Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where have we been?

The Monkey Family is back! So where have we been? Well, the little monkeys and I took a little "vacation" while Daddy Monkey refinished all of the cabinets in the house. What a wonderful man. Where did we go? Tons of places!

Our vacation involved meeting up with Grandpa, Grandma, and Papa (great grandpa) Monkeys. My boys just LOVE spending time with Papa Monkey. While we visited, we took a trip to see some fish and other marine life as well as a nice trip to the desert.

I think the desert trip was the best part. We went to an animal park that showcased North American wildlife in a more natural habitat. So we took an open window bus tour through the compound and saw all sorts of animals just outside our window! The wolves were the spookiest (don't have a photo of that one) since they were pacing just outside the bus. The bears were awesome and right there watching us.

Above is the white bison. Below is Big Monkey "hanging" out the window in the black bear area. Fun for Mama Monkey. Not sure if you can see the bear in the background. It's up the dirt road on the left of the photo.

The last thing we did was meet up with the cousins and ride an old train out to a secluded pumpkin patch. Both boys had a blast seeing as how they both adore trains. Big Monkey even got to stand off the back of the train with the conductor and watch him get out to switch the track on the way back to the depot. Boy, did he think that was the best thing.

The was his favorite part though. There was an old red fire unit that was designed to be wheeled down the tracks and it had a little bell on it that you could ring by pulling a rope. Well, Big Monkey pulled it EVERY time we went to that depot. I think we must have spent a total of 2 hours ringing that bell (maybe it just felt like it to me). It was fun.

Even Baby Monkey got in on some of the action.

And to wrap it up, their pumpkins on the train!

Oh, and don't worry, I really did also spend a lot of time revamping our curriculum! We are ready to start anew tomorrow morning. I'm still waiting on a few items to arrive to finish off the "school room," but that will be done shortly and we are going to have fun (and be so much more organized).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

End of the School Week

So today is the end of our school week for this week. We'll be taking a little break to revamp our curriculum and get some major house projects done over the next two weeks. I was really using the camping preschool printables pack this week to decide what activities Big Monkey likes, dislikes, is ready for, or is not quite able to do yet (or doesn't have patience for). This way I will know what to include in our new curriculum and what to save for later years (we still have 2 1/2 years before he starts traditional kindergarten). We kept today short and tried to have fun, especially since Baby Monkey was a little clingy.

Big Monkey didn't want to color, so we tried out our new do-a-dot markers. They were a hit as most other people have said. Easy cleanup too. Sort of like paint without the mess. 

Big Monkey then requested to play pom poms with the starfish and then the hearts ice cube tray.


I learned that I need to work on my laminating skills.

We had great success with the what do you eat, what do you not eat camping activity. He identified the foods/objects and correctly placed them under either "eat" or "do not eat: columns.

Big Monkey is not ready for complete the patterns. He looks happy about it, but I had to tell him for each one which came next until we got to the last one. Then it was process of elimination - there was only one piece left.

Big Monkey did not want to put cheerios on the number train (or chocolate chips - who wouldn't want to play with chocolate chips?!?), but I wanted to take a photo of the train because I think it is so cute. That and I spent all the time laminating it. Haha

We finished up the day with bean bag toss. Yes, that is my office trash can. I really need to find a bucket (I think there might be a new bucket in my laundry room) as I need my trashcan back. We made the "bean bags" together. They are little pieces of material sewn together and filled with rice. Big Monkey likes to remind me that they are "rice bags" and not "bean bags." Baby Monkey wanted to join in, but Big Monkey didn't want any part of sharing his bean bag toss game today (some days he gives 2 bags to Baby Monkey and keeps 2 for himself). It's probably going to be one of those days.

See you all in a few weeks when we have all new ideas and experiences to share! Can't wait to see how the new morning board looks complete with calendar and what books we are going to incorporate into our days (we are going to start a literature/theme based curriculum).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Camping and the Fall Sensory Bin

Today was a much better day than yesterday (overall, not just with school). Big Monkey was in a much better mood. So was I. Baby Monkey is always in a relatively good mood. He likes trouble, but is a happy baby. Today I caught Baby Monkey trying to help himself to the school supplies (he was going after tongs and scoops). He got his arm stuck trying.

Big Monkey tried all sorts of new things today. He started with the familiar. He requested matching number circles again. Luckily, that gave me some time to get out the other stuff. He had the first round done in seconds though. Then he practiced his scissor skills. Then we moved on to the new. I was surprised at how well Big Monkey did with counting lanterns and finding the number (he had 3 numbers in each box to choose from). He got every one right up to #6, which was the point where I dumped out the Little People toys for Baby Monkey and Big Monkey completely lost interest in counting lanterns. Oops on my part.

Then we counted fireflies in the night. I put a number in the corner of the paper and asked Big Monkey what the number was. He then counted out that number of fireflies and put them in the night sky. He really liked this activity. We did numbers 1-5 today.

I gave Big Monkey a F is for Fire coloring page and asked him if he wanted to color. To my surprise, he decided to trace the big and little F letters. He did a great job! After tracing, he decided to color them in a little bit. Here is Big Monkey with his traced letters:

The hit of the day though was the new sensory bin. I finally set up a sensory bin. The theme of this one is fall. It contains little fabric leaves, red beans, and white beans. I got all of these things at the 99 cent only store. I then put in several sets of tongs, a couple scoops, a small oil funnel, and some shaped ice cube trays (from IKEA) and let Big Monkey have at it. He LOVED the sensory bin. I think he spent at least 45 minutes playing in the beans. He scooped them into the funnel, picked individual beans up with tongs and transferred them into the ice cube trays, sorted leaves and beans, and so on. I actually had to tell him when needed to wrap up the sensory bin so I could pick up the beans.

The sensory bin was also a big hit with Baby Monkey. He eats everything though, so this required my constant attention on Baby Monkey to make sure he wasn't sneaking any beans into his mouth. This was also the main reason I was ready to wrap it up after 45 minutes.

Baby Monkey loved exploring though and found great fun in putting his hands into the beans and moving back and forth to make them make noise. Big Monkey did not like Baby Monkey being in the bin that much, but he was a good big brother and shared.

That wrapped up our morning of school. Baby Monkey slept through lunch though, so I needed one more activity to keep Big Monkey entertained while I fed Baby Monkey. The solution: finger painting!

It was a good day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Week: Camping!

So this week I have decided that our theme will be camping. Fun right? Big Monkey already knows what camping is, but I still thought it would be a fun theme to do for the week. We'll be taking a few weeks off at the end of this week to get our new curriculum ready and organized as well as take care of some other stuff, so I wanted something fun.

Of course, with all that said, Big Monkey was having what I like to call an "unmotivated" day today. Everything is either "I don't know" or "I can't, will you do it?" Not exactly my favorite type of day, but we're working with it.

We started the day reading "Curious George Goes Camping." Big Monkey proceeded to tell me at the start of story, "No, not that one. I like Birthday Surprise better." Somehow I still managed to talk him into letting me read Goes Camping.

While I read, Big Monkey traced circles that I had drawn on a paper for him. Baby Monkey beat the wood toy pans on the tile and tried to eat the play food.

Then we tried some worksheets. He really liked matching up the camping items. I had to run to the school room to get some other supplies, and before I could even get back I heard him saying "I did it!" 
We tried tracing some lines for prewriting practice. He wasn't into it. You might be able to see that all his lines are straight. He kept looking off at other things and out the window while he "traced." 

He did really well with the "find the letter" worksheet though. I told him the name of each item on the page and sounded out the first letter of the word. Then he circled the letter. He got them all right. I was impressed by his skills, and also impressed that it held his attention that long since nothing else had. 

We moved on to motor skill development, and he did better with those items (mostly). We transferred pom poms from one container to another, moved wood eggs on big spoons into a bucket, hammered pegs, and (Big Monkey's creation), picked up wood eggs with little tweezers and put them into scoops for Mama Monkey to "eat." We ended skill development time when Big Monkey had a meltdown because I wouldn't give him "a lot of tongs and scoops" (he already had all we owned on his tray. 

I think moving the eggs into the bucket with big spoons was Big Monkey's favorite activity. I had him match the colored egg to the same color spoon before we started moving eggs. 

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Friday, October 7, 2011

More Pumpkins

We stuck with the pumpkin theme today since it is October and we hope to eventually make it to a pumpkin patch this month. Our attention spans were a little better this morning compared to yesterday. This made me a happy Mama Monkey.

We started with the same numbered circle activity that we have done twice already this week. He asked for it first thing, so I let him have at it. He put the circles in their correct spots (matching up the numbers) once and decided he was ready to move on.

Next requested was scissors practice. He's getting better day by day, but man do I feel the need to watch out for those little fingers. These are children's blunt/rounded tip safety scissors, but still.

While in the school room (my office/exercise room), I had Big Monkey visit our bulletin board. Our current setup isn't bad, but things will be changing come November. We just received our big box of board supplies and other stuff from Oriental Trading Company, so I'm excited. We'll have a new calendar as well as a weather board and some other goodies. For now, Big Monkey is happy to count our numbered stars (we usually add a new one each day, but we've stopped at 15 to master recognition numbers 11-15 first). Then we talked about the day, month, and date a little and colored a pumpkin for our calendar (we're a little behind this month).

During all of this Baby Monkey decided to turn on the Roomba vacuum and chase it around the dining room. I caught him yawning as he watched us - I guess preschool seems pretty boring.

Big Monkey then moved on to Pumpkin Printables that I downloaded from Confessions of a Homeschooler (she has awesome printables as does Homeschool Creations). We did a magnet letter (I had him place just plain pom poms on the circles as I'm still not sure if I am comfortable with having magnets around for Baby Monkey to try and eat), a pumpkin coloring page, and pumpkin counting using cheerios. He loved the coloring page the most, but didn't mind eating the cheerios once he finished counting. For the counting, I asked him what number was on the pumpkin and then guided him in placing the right number of cheerios by counting each cheerio as he placed it on the pumpkin.

We finished up our day with a snack outside and some playtime. We've been in the house for a few days because of the rain, and Big Monkey needed to climb! Baby Monkey hung with Mama Monkey while we played. All in all, a great day!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Circles and Pumpkins

Well, today was a short day as many days are. Both Big Monkey and Baby Monkey seem to be short on patience today. I did my best to encourage Big Monkey, but ultimately, I let him decide when he has lost interest in something. We started with putting number circle cutouts onto their matching numbered circle on a paper. He did that once and was done, but we already did that over and over again earlier this week. Then we moved on to a few minutes of learning to link up dinosaurs from our barrel of dinosaurs (sort of like a barrel of monkeys). Next we moved on to artwork. I drew a pumpkin on orange paper and placed glue on the lines and had Bug Monkey place elbow macaroni on the glue. That lasted about 5 minutes, but he seemed to enjoy the process.
So we tried gluing circles to paper as he loves the glue stick and did a great job with this task for squares. That also only lasted about 5 minutes today (again, lack of patience today).

Ultimately, we resorted to reading stories and then watching Leapfrog's "The Amazing Alphabet." I would have preferred "Letter Factory" but it was upstairs somewhere and netflix doesn't have it on the instant list. All and all not a bad day, but not our most productive either. Maybe once the rain goes away a little outside time will help renew our spirits.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welcome to my new blog ...

and my new adventure. Sometimes I find myself thinking, "what am I thinking?" Homeschooling is a big task, but I guess this is why we are starting at the preschool level. Haha. Not as much pressure since a lot of the "work" is fun and games. Our current plan is to homeschool for preschool and still send the boys to public school for kindergarten, but that very well may change with time. We'll see how this all goes.

So, why homepreschool?  Homeschooling just fits our lifestyle better than traditional school. Homepreschool allows Big Monkey to start some structured activities now instead of at almost age 4 (when he'd be allowed to start the schools I'm interested in). We can still travel as much as we want (and the boys and I travel to grandma's house a lot). I can keep track of Big Monkey's progress and tailor his work to his exact needs. I don't have to worry about Big Monkey's peanut allergy, and honestly, school at this age with a peanut allergy scares the crud out of me. Lastly, I'd like to think that in the long run, this will save us money, but right now I have had too much fun buying "supplies" to have saved any money yet. There are more reasons, but these are the big ones that swayed our decision. We've been doing homepreschool for a month now, and so far it has been very successful and Big Monkey seems to be enjoying himself, as is Mama Monkey.

My hope is to update my blog daily with our chosen activities, but that probably won't be reality. I seem to have a tough time including daily items like updating a blog, but I will try. We are not doing anything too interesting for the next few weeks as I am still building our curriculum. I will try to post a few entries about our setup and curriculum design and where I'm getting my ideas soon! Even if you have no interest in homeschooling, several of the activities we do may be great rainy day activity ideas for others!