Still Playing School: August 2012

Letter Recognition

I am starting to feel like letters are taking over our house.  We are both to blame.  E loves her "ABCs" and I've been digging out all the letter manipulatives I can find from my teaching days.  If you think about it, you don't need to know letter names to read, but it is where we start reading instruction.  Letter recognition or letter naming is important so you can start having discussions about how words are spelled and what letters make what sounds.

I made a basket of all of these items that either of us can access any time we want to do some letter recognition activities.  In fact, E just brought a letter puzzle up to me now and asked me to open it so she can work while I type this.  I like to ask her to practice with me sometimes, but other times just have the letters mixed in with her other toys so she seeks them out herself.

We practice with her letter magnets every day during calendar.  Usually I say, "Can you find the (letter)?"  

Yesterday, I made this paper with the alphabet (in order) so she can match the magents and put them back.  Yesterday we played a game where I took a magnet off while her eyes were closed and said, "Which letter is missing?"  She answered and then we switched roles.  A small change, but she loved it!
When working on letter recognition, remember that asking,
"Can you find the T?"
is different than
pointing to a T and saying, "What letter is this?"

In one case you are providing the letter name and in the other case you are asking the child to produce it.  Both are important skills, but you should vary what you are asking.

Just in the last week while working with letters I've noticed that E knows almost all of her uppercase (confusion with U and W) so we are going to move on to more uppercase and lowercase letter matching.  I also noticed that she will put the G upside down if working with manipulatives...interesting!  The more we work with letters, the more her print awareness increases.  She is pointing out "ABCs" everywhere when we are out and about.

If you are just starting letter recognition with your child, I recommend the letters in their name for more meaning.  Name puzzles with the letters cut apart are how we began with E.

Here is what she set up during breakfast today.  She asked Daddy to find some letters for her.  Then he asked her to find the Zz (notice there is no Zz) and the poor girl looked and looked but would not give up and point to an incorrect letter!  
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Meal Planning

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
Meal planning ensures that we eat well, use the ingredients we have, and get a variety of foods in our diet. We use magnets to organize our meal plans.
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Farm Animal Sorting for Kids

We sort for every homeschool preschool unit! When we learned about farms we sorted farm animals and non-farm animals.

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How to Become a Consignor (for Beginners)

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
As I mentioned here, I am excited to be participating in my first consignment sale next month!  Judy from Berks Kids Closet has made this new-to-me experience seamless so I want to pass some of the tips I've learned on to you!  They are still accepting new consignors if you want to join me in selling!

- I started by contacting Judy to sign up to sell E's gently used clothing.  I got a consignor number that I will use for life when consigning through Berks Kids Closet.  This is incredibly helpful because it means I can tag the kids' clothing as they outgrow it throughout the year instead of waiting to get my number prior to each sale.  (They are held every six months.)

- I asked friends and family members to save me the hangers you get when purchasing new kids' clothing. You can also ask for hangers at retail store customer service desks. Between the stash I had and the several friends gave me, I had more than enough.

- Judy has a pricing guide available. Keep in mind that you'll bring home 70% of the profit of what you charge (provided you volunteer the day of the sale, otherwise you make 65%). You can also check Ebay and Craigslist for comparative pricing.

- There are also clear directions for tagging your items if you decide to sell.

- During the last hour of the sale, items are marked 1/2 off. If you do not want your items sold at a discount, you just highlight the tag on your clothing.

- You drop your items off the day before the sale and you get to shop that evening!

- You can either pick up your unsold items at 3 pm on Saturday or let them go to a local charity thrift shop (which I'll be doing, because that's where they would have gone anyway).

- LIKE Berks Kids' Closet on Facebook to get more information about their sales. Please post and let them know that Still Playing School sent you!

Berks Kids Closet honestly couldn't have made this process any easier. You can tell they are experienced (400+ families per sale) and well prepared! Everyone I know who has consigned and purchased through Berks Kids Closet before has great things to say about them!

If you are a local reader, please come shop the sale at the Lebanon Expo Center on Saturday, September 8th from 8 - 2!

You can also get in to shop the pre-sale on Friday, September 7th in the following ways:

- Email Judy to volunteer to work a shift on Saturday.

- If you live in the Lebanon, Annville, Palmyra, Jonestown, Hershey, Myerstown area, Berks Kids Closet is looking for additional places to display their sale signs. If you help advertise by putting a hand painted wooden sign in your yard, you can also shop at the pre-sale before it's open to the public! Contact Judy and let her know that Still Playing School sent you!
read more " How to Become a Consignor (for Beginners) "

Celebrating Violet's Birthday

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 10 Comments
On November 2nd, 2012 we will celebrate Violet's first birthday even though she isn't here to blow out her candle.

A fellow baby loss momma, talented graphic designer, and newly found friend, Bekah, made cards like these in memory of her sweet Corbin.  When I saw the idea, I knew that was it.  That was the perfect way to celebrate Violet's first birthday!  We can pass the love we have for her out into the world as she turns one.  Bekah generously offered to do the design.  I think they are gorgeous and they also have our little perfect baby on them!  I am so excited at the idea of everyone seeing my girl as they pass along the kindness.

You can celebrate with us by getting one (or more) of these cards.  The idea is that on her birthday, you do a random act of kindness and with it include this card.  Hopefully the recipient will not only pass along the love, but also come to Still Playing School to log how Violet (and you) touched their lives.

Please leave a comment to let us know if you'd like to participate and help us remember our sweet baby Vi.

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Bathtub Learning

Lately, I've been taking some time when E is not in the bathroom to clean her artwork off the tub walls.  Then I add my own art for her to find!  I did animals for pretend tub play during our farm theme.  She colored them in and fed them for several days.

We use these crayons which we got during the holidays.  They've lasted all year and wash off well:

Last night after she went to bed, I washed the animals off.  I added uppercase letters, her first and last name, shapes, and numbers.

During her bath, I asked her to find and circle letters and numbers.

After we did a few of those, she started erasing them with a wet brush, saying, "Bye bye E!  Bye bye L!"

Numbers, too!

She also erased her name, spelling it as she did so.

She loved this activity!

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Homeschool Preschool Plans - A Month In

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 7 Comments
Since August is almost over (!!!) we are finishing our trial month of homeschool preschool.  I am going to use this post to think aloud, make notes about what worked and what didn't, and talk about our plans moving forward.

I've found this great link about homeschool lesson planning and even though they seem to be working with older children, it really helped me get organized.  If you have any other links for lesson planning, please send them my way!

What went well in August:
- E LOVES school.  I do, too.
- She has our calendar routine down.
- A flexible schedule works well.  I'd like to have a few daily activities and some weekly ones and try to get to a certain number of tasks per day.
- Mixing preschool with scheduled social outings and activities varies our day.  This will continue in the fall as more of our activities start up again (library story time, dance class, our moms/kids group, Play & Learn classes).
- I found space in our house for school areas without feeling like it is taking over our home.  (More on these nooks later).
- The predictable text book I made with her name/pictures was a huge hit!  Maybe I can make one per theme so she has a whole library and we have a record of all we've studied.

What we need to work on/add for the fall:
- E asks for more work then I have planned, so I need to add in some non-themed activities that I can pull out any time. This will be especially helpful when D arrives.  Things she can do independently are even better.  Any ideas?  I love this quiet book and busy bag tasks like this.
- Make a visual schedule of our daily activities, maybe using magnets and incorporating it into our calendar board?
- We need more afternoon activities.  I was planning on doing most of our work in the morning, but if it is a day we are out and about, we could work after nap before dinner time since I am always looking for things to do then anyway.
- These monthly and weekly planning sheets provide a great framework.  I will probably continue to use the monthly sheets for blog and preschool planning and use the weekly one for our larger projects that I plan to blog about.  I need to create a system for daily planning
- Work on more organization and planning ideas!  I'd love to find some Pinterest boards all about homeschool planning, but I can't find quite what I'm looking for there.
- Finish gathering, buying, and prepping supplies.

Daily work:
calendar time
Handwriting without Tears (I need to order these wood pieces but I'll also be creating a lot of HWT materials myself.)
fine motor work (writing, coloring, scissors, tweezers, clothespins, play dough, scoop & pour)
invitations to play

Weekly/Per Theme:
felt board
journal writing (at least 2x a week)
letter identification 
uppercase and lowercase matching
letter sounds
pre-reading skills
number identification
science inquiry
real life discovery
pretend play
sensory play
read more " Homeschool Preschool Plans - A Month In "

Glow in the Woods - Guest Post

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
Glow in the Woods is an online community of baby loss parents who write so eloquently that I find myself sharing most of the posts published there, complete with quotes that speak to my soul like an old friend.

"One of us, only half-joking, said this will be a place where us medusas can take off our hats, none minding the sight of all the snakes. Because not only can we bear the sight of each other—we crave it."

I found the site in the early days of Violet's diagnosis.  I am so glad to have been able to find comfort and connections there.

I am also honored to be guest posting a bit about our story.
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Farm Fiction and Non-Fiction

I was shocked when I realized how many books we already owned about farms!  Fiction was covered!

We had:
Farmer Brown Sheers His Sheep: A Yarn about Wool by Teri Sloat

We visited one of our local libraries to check out a selection of non-fiction books.

E is more interested in the non-fiction books, asking me to read them to her more often.  I summarize the text a bit if it is wordy or above her level of comprehension.  

Since this was our first theme, I sorted the books into fiction and non-fiction for her.  She has access to both, but when she picks one out, we discuss if it is pretend or real, silly or teaching us something.

She loves studying this diagram of farm life.  We've discussed many times who and what is in the picture, what their roles are, and what we use the silo, tractor, and barn for on a farm.
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Our Other Violet

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
Happy birthday to another beautiful little girl named Violet who I am sure is the very best friend of our Violet. They share a name, a diagnosis, and a birth year.  They brought their mommies together via the internet and I hope to meet her some day in person.

A & F,

There are not words to express my sorrow for the fact that she is not here with you today, but we celebrate and love her with you from all over the world.  You are beautiful parents to her and your strength this past year has been an inspiration to me.  Just as you lit your violet candle when our Violet passed away, we will light ours tonight to celebrate your gorgeous daughter.  I hope today brings you peace and comfort.

I love you!
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Letters, Letters, Everywhere!

E has really taken off in her letter naming abilities.  I'm not sure if this is because of our more concentrated focus on them since we started preschool homeschooling or if it would have happened at this age anyway.  Regardless, I love it!  I told myself that if working with her in an academic way was a struggle for us, I would stop.  I was still always secretly hoping that she would be like me when I was little, wanting to "play" school, and thinking that workbooks were cool gifts.  Right now, this is fun for us both, so we are rolling with it.

She is picking out letters wherever we go.  We are lucky enough to live close to Hershey, home of the original chocolate factories.  Driving past the other day, she said, "Look, Momma!  ABCs!  I see an H!"

As I type this, she is sitting beside me, naming the letters along with her Leapfrog: Phonics Farm DVD.  

She always wants to know a word or name that starts with each letter because this is a way to make the letters meaningful to her.  She will say a letter, then ask, "For...?" wanting me to tell her a person we know who has a name that starts with the letter.  I need to start a list because we have people we love whose names start with U and X, but Z is stumping me.

Yesterday, at snack time, she told me that this pretzel looked like a D for baby D (her little brother).  She was so proud of herself for finding a D and making this real life connection to what it represents!  

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Great Videos for Our Farm Theme

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
As I mentioned in this post, our home theater PC in the living room allows us to use the internet in a more family friendly platform.  I don't mind letting E explore kid friendly YouTube videos when I can so easily see what she is watching.

Here are some videos related to farms and farm animals which we have been watching lately:

Leah's Farm is one of Rachel Coleman's Signing Time! songs.  Ever since we first started signing with E at 6 months old, we've loved Signing Time so this was one of the first video that came to mind.


Another favorite of ours is KidsTV123.  They have an animal sounds song (which is mostly farm animals) and an Old MacDonald sing along.

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Exploring Letters: Why We Don't Learn a Letter of the Week

Since teaching at a public school, I have adapted the value of a whole language approach to literacy education into my teaching philosophy.  Gone are they days of "a letter a week" with good reason and research to back up this change!
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By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
E is constantly giving us new parts of her like tiny gifts to unwrap each day.  She says a new expression, learns another song, takes on new interests.  We are always getting new glimpses at the facets of her, my husband and I glancing at each other over her head with our eyes wide in wonder. Where did she learn that?

There is so much anticipation surrounding baby D.  Who will he look like?  Will he nurse and sleep like E did?  How will he be the same?  How will he be different?  How will we learn to parent a boy?

I'm looking at Violet's pictures and videos this morning, searching for something I haven't seen before.  I just told a friend last week that I knew her so well, even after only 2 days.  That's true.  I definitely absorbed the whole essence of her being.  She lived like a star that was burning out, so bright, so powerful, so quick.

Yet, today it is not enough.  My heart aches for something new from her.  I want more.
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Sheppard Software Preschool Computer Game - Farm

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , , 1 Comment
Technology can be tricky with toddlers and preschoolers.  Parents worry about too much "screen time" but I really feel that there is a space for well selected, educational shows and games in a child's education.

When I taught kindergarten, we went to the computer lab once a 6 day cycle.  We also had rotating centers where each child would visit the computers in our classroom again once per 6 day cycle.  It was difficult to monitor 20 students using the internet, so we stuck with Starfall.  It was hard to navigate away from the page since there were no ads.  Children could be divided by their reading level (letters or beginning to read).  The directions were straight forward.  If a child didn't know what to click, the item would "sparkle" then  after a minute an arrow would highlight it.  This cut down on the time I had to assist the kids so I could assess students individually while they were all occupied with meaningful literacy games.  I also really liked the design and graphics.

E's daddy is a web developer, so she was interested in using technology early.  My husband got a home theater PC for our living room with a wireless mouse and keyboard.  This is wonderful for supporting E as she is working on computer games.  I can clearly see where she is clicking without hovering over her shoulder.  She likes to stand at the coffee table to use the mouse at her level.

I was planning resources for our first homeschool preschool unit: farms.  I'm not quite sure how exactly I stumbled upon Sheppard Software, but it involved searching for farm animal sorting games.  I had a paper or file folder game in mind, but was pleased with what I found instead!

The preschool section has games and short clips about colors, letters, numbers, shapes, and animals.  We started with the count and find game, but there is also a farm movie, a game with farm animal sounds, flashcards, and create a farm scene.  The game's levels were divided into animals, so first you had to click the increased in difficulty as the levels progressed.  By that, I mean the animals were more difficult to find and click.  E has pretty good fine motor control when using a mouse for her age, but at level 3, she handed it to me and asked me to keep playing.  Her attention was definitely captivated and remember, she is 2 1/2, so not quite the preschool age the game is targeted toward.

We loved when you clicked on the pigs and they went into the mud making a squishy sound!
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Preschool in Pajamas

One week in and we are LOVING our homeschool preschool routine.  E asked for "school" today.

We are sorting farm animals by size in our jammies.

We tried some line tracing for fine motor practice, but these diagonal zigzag lines were way too tricky.

This was so easy to adapt.  I pulled out this scissor practice page with vertical lines and we used that for tracing practice instead.  She rocked it.  

She loves tracing her name.  I use highlighter as she helps me name the letters in order, writing them one at a time.  

She even traced the E on this Elmo page, insisting that it was an E "for me!"

We also had some learning in our non-structed play this morning.  I was coloring Rainbow Dash, my favorite My Little Pony (what?!!) and she was helping me name the colors in the spectrum and finding the crayons for me.
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A Visit to the County Fair

We began our homeschool preschool unit on farm animals by spending the morning at the local fair.

I took E's picture with as many of the animals as possible.  She included her signature wink in some of the pictures (see above).  

I made a predictive text book with these photos.  Each page has a picture and a repetitive sentence like so:

E is with a sheep.  

E will be able to practice reading behaviors such as:
- pointing to the words in the sentence while we read them
- identifying her name and the letters in it (her full name will be used in the actual book)
- using the pictures to help her read the last word in the sentence, which will be the only word that changes from page to page

As she gets older, we can start to identify and highlight the sight words.

I will also use other predictable text books for our theme on farms, but I think this will be a favorite because the winking star of the pictures will be reading the book!  
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The Little Nursery Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 12 Comments
When Meredith from The Little Nursery contacted me to do a review/giveaway here at Still Playing School it was perfect timing!  We were just about to find out that baby D was a boy.  I told her we were planning on decorating his room in a robot theme so she sent us this beautifully handcrafted light switch cover for his room:

I told her our theme and the colors I wanted to use and her artistic talent did the rest.  How cute and cheery!

I'd love to order one in this style for E's room, pink of course:

She also paints drawer knobs and custom letters:

The Little Nursery has generously offered one lucky reader a themed light switch cover and outlet cover.  To enter, please go to her shop to look at the light switch covers.  Then come back here and comment with which style you like or what theme would work for your child's room. (Even if it is a theme that isn't available in the shop let us know because Meredith is willing to try to work with you to custom make you something that works for your child!)

For an extra entry, check out The Little Nursery on Facebook and leave a comment telling her that Still Playing School sent you!  Then come back here and leave a SEPARATE comment letting us know you did so.

Comments are CLOSED!

Meredith kindly gifted baby D this light switch cover to do this review, but I wrote the opinions myself. Also, I was not additionally compensated in any way for this review/giveaway.
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