Saturday, January 28, 2012

Curious George

So this past week we did some Curious George stuff! We've really backed off on a lot of the "structured" curriculum as Big Monkey is just not in to a lot of it right now. We can try again next year. I mean, he did just turn 3. Some Montessori style learning is what is best for him at this age anyway! So we chat a lot, play, work on our fine and gross motor skills, and just explore the world. When he asks to do "school" then we pull out the themed stuff I have for the week and try a few things. He does still really love to trace on some days!

So recently, Big Monkey has started being able to put these 20 or so piece puzzles together with only minimal help. We have this Toy Story 3 one, a Cars2, and a Mickey Mouse puzzle. He does all three each time we sit down to do them.

I tried to put our chalkboard top school table in the breakfast nook/family room area so that the boys could use it for coloring, reading, activities, and other things anytime they wanted. I also thought it would be a good place for Big Monkey to do school so that Baby Monkey could have more space to play. Well, Baby Monkey still hovers and wants to be in the middle of everything we do. His idea is destruction. I'm trying to get him involved in his own activities, but it is really hard to help them both with their activity at the same time. As soon as I stop helping Baby Monkey to help Big Monkey, well, Baby Monkey takes that as his cue to move over to his brothers work and destroy it. Oye...

Anyway, the table didn't last more than 2 days. The poor little bench chairs got put back after the first hour as Baby Monkey was standing on them and falling off and using him to climb on top of the table. I turned around to get Big Monkey a pen one time and when I turned back, Baby Monkey was standing on top of the table!!! It took Baby Monkey exactly 1 day to figure out how to crawl on top of the table without the chairs. So back in my office the table went for another few months. We'll try again this summer.

This week we did some people vs. animals sorting. Big Monkey knows what a person is and what an animal is. Curious George is the only one he didn't know what to do with. He said he was not a person, but initially he didn't think Curious George was an animal either. We had to connect that Curious George is a monkey and he knew that a monkey is an animal. I don't blame him, that monkey seems way more like a human in the stories.

We also did some D is for dinosaur this week. One thing Big Monkey liked were these little puzzles that I cut up for him. Baby Monkey just wanted to steal the pieces and shove them into that crack you see in the table (it's where the butcher paper feeds through so we can cover the table for art). Big Monkey eventually thought this was more fun than putting the puzzle together too.

We tried some what is different again. He got some of them as long as it was obvious. A scarf that was exactly the same as the others but just a different color was NOT enough, but the fact that one of the George's was missing an eye was.

Some on, above, under, and next to associations. He placed the hat in where the man with the yellow hat said to.

Tracing lines and letters. He really liked these dino letters. He'd trace the letters and then color in all the white dinosaurs because "they didn't have any color." He makes everything orange and uses the orange marker almost every time. I think his favorite color is orange. Guess that means he really likes my car then (it's orange).

We pulled out some motor skills toys this week too. Baby Monkey got a Melissa and Doug lacing blocks set for Christmas, and both boys love it. We have some other lacing blocks, but this is nice as it has different shapes, patterns, and even numbers on some of them. Big Monkey would lace a few blocks on and then carry it around saying he was "fishing." For what, I'm not sure... 

Baby Monkey also got these neat door lock puzzle for Christmas (yes, Baby Monkey got a lot of school supplies for Christmas). Both boys really like it and I find Big Monkey not only practicing with the locks, but also counting the animals behind the doors and telling Baby Monkey what they are. 

You can also see our block clock and wedgets in the background. The wedgets are a lot of fun for me. We also have an animal block train that is a lot of fun, but that will have to be another week. 

The last formal activity we did was finding the letter M and marking it with a do-a-dot marker (we did lots of other stuff, but didn't take photos). Big Monkey did great finding all the letter Ms, but was very concerned about why he couldn't also put dots on the rest of the letters too. 

Next time will be E is for elephant and zoo animals!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reading Readiness Skills

So I know that in my plan for the year I mentioned teaching Big Monkey to read once he masters more of the pre-reading readiness skills. I'm sure some people, thought, "what are the readiness skills?" I know I was surprised to find out there was a list! So I thought I'd share what information I have found.

It's important to make sure they have all the readiness skills and are truly ready to read, otherwise you might squash their love for learning and reading. So here are the main skills:
  1. Read their name
  2. Recite the alphabet
  3. Recognize some or all of the letters in the alphabet
  4. Correspond some or all letters with their correct sound
  5. Make rhymes
  6. Hold a book right side up with the spine on the left, front cover showing
  7. Recognize that the progression of text is left to right, top to bottom
  8. Echo simple text that is read to them
  9. Recognize that text holds meaning
  10. Re-tell a favorite story
I've found a few other items that some consider necessary skills, but this is a pretty comprehensive list. Of course, the big thing missing from this list - they have to want and be willing to sit down and learn to read as well!

So far Big Monkey has all of the items on this list mastered except rhymes. I haven't really tested his ability to echo simple text or recognize that text holds meaning, but I'm in no rush to do that either. We did try some rhyming while I was out running one day. It was a fun way to keep Big Monkey occupied in the jogging stroller, and he thought it was pretty funny. I realized it is much harder to come up with rhyming words on the spot! We read a lot of books that rhyme and sing rhyming songs, but he hasn't seem to put those things together. So we're going to work on that now and talk about what rhyming is and what words rhyme! That way later this year maybe we can start on some reading lessons. Now wouldn't that be exciting! Then he can read Curious George to me at bedtime!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Our First Week Back

Quick, while the kids are napping type something up on the blog! Haha! I feel like this is how most of life goes. Uh, oh, Baby Monkey is up already!!! Whew, ok, back to blogging.

Our first week back wasn't too bad. We didn't accomplish all that much school wise and Big Monkey really wasn't interested in doing much, but we tried. Slow baby steps right? Maybe next week will be more fun.

We're catching up from where we left off before the holidays rather than moving on. So we did C is for caterpillar this week, although there was not much caterpillar stuff going on. We also did the birthday themed worksheets that we were supposed to do before Baby Monkeys birthday in December. Haha!

Some highlights: we started out with some painting per Big Monkey's request. He wanted to use the new Melissa and Doug paint brushes that he got from Santa. These are great. We also used some our of foam painting shapes. He had a good time paint the "ocean" and fish to go in his ocean. Very creative.

Baby Monkey was enjoying being a monkey this week. Man is this little dude really a monkey. He wears me out! He literally climbs anything and everything that looks like he might be able to climb.

I let both boys play with the Christmas themed sensory bin since I set it up before Christmas and never actually took it out for them to play with. Oops. Big Monkey stuffed all the little gumbie reindeer into the little stockings and gave them to Baby Monkey as "presents." It was cute.

We did pre-writing skills worksheets with the Crayola dry erase center while we waiting for the Stanley Steemer guys to finish cleaning and sealing our upholstery this week. Took forever to dry, but it is so nice to have a fresh clean couch and recliners! 

Big Monkey got a kick out of caterpillar graphing this week. We counted how many caterpillars were on each page and then colored in that number of boxes underneath. For the most part he did this on his own. A few times he colored in a few too many boxes, but mostly did great. 

He was not a fan of letter matching this week. We tried to match up uppercase letters to lowercase letters, but he said he didn't want too. I think there were just too many letters on the table. Next time I think I will try starting with A-D and then moving on to E-H, etc... 

He spent a big amount of time coloring this week too. Not nearly as much time coloring as some kids like to do, but hey, a few weeks ago he wouldn't color for more than 2 minutes. I think coloring lasted about 20 minutes this week. Then he dumped all the crayons and I had him pick them up (since he was throwing them on the floor) and that took an additional 20 minutes. Sigh, I remember the days before Baby Monkey was born when Big Monkey used to love to color for hours in coloring books.

The last and also not favored activity was matching letters to the word caterpillar. Again, he was not interested, but I think he was tired. We are going through another phase where it take Big Monkey a long time to fall asleep at night and then he wakes up several times during the night and gets up early. Makes for a tired Big Monkey (and cranky) during the day. We go in and out of these phases as neither of the boys are very good sleepers. Needless to say, both of them are getting some sleep and routine adjustments! I'm brushing up on my "gentle sleep training" methods (I am not a fan of CIO unless it is a last resort - we have done it, but I am not a fan. No judgement here though if you are) and trying to help the boys sleep better. 

Not sure what next week brings yet as I haven't looked at my curriculum! Guess I need to pull it out since tomorrow is Sunday. Oh, we got a new printer though, so away with the black and white boring sheets and bring on the color again!

Oh, and of course we spent a lot of time this week reading, but that is normal for us anyway!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New year, new resolutions, new motivation... Maybe

I've never been one to make new year's resolutions. I believe that if you want to make a change or do something different, then just do it. You don't need to wait for January 1st. This year though, January 1st just happened to fall right around the time that I decided I needed (or wanted) to make some major changes. Ok, not major, but some changes.

We missed the New Years start point though because we were fighting some sickies in the monkey cave, but we are all recovered this week and started fresh yesterday. So what's going to be different? Our schedule and goals I suppose.

This year I'm going to spend some time focusing on myself as well as my kids. I've been just "mommy" for three years now. We made a big decision this past week that we are done having kids. Baby Monkey will be our last. So Mama Monkey wants to work on my health, my relationship with my husband, my faith, and just getting back into the things we enjoy but couldn't do because we had a baby (or two). This means schedule changes to fit everything in. I've registered for a half marathon in October and hope to do a 10 mile in April. So I need to run and train several days a week. It's hard to fit in preschool, training (especially as my milage goes up) and play all in the same day. So we will be doing school 2 days a week most weeks. We will spend the other days of the week training, playing, getting outside time, and other day to day activities (laundry and grocery shopping have to be done at some point! The Monkey family needs clean underpants.).

This summer Big Monkey will start a reading program with me if he seems to be ready. Right now he doesn't have the attention span or motivation. We are also lacking a few pre-reading skills that we will work on this spring. If he's not ready by summer, then we will wait until fall or possibly until his fourth birthday next winter.

After this spring, we will have 2 more "preschool years" before Big Monkey starts kindergarden (possibly at the local public school). So this fall we will start a more challenging preschool curriculum and the year after that we will do a pre-k program. Which I have not decided yet.

We got lots of great educational toys for Christmas, so we will have plenty to do between now and summer. Most importantly, I want the boys to experience some fun stuff and enjoy their time with Mama Monkey while they learn important readiness skills.

Oh and over the break we got a caterpillar kid from Insect Lore. It was neat! We got 5 caterpillars and watched them grow into huge fat caterpillars. Then they went into "cocoons" and later "hatched" into gorgeous painted lady butterflies. Here are some highlight photos.

A week or so after they arrived:

 Another week later. Getting bigger.

 Cocoons! There was one more on the floor. He survived despite falling.

 Our first butterfly! We never saw one emerge. I looked in on this guy before breakfast and there was no butterfly. By the time we finished eating breakfast, we had a butterfly!

 We now have 4 of these. If it was warmer outside, we could release them. Instead we are feeding our little butterflies and keeping them for their full life cycle. I have no idea how long that will be nor do I know what I will tell Big Monkey about the butterflies once their life cycle is over. I'm taking it all one day at a time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Monthly Menu

So I am trying to be more organized in the New Year so that we eat better, waste less, and spend less money. One way I'm doing this - trying to make a monthly dinner menu plan. So I found this great editable monthly menu planner from Homeschool Creations. She also has a great editable dinner list document where you can list all your favorite dinners. This helped so that as I planned, I could just look at the list of things we like to eat and pull from that.

A friend wanted to see what I had on my menu, so here it is! I'll update on school stuff soon! Things have been crazy, but we hope to get back on schedule this week.