Friday, October 15, 2010

Learning by Heart – week 2 (part 2, where we actually do school stuff)

The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom”
-Henry Ward Beecher


Thank you so much to everyone who had title suggestions for me last week.  You are all so creative and brilliant. :)  I’m going with the above for now (not sold on it 100%, but it’s definitely growing on me).

We’ve had another not-normal week, because Daddy has a lot of vacation time to use up and was home quite a bit (we celebrated both of our birthdays too).  It is wonderful to have him home, don’t get me wrong, but part of me would like to have a chance to settle into a normal routine for a week or two – to help figure out housework, outings, and “doing school”, as M says.  Since we are just doing preschool, it’s not that big of a deal, just something I have to be patient about (and obviously I need to work on just enjoying having our whole family together).  That said, I have a question for those of you homeschool mamas who are more experienced and have older children.  If your husband works odd hours or is home quite a bit, does it affect your homeschool routine?  And if so, is it affected in a good way, or is it something you struggle with?  What have you done to ensure school work gets done, as well as other responsibilities?  Maybe not everyone is a routine-and-schedule-lover like me, and I do need to learn some flexibility, but it’s something I can see becoming a stress factor for me if I were to homeschool M in the future.  Any thoughts about this are very much appreciated!

On to what we accomplished…


Tweezing felt autumn-themed stickers (Target, dollar spot!) into the slot of a little treasure box. tweezing felt leaves


Our homemade build-a-letter set, lowercase version:buildalettersets111

I used glitter foam for the pieces, which made it a bit more inviting for M, who does like him a little bling:buildalettersets11

Uppercase version too, in gold glitter foam ;) :buildalettersets211

Hit of the week – rubbing plates for B and b, and objects that begin with ‘b’:Bbrubbingplates22

He did this over and over.  He loved using the double stick tape to stick the card to the mini clipboard.  Then he used a brown or blue crayon to rub over the picture:Bbrubbingplates31

Here’s a sampling.  They really turned out great, and we had many of these little guys by the end of the week:UntitledStitched043Clockwise, from upper left – B, b, bumblebee, bus, bird with a balloon.  I made the ‘B’ and ‘b’ and bus from rough sandpaper, and the others were pictures found online; I simply went over the lines with hot glue.  I’m sure regular glue would work too.

Button board, to work those fine motor skills:buttonboard1

Stick puppets for the poems 5 Little Squirrels and 5 Little Owls:owlpuppet1

Our puppet theater is simply a tension rod in a doorway with a blanket thrown over it:owlpuppetshow1

Autumn-themed play dough number mats with autumn colored play dough, made with cinnamon, mmm:playdohmats11

These were a pretty big hit too!playdoh1

Letter leaves to clip and spell M’s name* (with a “cheat sheet” for him to look at):nameleaves51*I know just about everyone knows M’s name is Matthew.  It’s not something I’ve tried to hide… I only use his initial because I am just too darn lazy to spell his name out all the time.  I’m wordy (in case you haven’t noticed!) and there’s enough typing going on here as it is…



M’s first weaving lesson, which was also a big hit now that I think of it.  I used a foam bowl that once held mushrooms, and threaded yarn through it to make the warp.  I looked for more “manly” ribbons, but what you see is all I had.  M didn’t seem to mind. ;)weaving11



M played with his KID K'NEX , making creations while actually looking at the “constructions” and figuring out how to make each one.  This is not an easy task because the pictures show the finished product, which means M had to use reasoning skills to figure out what to do first, second, and so on.  And sometimes he had to guess at what kind of connector was used.  He did great and was SO proud of himself! k'nex


Together Activities:

New ‘B’ objects for the phonics box – blue bird, brown button, bead, blue bear button, bear, bumblebee, boat, boy, bunny, bird:phonicsbox11

We took out all the ‘A’ and ‘B’ objects and M sorted them into two groups by beginning sound:phonicsbox111


More work with the bead bars.  This time we added in the number cards and introduced the golden bead bar for #10.  M is itching to really learn how the whole teen and twenties (and so on) thing works, I’m just waiting for him to become more familiar with the color of the beads for each number, since that plays such a big role in this method.  He’s playing around a lot with “twenty-teen” and “eighty-teen” and that kind of thing when he counts, so I know he’s curious and trying to figure it all out. :)beadbarsandnumbercards1


I’ve had these sand art color by number kits around for ages.  M doesn’t have the fine motor control to really do color or paint by number activities, but this was perfect!  I used old peanut butter lids to hold the sand and he peeled off the pieces for each number, then pinched a little sand in the correct color and sprinkled it on.  He LOVED this activity!  I got this at Michael’s for $1.00, I think.  I’ve linked the text above to some similar kits on Amazon.sandpicturescolorbynumber1

Close up of him working.  If you haven’t seen these before, you peel off each section and the sand sticks to the sticky surface underneath.sandpicturescolorbynumber211

In the end, you have these pretties, though not so blurry as my bad photo-taking skills make them out to be:sandpicturescolorbynumber111It was a great activity for numeral review and fine motor skills.


And then one day when Mommy was awfully busy, he came up with his own little activity.  A car wash with soapy water and an old toothbrush.  He spent over an hour washing all of his little cars!scrubbingtrucks1                               

Just having fun…

The newest member of our family is this super cute scarecrow, who is supposed to keep the deer away from our garden, but isn’t quite living up to our expectations.  Ah well, he’s cute, and very loved by someone in particular:scarecrow11




We’ve been having gorgeous weather here, exactly like October should be!  We are loving it.  I thought I’d share pics from our favorite walking trail along the creek near our home.

trails (11)

Sunlight hitting the tips of prairie grass.

trails (1)my boys :)
 trails (3) There’s a lot of yellow, red, and brown this time of year, but somehow my camera was attracted to the pretty greens that still remain. ;)

trails (5) Playing “Pooh Sticks”

trails (10) I love the cool blue of the autumn sky next
to the yellow tips of the tall trees.

I’m linking this post up to Preschool Corner and Weekly Wrap-Up; be sure to check them out!

Have a beautiful day! :)



  1. Personally I like it because it has double meaning. but maybe you'll like Heart of Learning better? You got me thinking...

  2. I love the title choice :)

    So, what do I do regarding scheduling when daddy has an erratic schedule? Firstly, I don't worry about any fluxuations in the schedule.

    If daddy comes and takes little guy to the park during a time I normally might do preschool activities, I simply do them when they get back or at a different time. To me, the time with daddy is precious, whereas the activities can be done anytime.

    Having said that, my hubby DOES know that I like to have some "learning time" from about 9am-10am, so he would not likely interrupt unless his free time was very limited and the day just kinda SCREAMED to them both that they NEEDED to go spend time together. My husband will go hide in another room to work on the computer or some project while I'm working with the kids.

    As my oldest (13) got into higher grades, obviously learning time expanded. Our goal was to work from about 8:30am - lunch, and then be done for the day (with homeschooling, one can easily cover in 3-4 hours what takes a public school 6 hours to accomplish). If her father wanted to take her somewhere, or if she had a morning activity like dance class (for example), we simply would push her learning time to the afternoon. We'd try to get an hour of learning in before/during/on breaks from her activity so that only 2 hours or so remained for the afternoon. It was also not unheard of for us to finish those 2 hours in the evening!

    My system was that I took old dish buckets, 1 for each subject, and filled them with the work to be done that day (nowadays, the system of using a tall, stacking drawer system seems to be more popular and practical).

    Just like at the local high school, we only planned 4 subjects a day. I made up a calendar on my computer and so each day had the 4 subjects we'd be working on. We'd simply put a check next to each one we completed. One day might be math, english (grammar), social studies and art while the next day might be reading/lit, science, math (we did some math every day) and a rotating elective.

    Sometimes it made more sense to save reading for in the car or for just before bedtime (her favorite time to read, to be honest...and she's VERY happy to read for a full hour and then WILL retain enough of what she read to fill out a brief summary the next day after breakfast).

    Some people really need a specific time to be held each day, but I find it is not realistic for our family. Personally, I feel that "real life" and snuggle time with daddy always should come first for our family. The work will get done! Just pick a few choices of possible times for school work, and be prepared to switch things around. One day everything might all get done by lunch, the next only half will get done before lunch while the other half gets done during 3pm and supper (for example), and still another day nothing gets started till 3pm, and even then only 3 subjects get done while reading is saved for the hour before bedtime.

    Good luck!! :)

  3. I just wanted to tell you thank you for sharing. Some of the things you do are simple yet profound and it helps me think I actually can do it whereas with other Mommy blogs I feel I could never live up to that. You are amazing! I did want to ask how old M is if that is okay. Thanks!

  4. Mama Moose -
    Thank you so much for this comment. You have no idea how much it means to me - I was literally sitting here feeling a little depressed with myself because I was comparing myself to all those other mommies out there that have it so much more "together" than me! It's hard not to compare ourselves, isn't it? Anyway, then your comment popped up in my email and literally made my day. I feel so much better just by reading your couple of sentences. Thank you so, so much!! :)

    Matthew just turned 4, btw.

    Witchy Mom - thank you for the advice! I am taking it to heart and trying to remember what is *really* important!

    Joyful Learner - I wrote this post several days ago and in that time, the title has really grown on me. I actually love it now (ha ha, I'm fickle). Thank you!

  5. Great week. We absolutely struggle with organization here. When Daddy is not on a ship, he works very few hours and they are rarely the same every day. It's very hard to get Crumpet to settle down to do school, when Daddy is here to play with! I thought it would get easier when Dad went to sea, but now we have a rotating set of visitors, and they're fun too, so still, when to do school?? I'm learning to squeeze it in at random times - a subject here, a project there... I'm like you - I love routine, but I can't seem to get into a groove here right now, so we are just making it work however we can. Fortunately, it is just preschool, and this is a practice year to see if we can make homeschooling work with out crazy life. And, always remember, (and you are the best at remembering this of all the bloggers I read), life school is far more important than book work. By the way, I would LOVE it if you were closer so we could hang out while hubby is away. And when he's here too. I think we'd like each other, and I really want to meet your little artist. Come visit Hawaii!!

  6. What an awesome learning time!! You guys are doing great! I love the sand art I didn't even know something like that existed!! Love the eighty-teen and all the numbers he is trying to figure out!

  7. We struggle too on the random days jeff is off

  8. I love that you played "pooh sticks" my dd would love to try that I bet.

    I found your blog at Homeschool Creations.

  9. My husband has just switched to a 12-hour night shift. :( So he works 6pm-6am, 36 hours one week, and 48 hours the next week. The days off are never the same. He works every other weekend. It's totally throwing me off, and I kind-of hate it. :/ Sometimes he tries to help, but he's also tired and needing his own break time. But I can't have the tv on during school hours, or we're all distracted! I don't know what the answer is yet. We've only been at this new schedule for a couple of weeks. I'm praying things will get better; we have ot learn some coping mechanisms!!
    Thank you for sharing.

  10. Oh, and I LOVE all of your awesome activities!! You've given me so many ideas-- and we've been homeschooling for 6 years, not including preK.
    Very inspiring!


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