Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Dough with Mother Goose Time! (and Setting Priorities)

Happy Thanksgiving! We've had quite a week here. (Didn't I say that last week??) Tiny B still has her cough and it's taken a lot out of her. We've had to do some re-evaluating of several things in her life due to her five weeks of illness and lack of weight gain.

Tonight I went to coffee with a friend who also has a child with special needs, and we talked about how the worry over your child feels like a heavy weight on your chest. It can feel like the wind is knocked out of you. Strong B exhausts me in typical physical ways, but the worry that I have for Tiny B just can't be put into words.

We've decided that she needs to stay away from closed, tight spaces with other children as much as possible right now. In particular, this means church and the one half day of transitional kindergarten that she attends once a week. There is so much illness going around, and it seems that she is one illness away from having to start tube-feeding again. 

We enrolled her in phase two of the amazing tube-weaning program where she was weaned, and started that three days ago. (She's already improving by leaps and bounds!) We decorated the house for Christmas and made it beautiful knowing that we will be spending a lot of time here. When I came home from coffee this evening, my husband had put up every Christmas light that we own, stringing them through the hallway and over the doors. He knew this would be a wonderful surprise for my weary heart.

The Mother Goose Time curriculum for December is absolutely perfect: The Sights and Sounds of Winter. We plan to emerge ourselves in this and the bible study portion this month. I am amazed at seeing God's hand at work...He absolutely knew that we would be spending a lot of time inside and He knew that Tiny B and Strong B would need this. Little did I know when I signed up to be a blog ambassador, that it would serve as such an incredible blessing. 

I wanted to give you a highlight of our week before I sign off. I have been loving the special kits that come in the Mother  Goose Time (MGT) curriculum for the holidays. 

There was an adorable kit for Thanksgiving which included the recipe for pumpkin scented dough. 

It was so much fun! And smelled delightful! The three of us sat at the table and took turns spooning pumpkin out of the can. Then I slowly poured cornstarch into the bowls as the kiddos mixed it with the spoons. That took some muscle and patience--all excellent things to work on in preschool! We then sprinkled pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon into the dough, and began playing. I brought out the rolling pins and various toys we use with dough, and they played for about an hour, uninterrupted! I even got the chance to work on prepping my freezer meals in the kitchen (my latest hobby). 

I could list about a million ways in which time playing with dough is effective, but I'll just highlight a few things that really stick out to me and my particular kiddos. Tiny B lived most of her five years on a feeding tube and therefore had some sensory issues with touch, smell, and taste. It's very common. It's also because she was a micropreemie. In the NICU, she lived in a glass box with loud beeping noises and bright lights. It's a recipe for having difficulty with some sensory things. Ever since she was a baby her therapists have been making her touch dough and goo and shaving cream. It was so important to keep her touching things and getting used to things. We always gave her licks of lollipops and Popsicles for the same desensitize her. She doesn't like her hands to get dirty but she has improved so much! You wouldn't even know this about her if you see to spend time with her. Playing with scented dough is crucial to her development. She loved it. She even asked to eat it! (I shockingly said no). Her hands were covered with sticky dough and she was kneading it and giving those fingers some much needed exercise. Her occupational therapist would very much approve!

Strong B is your typical three year-old boy who often has the attention span of a flea. The fact that he engaged in this activity for an hour was so good for him. He's developing the skill of focus. It also is so good for his imagination. I could hear him playing with his different little voices. He also practiced turn-taking and sharing with his sister as they navigated the rolling pins, cookie cutters, and various tools. 

I didn't even plan it this way, but right at the end of their playing, the MGT box was delivered, which is always a total treat!

It was very symbolic of what what we're choosing to focus on this month. God has very clearly told me to hunker down inside (within reason), spend time learning and playing, build Tiny B's strength back up, and just enjoy each other and the love of God for the holidays. The timing couldn't be better.

And now I must sign off, as I've written too much (as usual) and the lights strung all over my house are begging to be enjoyed. 

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dance N' Beats: Cars, Planes, and Trains with MGT!

It's been quite the month! As I mentioned before, Tiny B suffers from severe migraines. After three weeks of those she got sick with the flu, as did I, and her little micropreemie body suffers badly when that happens. I've changed my homeschooling direction in the past month because of these things...and that is one of the things that I just LOVE about homeschooling.

I was very stressed out about her writing skills and the fact that I haven't had her practice much this last month, because really, who can practice writing when your head feels like it's being hit like a drum? But do you know what happened? Her writing actually showed a little improvement. I have to believe that it is because her brain is still growing and learning so much during this time...The fact that I am honoring her body's need during this last month is helping her, I believe. I also know without a doubt that having her not do kindergarten until next year is also honoring her body.

Anyway, during this last month of illness, I've been focusing on reading aloud to them from the books that go with our Mother Goose Time curriculum subject of transportation. I've also been talking a lot about the subject, showing them examples while we are in the car driving, and watching some transportation themed movies.

We haven't been able to do our Dance N' Beats as much this month because of how sick she has been, but today we got to break it out for the second time this month. My hubby and I went to the mall by ourselves on a date (soooooo romantic, I know). I had my mom put Dance N' Beats on , and the kids had a blast as usual. Something that I love about Mother Goose Time is how simple it is to assign another adult do a lesson. Many homeschooling families (including mine) see the importance of having all of the adults in the child's life be a teacher. I love that I can say, "Here's the DVD mom. The kids will love it." Meanwhile, grandma gets to catch her breath and have a break and the kids get to do something that has a million benefits.

Dance N' Beats is like an exercise DVD but for children. This month included thirteen songs with coordinated dance moves. The dancer demonstrates the moves and the kids simply follow her.  In their words, "Dance n' Beats is a research-based movement program that helps children learn 21 movements that increase muscle control, encourage physical fitness, and foster a joy for learning." If you desire, you can do the lessons they provide before you do the DVD, or you can simply skip those lessons and pop in the DVD and watch the magic happen!

I wish so badly that I could share with you the exact challenges that Tiny B encounters takes on with a huge amount of gusto, but it is important to me that she tell the details of her story, and she is simply not old enough for this yet. What I can tell you is that she is an amazing miracle of a little girl and you would not believe how much she has successfully beaten what the doctors expected of her! They didn't know if she was every going to walk! Let's just say that she runs everywhere, jumps on all things, and you would never know that she didn't start walking until she was two and a half!

In my vague way, I'll just say that Tiny B has gross motor issues that many micropreemies deal with. We have spent the last five years in physical therapy, and she has graduated from the weekly appointments! In its place, she sometimes does gymnastics or dance class, and she always does Dance n' Beats. It helps her strengthen her muscles, works both sides of her brain, helps her with her motor planning, makes her hungry from all of the exercise (remember that she just got weaned off of her feeding tube), makes her love dance and movement, and countless other blessings.

Strong B also gets the same benefits, and he also gets his wiggles out. He is a three year-old boy, and anything that is a positive way to release energy gets an A+ in my book!

They both love that each DVD goes along with the monthly theme. For example, this month they were in a car, airplane, rowboat, etc. They LOVE seeing what they are learning about it different aspects of their lives.

I'm sorry the pictures are so dark. I wasn't there while they did this tonight, and my mom's family room is very dark. I know I'll be blogging about Dance n' Beats again, and I promise to take pictures in the daylight!

I'm signing off now...the kids went right to sleep tonight (most likely do to doing the entire DVD this evening!) and I'm ready to hit the hay as well. Do you ever count down the minutes until bedtime? Oh, me neither...just kidding :) 

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Homeschooling While Sick

Tiny B has quite a story behind her, but I've chosen to not talk much about it here. I do feel comfortable in sharing that she suffers from severe migraines, and that's a scary thing to battle when weaning from a feeding tube. She's doing transitional kindergarten this year because it's her year to learn to love eating and just to enjoy life. This year is a "gift" and her educational specialist (the person who I answer to in her charter homeschool) and I repeatedly talk about how crucial it is that she just learns to love learning this year, in a relaxed setting.

This is where Mother Goose Time (MGT) comes in. I've chosen to not do the curriculum given to me by the school, and to do MGT instead. There are so many reasons for this, but mainly because I can tailor it to Tiny B and Strong B's needs in an educationally fantastic way. 

We've been dealing with an on and off migraine episode for three weeks now. It's been hard on all of us. Then she got the flu. You can imagine how this has affected her educational experience. Fortunately with MGT I'm able to pull from it exactly what I need. I don't need to do every.single.activity in order for me to teach the pre-k standards. I've been choosing 1-3 activities a day and on some days, we've done nothing but read books about transportation (our monthly theme) from the library. 

Admittedly, I've been so worried that her skills would suffer. In her usual way, Tiny B has amazed me with what she can accomplish. 

Tonight she finally felt better after suffering with a fever for three days, so I pulled out MGT and we got to work on Day 3 which was about maps. We don't have much light in our living room at night, so you'll have to forgive the pictures. 

My husband lit a fire in the fireplace, and I read the MGT book "A Ride for Duck." Yes, I'm in my pajamas again. It was a hilarious book and was a great way to talk about rhyming. It was hilarious because there was a fish head on a motorcycle. We couldn't stop laughing.

We did our usual discussion after reading, in which I asked green, yellow, and red questions. 

Then we discussed maps and looked at maps and then made a few. This first one was her creation, and I wanted it to look like a map, but it didn't. 

I didn't think that she quite understood the concept of making a map, so I helped to guide her in her next one. I walked her through making the roads and asking her about special places on her map, and then I could see that she understood. 

We then drove our busses on the map. We received these a few months ago from MGT and I just love them. Driving the busses on the map really helped her to make the concept more concrete.

I then did a few pages of Math and More and Literacy and More pages in her MGT workbooks. She did not want to stop learning and neither did Strong B, so they insisted that we start Day 4, which is Bridges. 

They built bridges using cellophane noodles. I thought this would be over quickly as we had already been doing school for a long time, but this activity actually lasted a long time! Their fingers were getting their fine motor practice and their brains were busy thinking of ways in which to build their bridges. We took out their manipulatives from this month, and they drove trains and flew planes over and around their bridges.

It's been a rough few weeks. I'm praying that health will be restored to our home very soon so that this mama's heart can experience some calm.

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

On The Go with Mother Goose Time!

I'm finding that the beginning of the month always brings excitement while using Mother Goose Time curriculum! We finished our Orchards theme and we began the On The Go theme for the month, in which we'll learn about streets, maps, road signs, bridges, and methods of transportation. I must admit that I wasn't completely excited about this month until I opened our box. As I pulled out each day's curriculum, I saw the amazing projects and games, and my mind quickly changed.

This month I'll be doing things a bit differently, as my three year-old son is very interested in all things transportation, so I will be focusing on the Math and More and Literacy and More workbooks (from Mother Goose Time) during mine and Tiny B's alone homeschool time, and I'll do the main curriculum with both Tiny B and Strong B. 

Day 1 was all about streets. I pulled out my sand and did the first activity, where we discussed how streets are made, made our own streets in the sand, and then made streets and road signs on our own map. Tiny B was so inspired that she did make believe scenarios with her streets and the bus manipulatives that we received from Mother Goose Time (MGT) two months ago. 

We finished Day 1 the next day because we had chosen to extend our project on Day 1. This is something that I love about homeschool...Getting to choose my own hours! Anyway, this weekend I went to the library and found TONS of books on transportation and matched them up to each day's topic, so every day I can open up with a book. This brings me back to my days teaching 3rd grade...and oh, how I loved that! (Homeschooling in pajamas is a necessity at times I think...)

"Go! Go! Go! Stop!" by Charise Mericle Harper was a great book to get us started. The repeating of words gave Tiny B the confidence to "read" the book. I just love it when she feels empowered like this. She even read it to grandma.

We then played a road traffic game which was so much fun and great for their gross motor skills. The house became a street and they became the cars, and they took turns flipping over the game cards and doing what the card told them, such as driving fast or getting in a traffic jam. 

The kiddos had a blast and it was definitely a fantastic start to our new theme! I can't wait to see what the month brings. 

This picture definitely shows the joy of learning in one's pajamas and doing it in a totally fun way.

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Story Telling/Language with Mother Goose Time and a Glimpse into Homeschooling

There are many reasons that I chose to homeschool Tiny B and I plan on going into those reasons in future posts. Many times I'm asked why I would purposefully choose to homeschool after having been a public school teacher for ten years. Aren't the two methods in complete opposition to each other??

My answer is: yes and no. I've chosen to send her to a public charter homeschool where she actually does attend some time in class. Strong B is attending a public preschool which is perhaps the most beautiful school I've ever seen. Not aesthetically, but because the makeup of the school is half typical and half special needs kids, with credentialed teachers who love what they do. He still gets to use the Mother Goose Time curriculum at home along with her, with the amount depending on our schedule for that particular day. 

In short, I've chosen the best option for me and each of my children at this point in our lives and every single year I will ask myself what that best option is! My hope is that it is homeschool forever, and maybe even branching off completely on our own, but for now, our set-up is perfect.

I will always have a place in my heart for public education because it is where I spent ten years in my own classroom and a few years before that student teaching. I loved my students with all of my heart and I know that most public school teachers feel the same way. If for some reason I need to send them to public school, then that is what I'll do! But for as long as possible, I will enjoy the lovely days that we get to spend together.

One of the reasons that I love love love homeschooling is that we can spend as much or as little time on an activity as we need or desire. This isn't possible in a classroom full of kiddos. The standards dictate that you must move through each learning objective quickly. Because Tiny B is only in transitional kindergarten, and this year is a "gift" (the name given by my education supervisor at our charter school), I can breathe and watch and enjoy her learning. The same applies even more so with Strong B. In preschool, they learn through play! If he happens to learn his letters along the way (which he is!) then that's fabulous!

A particular activity that really caught my eye and my heart this month using Mother Goose Time (MGT) is the Johnny Appleseed storytelling board. I wants to share this with you because it was so lovely, and because MGT would like us to do a post regarding language. I'm going to focus on listening and speaking in particular.

We've been spending a lot of time at my granddad's house because my beloved grandmother passed away last month. (Another joy of homeschooling is being able to go places and spend time with family in need). Every time we go, I pack up my bag with the lesson pack of the day, crayons and pencils, and her two MGT workbooks. I knew that we were going to be re-telling the Johnny Appleseed story using the provided storyboard and props, so I made sure to bring the book to reread to them. (Read the same books again and again to your children because they learn new things every time if you keep the conversation and questions flowing!)

I reread the story to them and then put out the props. I asked them to retell the story using the materials I provided. Strong B had had enough and decided to go terrorize my mom, so Tiny B completed the rest of the activity by herself.

She retold the story in the way that a 5 year-old does. (She's 5). I was able to check for her listening skills and comprehension. She did understand and was able to retell. It was a quick re-telling. What she really wanted to do was make up another story! And this she did...for more than an hour! Talk about extending the activity by herself. 

MGT really allows for this, and as I've grown more knowledgeable about their curriculum, I've learned to extend it in my own ways--in ways that I see that she needs. Yesterday we were supposed to write funny names on a paper banana, and instead, we wrote funny names on another paper and wrote the letters that MGT is focusing on this month: O, A, and R, on the bananas. How fun is that! Tiny B is in speech therapy, and what perfect time to practice her skills! I didn't focus on articulation (pronouncing all of the sounds correctly) but I focused on her vocabulary. Actually, I didn't even have to focus on it...she did it herself! 

You should have heard the little voices she used for each character. I left her at the dining room table because I felt that sitting and watching her was not conducive to her extending this herself. But I listened. She came up with all sorts of scenarios, a lot of which she was encountering in her own life. The characters had nice friends and friends who weren't so nice, a family member who had passed away, and parents who told them what to do (ahem!). 

She talked and talked and talked, and then it was time for us to leave. I packed it up in a resealable plastic bag knowing that I just had to bring it out again. 

Today I brought it out at my mom's house, on the day after Halloween, a Sunday, (another perk of homeschooling--doing it whenever), and watched to see what would happen again. 

I started by summarizing the story myself so that they could hear what summarizing sounds like. I showed them most of the pictures in the book. I would have reread the entire book but I didn't know how long Strong B could hold his attention today and I really wanted to see him do storytelling.

He held the pieces and watched her tell her own story. This time she didn't want to summarize what she had just heard. He adores his big sister. He was all ears. 

All ears for about three minutes that is...But just hearing and watching her invent stories is a huge learning experience for him!

Strong B had flowers to pick, hills to climb, and bugs to catch. Tiny B continued her own story, and when Strong B suggested it was time to ride bikes, Tiny B could not resist. 

There's a time for everything while in preschool. I'm so thankful that we can spend Sundays doing school and riding bikes. And doing Mother Goose Time.

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.