myself because I couldn’t quite find that “perfect” planner for this year.

Here is what I was looking for in a planner:

  • I wanted it to be pretty. Yes. I wanted it to be pretty. I really like the prettiness of The Well Planned Day, but it was not quite right content wise for this year (going a bit more minimalistic).
  • I wanted to be able to customize it to fit our family. This is why I ended up making one.

Free Printable Homeschool Planner - over 12 pages with 2 cover options

I started with some of the basic pages and went from there. I am now offering a version of this for free to you, my lovely reader-friends.

In this free printable homeschool planner, you will find the following:

  • two different covers – one chalkboard because it is pretty, one on a white background because printer ink
  • two year-at-a-glance calendars – 2015 and 2016
  • curriculum planner page – blank so you can choose which subjects to include
  • blank monthly calendar – fill in the dates each month
  • two-page weekly planner – plan each subject out each week, six columns and seven rows
  • daily docket – includes space to write out a to-do list, the day’s meal plan, track health and wellness goals, list errands, and a spot for words of encouragement or inspiration
  • two options for a student half-sheet daily docket – each half-sheet has three sections: schoolwork, chores, and important times, includes a black and white, less-girly option for those students who may not appreciate a pretty, purple font
  • weekly docket – to-do list, errand list, and weekly, three-meal, meal plan

The printable homeschool planner is free and includes over 12 pages. But that is not all, I have MORE pages in the works for this. I am estimating this to be available this fall. Sign up for email updates so you don’t miss those (top of the sidebar)!

Download your free printable homeschool planner now!

Little House on the Prairie is Back!

Growing up, one of my favorite things to read was the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was so fun imagining what it would be like to live on a prairie, in a log cabin, or even in a house in the ground!

Little House on the Prairie is Back! | Vicki-Arnold.com

I don’t remember when I first saw the Little House on the Prairie television show, but I loved it, too. I loved to not like (we don’t hate, right?) Nellie Oleson and just watch Laura and Mary live out the scenes that I had played in my head over and over again as a child.

Fast forward a few (many) years, and I taught a Little House class for our homeschool co-op. It was a huge class. We read through Little House on the Prairie, which is book number two in the Little House series. As we read, we did a few activities and discussed what prairie life really was like. I learned a lot in the class, I hope the kids did, too!

Why do I tell you this? So you will understand why when I came across the opportunity to review the newly relaunching tv series on DVD, I jumped on it! I was sent a DVD copy of the first season and a documentary about Laura.

Mail days like these are one of my favorite parts about blogging!

A photo posted by Vicki Arnold (@vicki_arnold) on

Little House on the Prairie is Back!

My kids have seen several episodes of the series from when we had a satellite dish a few years ago and we all came down sick when there was a Little House on the Prairie marathon on one of the channels. But we have never watched them in chronological order and I thought that would be fun to do with them.

The series has gotten a digital facelift, remastered is actually what they call it. The covers for these are gorgeous, such vivid colors. See?

The series is just a great as I remember it. It’s not overly dramatic or cheesy like some family friendly television can be. The picture of the remastered DVD looks great on our big screen. We will likely be adding seasons two and three to our movie library as we go through the series.

Little House on the Prairies is such a wholesome show, it’s one that the whole family can watch. There are hard times and death is a theme that is dealt with, so if you have particularly sensitive littles, you may want to preview each episode to know what scenes (or possible episodes) to skip watching with them.

The first season includes the pilot movie that chronicles highlights of their journey from the Big Woods to the Prairie. I think the actors/writers did a good job of showing how it wasn’t just a fun, easy going trip, but keeping it balanced so that it wasn’t depressing either. Simple little things like voice tones that I can relate to as a parent, facing hard times, but wanting to be strong for your children.

The episode Harvest of Friends was particularly heart-warming to me. I loved watching how the community came together to help a family in need that had given so much to so many previously. It was a great episode for showing the concept of reaping and sowing.

Little House on the Prairie Is Social!

This is kind of funny and would likely be a foreign concept to Laura and her family, but Little House on the Prairie now has a great website that recently launched. And it is just lovely. Perhaps my favorite find on the website to date was article on Pioneer Kitchen Gardens, but there is a LOT of information on the website that you will want to explore.

To celebrate, they are hosting an awesome giveaway so be sure to check that out, too. I’d love to read that Pioneer Girl book!

You can also find Little House on the Prairie on social media:

Be sure to check out all the new Little House on the Prairie fun and the digitally remastered DVD’s today!

Little House on the Prairie is Back! | Vicki-Arnold.com

DIY Snowflake Ornament for Snowflakes Fall

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

You know how I’m always telling you that I’m not an activity mom? Well, lately God has been challenging some of my thinking and this area is one that is being challenged. Lately I have been more intentional to do more things with my kids because ultimately I want to build memories with my kids.

And guess what?

My kids are activities kids. Yeah. They love it.

So we have been doing more activities. This week we have made two ornaments with a third one on the schedule for next week. Today I have a book inspired ornament that is part of a fun project organized by the fabulous Melissa at Mama Miss.

She has organized 10 days of kid-made, book-inspired ornaments with quite a few bloggers, bringing the total to over 70 ornaments! Be sure to check them all out in her post.

DIY Snowflake Ornament for Snowflakes Fall

The book we chose is called Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan and was illustrated by Steven Kellogg. I didn’t realize it when I picked it up at the library, but it was written to provide a message of hope after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The book does just that, reminding us of both the joy and the uniqueness of snowflakes. We paired this book with a book of photos of individual snowflakes for additional inspiration for our ornaments and the book The Story of Snow for some science learning.

We decided to make our own snowflakes for our ornaments. We had a blast decorating and, yes, I made one, too. I didn’t just take pictures.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

For our DIY snowflake ornaments, we used these supplies:

  • Crayola Air Dry Clay
  • various glitters
  • acrylic gems
  • toothpicks
  • crafting cord (ribbon also works)
  • paper plates for mess control

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

Here is the simple process we used:

  • Take a chunk of the clay and smooth it into a disc. You don’t want them too thin or your etching will go through and it won’t be too sturdy.
  • Pick a spot to be the top and poke a hole with your toothpick. Swirl your toothpick around to make a whole big enough to string your craft cord or ribbon through.
  • Use your toothpick to etch your snowflake design in the clay. Don’t go all the way through the clay!
  • Decorate your snowflakes with glitter, gems, sequins, or other crafting supplies.
  • Let air dry until completely dry before stringing and hanging.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

See? Crafting with kids doesn’t have to be complicated? It is sometimes messy, but hey, that’s life.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

I love how unique the kids’ snowflakes turned out. The one on the bottom left was made by the two year old who was more interested in making things with the clay that weren’t snowflakes. Like “nustaches”. ūüėČ

 

Be sure to check out the other ornaments that are going up today:

10 Days of Kid-Made Ornaments hosted by Mama Miss!

Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources For Kids

Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

Pen pals are a fun way for kids to practice writing skills. My kids have had a couple over the years and it is something they always enjoyed. It’s something I enjoyed as a kid, too. I remember one in particular that I traded a few letters with that lived in Spain.

How to Find a Pen Pal

You can find a pen pal a few different ways:

What to Write About

Depending on your comfort level, the sky is the limit. As a parent, I would caution children to not divulge TOO much information, particulars of regular habits like shopping at such and such every Tuesday or a special event before it happens. Writing about events afterwards allows you a chance to give more details without risking your safety.

Ask questions and then answer them yourself. “What do you like to do for fun? I like to read and ride my bike.”

Tell about something special that happened recently. Maybe you attended a wedding or someone you know had a baby that you got to visit.

Talk about the general area in which you live. Maybe there is a famous landmark near you that you have visited.

Ways to Make Pen Pal Writing Even More Fun

Write in Code

Create a key for your secret code and mail it separately. Then write each other in your very own secret spy code! You will need to assign a code mark for each letter of the alphabet, like A=5, B=9, C=22 or something.

Take Turns Writing a Story

Write the opening paragraph to a story and send it to your pen pal. Have them write the next paragraph and send it back to you. Keep adding to it until you feel it is finished.

Mail Something Unusual

You don’t have to send a letter in an envelope every time. Here are a few things you can mail through the postal service:

Get Creative With Your Envelopes

Try decorating your envelopes for some added fun. Try using washi tape, creative lettering,¬†use your envelope as your canvas for some artwork, or don’t even bother with an envelope.

A Couple More Resources

I came across a couple other resources while writing this post that I thought I would pass along, too.

Writing That’s Fun for Kids

Writing That's Fun for Kids! | Vicki-Arnold.com

Writing isn’t something that comes naturally for all kids. For some kids, it is down right hard. Whether you have a kid who struggles with a writing disability or just doesn’t like to write, making it boring is never going to work. Even kids who like to write, don’t like to write boring stuff!

One of the things I’d like to work with my kids this year is to learn to like writing a bit more. I’ve had a mixture of one who struggled to write fluidly and one who can, but just doesn’t like to and I’d like to help them both. Writing is a great tool for communication and there are many professions that benefit from being able to write well.

Let’s try adding some fun to writing and see where that takes us!

Writing That’s Fun for Kids

Create Your Own Mad Libs

My kids LOVE mad libs. They love the silly stories that are produced. To make their own, have them write a simple story (1-2 paragraphs), but encourage them to use good descriptive sentences. You will want to double space your lines to make it easier to read. This is their mad lib story frame.

Now, go through the story and circle some nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns…you get the idea. Write what type of word it is (noun, verb, etc.) on the line below. Erase the circled word.

Have each child take a turn asking the other(s) for words to fill in the blanks. Read your silly story and laugh and laugh!

Journaling

Don’t roll your eyes, journaling can be FUN! This doesn’t have to be a soon forgotten “dear diary” affair. Try putting a twist on the journal:

  • Use story prompts. Giving a kid a blank page can be paralyzing to some, start them with a question or statement or two and see where they go.
  • Write a fictional journal. Have them write from the perspective of a favorite book or movie character or historical figure.
  • Head back to the future or jump into the past. Write from the perspective of themselves 10 years from now or 5 years ago.
  • Don’t go it alone. Write with them. Write notes or letters to each other and keep it as a top secret, between you and me thing. You might¬†be surprised how well this works.

Get Biographical

Some kids like to talk about themselves, let them write their life’s story. You can make this a longer-term project by picking life events that happened and asking them to write about those individually. Then compile them in chronological order to create a memoir or autobiography.

If you have a kid that is interested in people, have them interview someone special to them and then write their biography. This could even be turned into a gift for the biographee.

Not ready for a longer length biography? Try creating a profile! Have them do them for friends and family or have them make up some characters. Encourage them to think about things like what the character would like or dislike, are they a generally happy or grumpy person. Encourage them to create details.

Writing doesn’t have to be boring. If you have a reluctant writer, try something new. Sometimes that is all it takes to light a passion aflame!

11 Picture Books About Art

11 Picture Books About Art - Vicki-Arnold.com

Lots of kids like art. Making art is a pastime that my children love. They like to draw, paint, and sculpt. They are currently enrolled in an art class through our homeschool co-op. This is a fantastic opportunity for them to gain hands-on learning experience with someone who is passionate about art and does it very well himself.

I guess that is beside the point, but maybe not. If you have a budding artist, I’d highly encourage you to look into a local art class. If that is not an option, find some resources to encourage your artist online. I recently put together a list of drawing tutorials and also use Pinterest to curate art lessons/ideas for my kids.

I came across some fun books recently at the library about kids and art, so I decided to do a little more researching and see what other titles I could find. Here’s a list of 11 picture books about art to look for on your next library trip.

Picture Books About Art

Amelia Bedelia’s Masterpiece by Herman Parish, pictures by Lynn Sweat – I’m finding that people either love or hate Amelia Bedelia. I loved her as a kid, but may find her kind of annoying as an adult…it’s hard to say really. I do enjoy the play on words that is commonly found in these books though.

Louise Loves Art written and illustrated by Kelly Light – This sweet little book shows that even when your art doesn’t turn out just like you want it to or if a tragedy strikes it, it is still art and can be awesome.

Draw by Raul Colon – This is a beautiful, wordless picture book. Kids who love animals and/or dream of safaris in Africa will enjoy this one. Wordless picture books can feel awkward to read, but Caroline over on The Library Adventure recently wrote a post on how to use wordless picture books with special needs kids and I think her tips are good for most kids in general, too.

The Museum by Susan Verde, art by Peter H. Reynolds – I love how the little girl in this story experiences the art she sees in the art museum.

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser – Another fun, wordless book. This one follows the travels of a little girl’s yellow balloon when it becomes loose in front of the Metropolitan Museum and the guardian of the balloon as he attempts to chase it down.

Ella’s Trip to the Museum by Elaine Clayton – Ella and her small class visit an art museum. A good reminder to parents that when we want our kids to experience something, it may not look like we expect.

Art Dog by Thacher Hurd – Arthur guards the Dogopolis Museum of Art. When a famous painting is stolen (the Mona Woofa), he uses his art to catch the criminals responsible. A pretty silly read full of imagination.

Morris the Artist by Lore Segal, pictures by Boris Kulikow – A book about how sharing can lead to a lot of fun. It’s also a good book for discussing things like thinking of others when choosing things like birthday presents and not being selfish, which the main character could use some work on…

I’m the Best Artist in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry – Giant Squid is the best artist in the ocean, but someone isn’t so happy with his art.

Meet Me at the Art Museum by David Goldin – A ticket stub and name tag take us on an after hours tour of the art museum to see all the exhibits.

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle – I love all the colorful animals in this fun Eric Carle book.

Have you read any of these? Any of them you will be adding to your reading list?

Free How to Draw Tutorials

40+ Free How to Draw Tutorials - People, animals, flowers, and more - Vicki-Arnold.com

Art is one of those subjects that seems to intimidate a lot of homeschool moms, that or they simply feel inadequate to teach. A hands-on art class is a fantastic tool, but if you can’t afford it or fit it into your schedule, the internet can certainly help.

One recommendation before jumping into the free tutorials. If you haven’t heard about See The Light art DVDs, those are a fantastic resource as well. I reviewed one of the classes previously, so you can read my review of the Pointillism class to get a better idea of what they are.

This post will be part of a series that I will put together over time. This post will focus on DRAWING tutorials. Look for more art tutorial round-ups soon-ish.

How to Draw Tutorials

How to Draw People

How to Draw Animals

How to Draw Flowers

How to Draw Other Objects