Category Archives: Educational Activities

Our Trip to The Crayola Experience – Orlando

Our Trip to the Crayola Experience – Orlando

Location: Crayola Experience
8001 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, Florida 32809

 

Recently my family went to the Crayola Experience. Imagine this, teen, preteen (is it tween

these days?), and elementary kiddo all being dragged away from the electronic devices for a day

of family time. As you can imagine, this was not automatically the first choice on everyone’s list.

But that wasn’t the case for long.

Once we got inside, ALL 3 kids were ready to check it out. Not one complaint. Not one “Can

we go now?!”. It was fantastic!

I can’t remember the last time we ALL had fun at the same field trip or theme park.

 

For those who have never been here before, The Crayola Experience has 26 unique

attractions to explore. When you arrive, you purchase your tickets and go past a ticket check

employee at a podium. When you buy tickets, they give you a bag for your art projects and

tokens for a couple of the attractions which require tokens. You CAN purchase more tokens and

I found this to be helpful as my children enjoyed the token vending machines.

Once past the purchase area, you go upstairs via stairs or elevator (yay highly accessible) and

proceed to have a BLAST! You walk in near the Wrap it up exhibit where you name and put the

label on your own crayon, then proceed though the other attractions at your own pace. The

Crayola Experience includes model magic, painting, mystery challenges, spin art, art alive, a play

structure, food, a gift shop, a place to draw ON the walls in Scribble Square, and more!

Because I am the mom, I have to add my two-cents. I LOVED the Melt and Mold area! You

choose a color and melt the crayon into a shape you choose from options currently available. I

chose a sea horse. My son chose a ring. Sure, you can use these to color, but I plan to save mine

as a keepsake.

My most finicky child love, love, loved the Doodle in the Dark area. We all liked it, don’t get

me wrong, but she LOVED it. I nearly had to drag her away when it was time to go. She cannot

wait to get back and draw with the neon colors in the blacklight area. LOVE it!

My littlest kiddo enjoyed creating a frog to put into the Rockin’ Paper show. He colored a

frog. The attendant added clips the bottom of the frog’s body. Then the frog danced! So cute! It

was a tiny bit loud so if you have kids with sensory avoidance issues, bring noise cancelling

headphones.

 

My oldest daughter loved nearly everything, including making her own crayon (name and all)

and the marker and crayon vending machines. The model magic vending machine was high on

her list, too, because we LOVE to sculpt with model magic at home, too.

The Crayola Experience is an awesome opportunity to practice social skills, map skills, learn how

things are made, practice working alone as well as on a team, practice using money and tokens,

and much more. Because this can be a loud outing, be sure to consider any special needs and

plan accordingly. If you have any questions, please give The Crayola Experience a call. They

were very, very thoughtful and kind during our visit and I am sure they would be willing to help

you as best they can, too.

 

 

Check out upcoming events like:

Screamin’ Green Hauntoween – (10/7 to 10/31) Halloween themed activities abound

during this event!

Crayola After Dark (for adults) – (10/19) Meet up with your friends or a date to sample wine

and make a craft!

Check the calendar for other activities and hours of operation.

 


Needless to say, we will be back. I am thrilled to announce that we also have 2 FREE tickets to

The Crayola Experience in Orlando to gift to one lucky follower. The Rafflecopter giveaway is

located below. I will mail the tickets once the winner is selected. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Even if you don’t win, The Crayola Experience is affordable on most budgets and has an annual

pass option.

 

Also, using this link and the code TRC, you will qualify for a special lower

price ticket for The Crayola Experience in Orlando, Florida. This code is not good at other

locations so be sure to follow the link to get your tickets to the Orlando Crayola Experience.

 

Also, homeschoolers can book a field trip in October 2017 for only $8.99 per

person, including parents or other chaperones for groups of 15 guests or more (kids under the

age of 3 are free). Please Contact Denise McKinnie for details at 407-757-1718 or

dmckinnie@crayola.com . She is a pleasure to work with and will help make your trip a

successful event.

 

Please note that this post is the result of free tickets given in exchange for my honest opinion of

The Crayola Experience,

 

 

6 Apple Activities For Autumn

September is here and autumn is soon to come!

It’s time for apples, pumpkins, and cooler weather. Well, unless you live in Florida like I do. Then, it’s ridiculously warm to hot regardless of season. So while I sit here with my jealousy over seasons others get to experience, I thought I’d share some of my favorite apple activities.

 

Go Apple Picking
Book to read: Apple Picking Day!

Have you ever gone to an orchard to pick your own apples? It’s a ton of fun, and tires the kids out! Call in advance to find out how far away your nearest orchard is and be sure you have appropriate clothing as well as any gear you need. Likely, they will have containers for you, but you may need to brig your own. If you use a ladder, be careful. Kids scamper up quickly, so be sure to review safety rules in advance.

 

Make Apple Prints

Book to read: Apples

To make apple prints you need paint, apples cut in half, and paper. Get ready because this can get messy! We often do this activity outside or use smocks. Use the apple halves to learn about and discuss the parts of an apple. Then, use the halves to make designs, pictures, or any other artistic creation your heart desires.

 

Bake An Apple Pie

Book to read: The Apple Pie Tree

Each year my kids ask to bake at least one apple pie. Oh, yes, it’s definitely time consuming. But WOW is baking a pie a good way to have quality family time. Plus, once it’s finished you get to eat a delicious treat!

 

Make Apple Sauce

Book to read: Applesauce Day

Applesauce is delicious warm or cold, in my opinion. Try your hand at making homemade applesauce ans see if your family likes it better than store-bought brands. This is a great opportunity to teach children about measurement, temperatures, and following a recipe.

 

Taste Test Apples

Book to read: How Do Apples Grow?

Consider buying several types of apples and comparing them. Use a notepad or whiteboard to record your family’s responses. Who prefers to eat golden delicious? Who thinks Gala are not as red as red delicious? Who prefers Granny Smith? To save money, buy 1-3 of each apple you plan to try and cut them into slices. Try a type of apple you haven’t heard of before. I tend to overeat when doing this activity because, well, it’s for science!

Study The Life Cycle With Art

Book to read: Seed, Sprout, Fruit: An Apple Tree Life Cycle

Examine the apples you purchased, read books, and sketch the apples you will eat. Show your children how to order the steps in the apple life cycle. Have them sketch each part and post everyone’s work. Ask your children to explain the life cycle to you. Use tissue paper or construction paper to design a new type of apple you would like to see and label the parts. 

 

Affiliate links may be included in posts on this site.

 

About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for youPlease contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at

407-712-4368

 lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

7 Science Lesson Tips

Sometimes people ask how I deal with teaching so many different ages and grades when tutoring or homeschooling. They have a point. There are a lot of ways to make teaching easier, though. Lets talk about how to plan for science lessons and NOT give yourself a headache.

1. Plan ahead.

Planning lessons in advance and having the correct tools on hand makes life so much easier. But with busy lives and multiple children, I know this is a challenge. It may help to take a day or two off and plan a week or month in advance, create lists of materials needed, and even set up folders or shelves with the items for each experiment on them assuming nothing dangerous is in the reach of kids.

 

 

2. Safety first!

Post and review safety rules often. Include pictures of items like safety goggles so your kids are more likely to remember the rules. Remember to set the example.

If they need goggles, you need goggles.

If they need to walk while holding a beaker, so do you.

If someone breaks a rule, refer back to the rule and it’s matching image. Make your own or buy one like this.

 

 

3. Practice using tools.

I don’t know about you, but when I get a new thing, I want to check it out. This holds true for science tools like beakers, bunsen burners, pipettes, etc. Kids ALWAYS want to play with new items.

ALWAYS.

The question is, have they had enough time to play safely, then practice using the materials responsibly? If so, then you are ready for lessons. If not, well, let’s just say broken glass isn’t fun so let the kids practice A LOT under your supervision before beginning lessons.

 

 

4. Stop for safety.

If your students are not focused or are being unsafe, stop. You can always start again later or on another day. Sometimes it takes a brain break or time outside to get those wiggles out and refocus on the lesson.

 

 

5. Ask your kids.

Ask your kids what they want to learn. Ask them how they think a scientific inquiry should proceed. When you use open-ended questions and student-chosen lessons, when possible, it helps your children to internalize the information because it will likely be more important and interesting to them.

 

6. Try it again.

Try experiments more than once. Scientists do this, so why can’t you? Consider changing one thing in the experiment such as the independent variable and see how that changes the findings. Ask the kids to decide what to change and how. Record the results each time and compare them in a log book like this one.

 

 

7. Have fun!

It’s also okay to have fun! There is no reason that science should be boring. Science is always open to change and to new questions. If an experiment sounds bor-ring, consider doing a different one. The goal is to learn how to make a scientific inquiry and go through the scientific process to ensure results are unbiased, reliable, and valid. It’s okay to have fun while you do it!

If you want some ideas to help you get started, check out the options below!

Keep in mind that I reserve the right to use affiliate links throughout my website.

About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Several years ago, I left my teaching job to spend more time with my children. I was sad to go, but am thankful for the experiences that classroom teaching provided. My educational experiences paired with real world experiences give me a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you. Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at

407-712-4368

 lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

My Favorite Educational Fall Things

As fall approaches, I have gathered some of my favorite educational things in one post. I did include affiliate links, but you certainly don’t have to buy via my links or even online. Many items can be found at your local retailers, too.


One of my family’s traditions is to build Lego kits as often as we can. We were excited to see so many options on Amazon this year.

 

When we have Halloween or autumn parties, we like to have fun, but also ad educational activities. Nearly any game can be adjusted to do this. Add letters, numbers, words, or sill sentences to make a game educational.

 

Two of our favorite books for this time of year include the Apple Pie Tree and My Autumn Book.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, if you have the cash to spend, you can use the Amazon Echo to play music, learn facts, and more! This gadget can help with making your day more interesting even when the cold weather keeps you indoors.

Thanks for reading and be sure to comment on the Facebook page with your favorite fall things, too!

The Toy Library of Central Florida

I am excited to say that I finally visited the Toy Library of Central Florida and it’s AWESOME!!!!

The Toy Library of Central Florida, located in Apopka, FL, offers monthly subscriptions to patrons who then check out toys, books, and activity kits.

You return the items when you can and check more out. Let me tell you, this sure beats the cost of purchasing tons of toys, then finding out that your child doesn’t like them or that he has grown out of using the toys you have.

By using the Central Florida Toy Library, you can change out toys and activities as often as you want with your subscription!

The current price for a monthly subscription at the Toy Library of Central Florida is $20 per family.

The items in the toy library range for age groups 0 and up and are housed in one main room or three additional rooms inside the toy library. This library isn’t just for babies and toddlers, though. Dawn, owner of the toy library, encourages older children and their families to check out the books and activity kits. My children loved the Tinker Box, but your older children might enjoy the clay kit or a sewing activity by hand.

What’s even more exciting is that the Toy Library of Central Florida is a nonprofit organization and is always thankful for your used toys, books, homeschool or brick and mortar school used curricula, pretend play items or playsets, and more!

The idea is to provide a low-cost option for families across Central Florida so nobody has to break the bank to provide enriching activities for their children. Your donations will help accomplish this and help keep subscription costs low.

I can’t say enough positive things about Dawn and the toy library. I knew she planned to set this up when we spoke over a year ago, and I am thrilled to see how quickly and expertly she set things in motion. She plans to expand throughout Central Florida. I can’t wait to see where and when.

As we approach the summer months, and that dense Florida heat, please consider volunteering, donating, and joining the Toy Library of Central Florida.

Check for current hours before you go as hours are subject to change.

I hope I see you there! 😊

My Favorite Educational Gifts

This year my family is trying to focus on experiences and educational gifts instead of a pile of toys that will eventually go unnoticed. Here, I listed some of my favorite things. Affiliate links are posted in some cases, but not all. Happy holidays!

gifts-and-girl-santa

Click Blocks on Educents

We enjoy the variety Educents offers. From toys to educational games and musical instruments, there is a lot from which to choose. Our favorite choice, though, is called Click Blocks. Educents has a variety of these magnetic blocks so I suggest going to their link and searching using the keyword “magnet” or “magnetic”. This is probably the one toy the I enjoy playing with just as much as the kids do.

Melissa and Doug Life Skills Toys

With my first two children, I rarely cared about what products were made with and how durable they were. Now I see the value in a thoughtfully made product. We have enjoyed many Melissa and Doug puzzles, a housekeeping set, and even a fishing set. You can find tons of options on both Amazon (which is having a sale at the time of this blog being published) and the Melissa and Doug website.

Learning Games

Learning games are a huge hit right now. There are so many that it would be difficult to list every good quality option. Some of my favorite learning games include ABC Cookies, Allowance, Sum Swamp, and Quirkle. These games, as well as others, can be found on Amazon (links shared in this paragraph) as well as other stores and websites.

Little Passports

This may sound odd, but my son LOVES to receive mail and his Little Passports subscription allows him to enjoy that experience while also learning about other countries and cultures. There is a version for older children that teaches about each state in the United States as well. We were surprised to receive an email each month with additional resources and interactive activities to do on the Little Passports website. Right now they have a sale for 15% off if you use the code word “JOY”.

History Unboxed

babylon

History Unboxed is one of our favorite subscription packages, but the coolest part is that they offer boxes a la carte as well. You can choose a one-time box or shipment OR subscribe. Gift subscriptions are available so grandma and auntie can share the gift of learning with the little ones. We thoroughly enjoyed our boxes from soap-making to creating minotaurs. If you decide you want to sign up, please use the code edustrat to get a 5% discount on your first subscription order. If you want more info, check out my review here.

Experiences Worth the Time and Price

Experiential gifts are by far my favorite. Look in your area for science museums, free factory tours to places like the Jelly Belly factory, children’s museums, theater shows, and other family activities. Use Groupon and other coupons to lower costs. Sometimes season pass prices are lowered in the winter right before major holidays so call and ask for their best seasonal pricing.

If you know of a wonderful gift idea that I should add, please email me at lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com using the subject line “Favorite Gifts”. Thanks!

The Teacher Took His Microphone

 

She took the microphone away from a child.

She took the microphone away from a child.

By now many of you have seen the video clip of a teacher taking the microphone from a child living with Autism. Many have condemned the teacher while others have made excuses why this might be okay. I have a few thoughts about this, but also some questions.

Who was this performance meant to benefit?

When my students put on performances, it was to make the school, classroom, or parents look and feel good. I cannot remember one time when it was for all of the kids, chosen by the kids, and a benefit to the kids. Some children love to be in public and performing while others shy away and they certainly should be allowed to do either behavior without forced to perform like trained animals.

As adorable as seeing children on stage is, it is easy for them to think you are laughing at them when you really are laughing because they did something cute. Often, public speaking is part of state educational standards which really does not allow students with varying interests and abilities to be educated in the least restrictive environment while attending to their unique needs and interests. Free choice is the key, if I am being honest. Unfortunately. teachers have very little time for this type of educational model.

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What will teachers do when the number of children with Autism is greater than the number of those without?

While some children have Autism due to genetic factors, others have onset of symptoms after exposure to environmental toxins. At this point in time, both are coded as Autism. That may change in the future, but right now, to receive therapies and have them coded in a way that insurance companies will help pay for the costs, this is the reality.

As the numbers of those living with Autism climb, and make no mistake this is the prediction, how will our educational system fare? How will teachers be able to do their jobs with class sizes up to 20 in early childhood grade levels and over half of their students living with special needs? As numbers of those with Autism grow, will teachers be able to differentiate instruction, work on behavior concerns, and not burn out?

I am doubtful. In my state, all re-certifications must include ESE training classes. Because some of these classes will be taught in individual schools by those working there, we don’t actually know how much correct information or quality is going into them. I hope great care is being taken.

When I took my courses, I did so through a university. Unfortunately, they focused on coercion of students in order to make them comply even when it really was not necessary to force compliance for safety or educational purposes. The truth is that less is more. Routine, reminding of expectations before an issue occurs, and patience all help. Sometimes we have to be strict, but mostly we have to be flexible and understanding as long as safety is not an issue.

In addition, there were ESE teachers in my classes who repeatedly said terrible things about children and made generalizations about “them”. The term “animals” was thrown around and I was so appalled that I chose another university for my PHD program.

Please remember, there are some fantastic teachers who do bring poor teacher behaviors to the attention of administrators, but there are also teachers who are afraid of having a tougher work environment if they speak up. We must work to enable the positive teachers while re-educating or sending away those who are terribly behaved.

What about this child?

I would not be surprised if the teacher was tired and wanted to “put him in his place” when she snatched the microphone. She probably worked all day, had frustrations with him all day, and decided this would show him that she was in charge and to be obeyed no matter what. She was at her breaking point and has not been educated regarding 1. special needs and 2. psychologically appropriate educational techniques. Maybe this is her fault. Maybe her boss should train the employees better. Maybe her former college ought to retool their programs.

At any rate, she was wrong.

She was prideful, went on a power trip, and was wrong.

 

What if parents complain about accommodations?

What if parents complain about accommodations?

What if the other parents complain about teachers allowing ESE students to behave or learn differently?

It doesn’t matter what other parents think. IDEA says that those living with certain special needs must be accommodated.

I have seen some terrible comments on social media about how children with special needs shouldn’t get “extras”, also known as developmentally appropriate teaching practices. They blame the victim saying he had already had a turn, and maybe he did. Maybe he was working on learning about taking turns and has not yet mastered the skill. This is exactly why we have bullying. Many adults cannot handle being different from one another so they push that insecurity and hate on children who then bully each other. Thank goodness some people are working to educate those who bully others.

Providing training, skills, and strategies may help.

Providing training, skills, and strategies may help.

What should happen to the teacher?

First, I am not clear as to whether that teacher sees the child on a day to day basis or not. If so, she ought to, at the very least, be removed and replaced from that position so they do not come into contact. The child should not be moved from the classroom if she is a special area or classroom teacher. Removing the child from the classroom and putting him in another is disruptive to him and punishes him so the teacher is the one who must move.

Then, of course, the teacher must give a public apology. If she feels embarrassed, that is sad, but it is exactly how that tiny human felt so she will be okay in doing this. It is important for children to see that nobody is perfect and that we can do our best to correct mistakes. This is how children learn to be good humans, by observing our behaviors and how we adults correct ourselves. Snatching a microphone teaches the child that someone bigger can take your stuff without permission and he is more likely to do the same behavior to get his way if the teacher doesn’t apologize and then make better choices.

Next, all teachers in the district, yes in the entire district, must be educated regarding how to not take behaviors personally when they have stress due to teaching children with special needs. If you watch the video, the teacher was clearly taking something personally and on a power trip to show that kid who is in charge and who can do whatever they want. 

This may be a pervasive attitude in the area or school. If your notice in the video, no adult jumps up to stop the teacher, either. I would highly encourage parent education night as well, not only for information about Autism, but also to learn about other special needs present in educational settings.

Another potential solution is to provide support. I recall needing assistance due to students, in different situations, being harmful to themselves or others. When calling for assistance, I was often told that no one was available. Sometimes help would come, sometimes not. I ended up doing most of the work of a dean myself or with the help of my next door teammate.

When stress gets to be too much or someone is being unsafe, there should be someone who can help or give the teacher a break. I often said that if I had not been trained with strategies and skills to deal with high stress situations, then I might have lost it. I can understand how teachers snap. Please note that though parent volunteers are awesome, you cannot leave the classroom with them in charge so that is not a viable option for a break due to stress.

We must insist upon a supportive environment for students and teachers by providing training, tools, and support.

We must insist upon a supportive environment for students and teachers by providing training, tools, and support.

It is important to provide skills and strategy options so that teachers and students do not feel backed into a corner. Teachers have to remember not to take student behaviors personally. The truth of the matter is that we are all different and that is okay. However, being a bully is never okay. This teacher was at the end of her rope and chose to bully. It’s time for her take a step back and try things differently. There are a great many of us who benefit from this idea, too. There’s no shame in learning new strategies and all children, whether developing typically or not, deserve patience and multiple chances to learn social skills.

How to Create a Thematic Unit

I often provide curriculum writing services, including thematic units, because homeschooling clients either do not have time or aren’t sure how to begin writing their own curriculum. Here I will share some tips to help you develop your own thematic units anytime you wish to do so. This type of unit can easily work with your child’s strengths and interests while strengthening weaknesses.

First, consider topics your student loves to learn about. This may mean focusing on a particular animal, video game, or activity is the basis for the topic of your unit. If your children want to help, let them decide what to focus on during the unit of study. Remember that the unit of study can be a day, week, several weeks, or longer. The length depends on resources, interest, and your decision regarding how long you prefer the unit to last.

tutor final

Next, gather resources. The Internet is a huge resource, especially if you look for virtual field trips and printable papers. Check out my resource lists to get started, then add your own. Make sure to stop by your local library or bookstore to gather publications about the chosen topic. If you want to use manipulatives, gather them. Check second hand stores and homeschool resale websites in addition to typical online websites and brick and mortar stores with new items. Look for games that are either printable, online, or a physical product. Consider field trip options, getting together with other locals who are studying a similar topic, and other out of the box ideas. It never hurts to allow your student to use or create graphic novels, a website, video blog (vlog), or other project about the topic.

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Then, choose an order for how to present information unit or how to facilitate your student in researching the topic during the thematic. Make a basic lesson plan that has a book list, order of activities or a weekly list of activities you hope to accomplish, and go for it.

Once you begin your thematic unit, keep an eye on your child’s interest level. If one particular book draws your student in, then read it multiple times together. If another book makes the child uninterested, then try a different book or activity. The key is to get active, do more than just paper and pencil work, and learn together when possible. Don’t stress. Have fun. Record lesson plans and progress. Keep pictures of projects or papers completed to add to your yearly portfolio.

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Some very basic examples of what you can include in a thematic unit include:

Minecraft – Use the blocks to practice addition and multiplication, use the machines you can build to learn about levers and circuits, use the different stones such as granite to write about the best supplies for building and to learn about editing after writing

Dogs – Practice reading the books your local library has, design a poster for dogs who need to be adopted form shelters locally, write a story about a dog who gets into awkward situations, use dogs as a theme for your current math topic

Candy – Learn about healthy foods and where foods come from, use cooking to practice fractions and multiplication, use cooking to learn about chemical reactions, write a recipe, learn about the cuisine from a culture different than your own

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As you get into a topic, you will find ways to expand your thematic unit to include skills like writing, reading, math, science, social studies, and other topics. Get creative and enjoy this chance to bond with your child while homeschooling.

Happy Learning!

As always, feel free to contact me if you have questions or would like to have thematic units created specifically for your child.

Ways to Teach Handwriting Without Using a Pencil

Many parents ask me how to help their children who refuse to practice handwriting or who have difficulty forming letter shapes with a pencil. There are several things parents can do to help in this situation. Keep in mind that special needs may affect skill acquisition so if your gut says there is an issue, get it checked out. However, even when dealing with a special need, the following activities may help strengthen your child’s fine motor skills and also letter writing skills.

 

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Use clay to shape letters or for fine motor play.

Use a tray of rice or play sand, from your local home improvement store, to draw letter shapes.

Practice using tweezers to pick up small items such as buttons, pompom balls from the craft store, or beads, then sort them into groups according to color, size, or other characteristics.

Bend pipe cleaners/chenille wires into letter shapes.

Use q-tips, toothpicks, or sticky items like Wikki Stix to form letter shapes.

Use finger paint to draw letter shapes.

Use items from nature to create letters and words. (Sticks can draw in sand, leaves can be fashioned into letters, etc.)

Use a different material such as chalk on a sidewalk, white board, or computer drawing program.

 

child playing

You can also use any of these ideas to draw straight, curved, and diagonal lines as well in order to help children practice making the lines that letter shapes use. The key is to get creative, use your child’s interests, and don’t be afraid to complete the activity with your child. It’s more fun when a caregiver participates. 🙂

Which Homeschool Preschool Curriculum Should I Choose?

Parents often ask how to get their children ahead in time for kindergarten. This is true for families of children in preschool who choose homeschool and those who choose brick and mortar schools. Parents want their children to excel. We want our kids to do better than the best. This is why many homeschool newbies ask which curriculum to use for their toddler and preschool students whose parents plan to homeschool. I see this question asked at least once a week in homeschool forums. Thankfully, I have an answer that will help you no matter who you are or how young your child happens to be.

The good news is that you do not need to purchase a curriculum for your child just yet. Instead, focus on social and academic skills through everyday situations. Don’t push children to recite letter names or count constantly. Do model how to count, how to be kind, and other skills. Model cleaning up after yourself and work as a team to do this. Model how to care for someone who is hurt or sad. In short, play and interact. How easy is that!?

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Some people will ask why so many preschool programs push literacy. The answer is that they are not always developmentally appropriate programs, but they are required to prepare children for a rigorous kindergarten year. In Florida, where I taught kindergarten for nearly a decade, teachers graded preschools based on how incoming kindergarten students did at social and academic skills. This can affect funding of those pre-k programs so they HAVE to be rigorous, too, though this is not appropriate for children.

What should a prekindergarten program look like?

I will blog in depth about this at some point, but for now the things you need to look for include, among other things:

A variety of open-ended activities

No forced reading or pencil and paper activities, though these should be available and used via free choice

Students making decisions and having interpersonal interactions in with watchful teachers who can step in should students be unable to resolve an issue

Teachers who are patient and willing to work with students to find solutions rather than immediately punish or yell

What should a homeschool preschool program look like?

Your preschool or toddler homeschool day should be similar to what is included above for those who run preschool programs. Have a variety of toys, writing utensils, bubbles, gardening options, or any other thing your child can safely use and in which he is interested. Be available to answer questions and interact, but do not take over the activities. Your child may use materials differently than you expect, but unless safety is an issue, let your child go for it and try to do things differently than you might. Work on negotiating, caring for others, and other social skills, too. Use real-life everyday situations to teach rather than making your child sit and listen to you or sit and read during the day. Go on field trips to explore your town or county.

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What about children living with special needs?

It is highly important that children with special needs receive necessary treatments, therapies, and instructions for how to use coping skills. Early intervention is proven to be helpful in these cases. However, this does not mean you ought to force a four-year-old child to read early due to a special need. Honor your child’s developmental level. Offer a variety of activities and model how to do things he cannot yet do. He will eventually want to copy you and you can implement the information your therapists have given you and your child. Yes, you may need to work harder on skills with your child when she is ready, but most children who are younger than six learn best through hands on activities and you modeling how to do things.

How can I get started?

To get started, use what you already have. Lego blocks, bubbles, construction paper, and other items can spark a child’s imagination and create a pathway to learn a multitude of things. Play with your child. Have siblings and friends play as well. Everyone plays a bit differently and different topics will come up along with the chance to practice different skills. Don’t be afraid of mixed age play groups. This can aid in teaching your child without it being “work” or boring.

We don’t want our children to burn out on education before they hit kindergarten. In fact, we want them to be lifelong learners who seek out education from a variety of sources rather than hiding from education because they were forced to do too much, too soon. Remember, some children do read at age three, while others do not read fluently until closer to age seven. Some children are not yet ready for complex math at age 16 while others may be ready when younger than age 12. The goal is to honor each student’s developmental level without forcing them into a curriculum at such an early age that they may become frustrated with school. School should be hands-on, fun, developmentally appropriate, and lead to a lifelong learner lifestyle. Introducing a rigorous curriculum in the preschool years can sabotage this completely.

But we already began a curriculum.

No worries. If you began and your child loves it, great. However, if your sense that your child needs a change, then change things. It really is a luxury to be able to consider an individual learner’s needs at each stage and change when needed.

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For further information

If you would like more information about education or behavior management, sign up for my email list. If you feel that a consultation would benefit you or your family, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to provide advice and behavior plans in order to help your home or classroom work efficiently and in a positive manner. Remember, you can do this. ?

About the Author

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. is a former teacher, behavior coach, and tutor who works with families and students to help them reach their full potential in a peaceful, positive environment. Melissa’s educational experiences paired with real world experience give her a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.  Please contact Melissa with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com