Friday, June 8, 2012

Teaching Without Workbooks: Preschool and Kindergarten

If you have been Teaching your baby from day 1 - you are already well on your way to continue Teaching Without Workbooks.

The ages between 2 1/2 to 6 are the second most rapid growth and absorption of any age.  Repetition is the key to a solid foundation - most children at this age respond well to tactile, auditory, and motion while learning.  Sitting still is really not their thing yet - as that part of their brain is still developing.   Of course that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be taught.  Most children can quickly learn to sit still on your lap or beside you while you read a story - or to sit quietly and color while listening to an audio book.

So, here are some upgraded steps from the last post ... it might sound a bit repetitious.

1.  Keep your child with you as much as possible.  Your child will learn so much watching you and listening to you talk and interact with others.  ... Keep doing this!  And if you are just starting, it's not too late!   No, you don't have to sleep with them or take them to the bathroom - privacy is allowed.
Some examples:
You are going to the mailbox - take them with you - all of them!  Unless it is dangerous - I know out here, some people have to cross the highway.
Let them look at the stamps, look up post mark locations on a map, show them what is inside - is it junk?  Let them write on it and "pay bills" while you do the real thing.
Cooking supper?  Let them help chop and stir and watch the pot boil.   This is a great time to teach math, measurement, time, temperature, chemical reactions, fractions, addition, compare sizes, letters and reading ... if all you ever do for school is cook - your child will have amassed a great deal of knowledge.
Cleaning house?  Show them how to dust, pick up and sort their toys, fold socks, and everything in between.  Sunshine already is very good at sorting and folding socks, and sweeping the floor.
Shopping?  Let them help find the food on your list - show them how to cross check prices - let them feel the differences in weight.  Let them pick out something new in the produce department.
Just include them.

2.  Talk to your child.  It doesn't matter at all what you say.  Talk about the sky, the dirt, your life when you were a child, tell them how you met their dad, or how their grandparents met.  Talk about what they learned in church and Sunday School.  Ask them how they feel, what do they like .... talking lets them know that you are interested in them as a person.  It helps them develop an ear for grammar usage and expands their vocabulary.  Try learning a new word everyday.  Your child will love this game - using a new word as much as possible during the day.  Story's favorite game (still) was to go down the road looking for letters of the alphabet, which is now looking for entire words.  Song and Scholar are accomplished players, and Sunshine is taking notes.  Singing is great too - teach them your favorite songs, silly songs, and worship songs.  Singing can be a great way to learn difficult information or memorize lists and Bible verses.

3.  Make games of everything you do - be silly and have fun.   Sing and dance.   Just about anything can be turned into a game - sort the veggies by colors, who can mate the most socks (you do the solid whites and blacks - let the child do the patterns).  Make up games.  Look in books for hand games like "patty cake" and "where is thumbkin" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider".   Cut up an old calendar and make a game of putting the numbers in order.  Use dominoes to play addition games.  There are whole websites and books dedicated to teaching while you play.  It doesn't matter if the book is 50 years old - you can still find great ideas.  Sing silly spelling songs, color songs, and more as you work - (tune of This is the Way ... so early in the morning)    "My blue plate is a great big circle, a great big circle, a great big circle, my blue plate is a great big circle, it goes round and round.  My sandwich is a square, is a square, is a square, my sandwich is a square, and it's really yummy!  My m.i.l.k is so white, is so white, is so white,  my  m.i.l.k  is so white, it came from a cow."  ..... Just make it up as you go along.

4.  Read, read, read.   And talk about the words and sounds.  Visit the library and rotate books through your house.  Don't be shy about reading long classic stories such as The Wind in the Willows, science and history books, and other "deep" topics.  In recent years, a whole host of "picture books" have been written to appeal to younger and younger audiences.  Magic Tree House, Magic School Bus, Dr. Seuss Science books, American Girls, and so much more.  There are so many Free Kindle books available as well, and Scholar loves to stand at our computer and read the picture books to Sunshine.   Biography's are making a huge comeback, and there are more educational fun stories than ever before in history.   Reading teaches grammar and vocabulary as well.  Always talk about what you read - see if they can remember the details.  Also this allows you to teach them how to listen for "the underlying theme" of a book.   Ask questions like, "How do you think Bilbo felt while he was talking to Golumn?"  or  "What you have done if you were in this situation?  What do you think God would want you to do?  Are there any stories in history or the Bible that are similar to this?"

5.  Play outside.  .... I could just leave the paragraph here from the last post .... but I can also add .... use some creativity.  Now is a good time to start recycling containers for bugs and leaves.  Look for some good baby silverware for digging in the dirt.  If you have a good yard with dirt and sand, once a week or so, strew it with something interesting ... marbles, pennies, beads, odds and ends from packaging (recycle the lids from your milk containers), and find a good sieve and let the child dig and explore.   ....   If you do not have a nice yard, look up "sensory tubs" and make a few.  Usually these are tubs of ... dirt, rice, beans, etc .... and some theme .... maybe it's got a lot of aquarium rocks and sand with some plastic fish.   Or soldiers.  Or maybe it's rice with tons of craft sticks for building fences for their zoo animals.  .....  Water tubs are great too.  And water play can be in the pool or bathtub or helpful - my girls LOVED being allowed to wash the silverware, plates, and plastic cups (we had a scrub brush that made tons of bubbles).   If at all possible, make sure this sensory play is outside.

6.  Art and Creativity.  At this age, art is STILL so easy.  Children can be amused with a spot of canned whipped cream with a drop of  food coloring - or two spots of cream with 2 different colors, a stack of blocks, or gibblets of colored paper with a scrap page to glue it to .... draw a shape or letter and let them glue along the lines.   Cheap or free craft items are easy to find.  Start with basic school supplies - buy glue when it is 25c a bottle during the back to school sales, a very good pair of scissors, glue sticks, crayons and colored pencils.  I actually avoid markers until my child is 5 or so.  Then watch for recycle crafts.  Actually, just turn your child loose as they get older.  You should see the things seven's children come up with!   And the Crafty Crow is another great place for ideas.   Oh .. and Filth Wizardry - almost every craft she does is from her recycle box - and end up being amazing fun toys.   Things to save include clean plastic bottles, cereal boxes, scratch paper, bottle lids, odd bits of games and puzzles, strings, buttons, yarn, bits of left over craft projects - like the cut off parts when sewing or scrapbooking.

7.  Music ... even if it is just listening.  Music should be part of every day, or at least every week.  This doesn't mean you have to take dance classes or learn to play a violin or piano.  This means learning to sing with the right tempo and pitch (or trying to). It means listening to classical music while coloring.  It means playing singing games to practice rhythm.  You can build a tamborine or water xylophone.

8.  Pencil or Crayon work.  This should increase the closer the child gets to 6.  Most children should be able to write their own first name or nick name by age 4.  (So if your child is Samantha - they should be able to write Sam).  By 5, half of all children should be able to write their whole first name, and (if they are short) perhaps first and last name.  By 6, 75% of children should be able to write their first and last name.   Writing developes fine motor skills - which is why coloring in the lines is important.  Get your child to hold the pen or pencil right from the very first day - it is so much harder to teach it while they are unlearning bad habits later.   There are lots of pencil grips for this.  ...  Don't feel like this should take hours.  Just a few minutes a day.

9.  Science experiments.  You don't have to buy kits.  There are tons of ideas online - and there are Science Fair books in most public libraries that can lend themselves to all kinds of creative discovery.  A science experiment can be as simple as a block of wood and a piece of sand paper (just don't let the child sand your hard wood floors or favorite piece of furniture).  Talk about friction, energy, saw dust, and whatever else you can think of.

10.  Creative Building - Supply your child with building materials - wooden blocks, legos, sticks, cardboard shapes with slots cut in them, or whatever else - if you are brave - give them nails and screws and hammers and screwdrivers.  Teach tool safety.  Get them making something - houses - airplanes - bird houses ... Let the child be creative.   ...  Let them create elaborate train or car tracks all over a room and play with it for a while.   The idea is constructive creativity.

11.  Clay ... or other squishy creative substances ...
Dyslexia runs in our family - both the Ref and I are dyslexic, and Story and Song are both dyslexic.  Scholar is showing subtle signs of it as well.
One of the BEST ways I've found to teach letters and numbers that helps as a therapy for dyslexia (which is really an ability to think 3 dimensionally instantaneously) is to make the letters and numbers with Clay.

When we stopped and used this program with Story - at age 7, she went from a struggling reader to a 3rd grade reader over the summer.   Song didn't get to do the program - she got frustrated with how stiff the clay was and refused to participate.  Last year, she picked up the book and began to follow some of the advice, and it really helped.   Now that she is older, I'm going to have her do the program with Scholar this summer.

But every child will benefit from the holding a 3D object (magnets, clay, pipe cleaners, etc) in their hand of their letters and numbers.  The more mediums through which your child experiences the letters and numbers as you talk about them, the more firmly it will be fixed into their brain.  This is true of every subject really.   You can use craft sticks, blocks, their hands or bodies, sticks, dirt, shaving cream, cheerios, ... anything and everything.   I will be posting ideas as Sunshine learns her alphabet this Fall.

There are some topics that you will definately want to cover.  There are many books and lists online about "what your child should know by age "whatever".   So I'm just going to give you a basic list of what to aim for between 2 1/2 and 6 years of age.

Numbers - Count unaided to 20.  Aim to count to 100
Recognize and write numbers to 100
ABC's - Upper and lower case, primary sounds
Colors - a standard 12 count of crayons.  Try for 24 box. Mixing primary.
5 Senses
Safety Rules
Basic Health
Basic Time - to the hour, most will be able to do half hour, try for full time
Basic Money - all coins, try for exchanging coins (2 nickels = dime)
Write Full Name
Write all of the Letters and Numbers - at least copy them.
Simple addition and subtraction concepts
Simple grammar and sentence structure
Basic shapes
Months and Days of Week
Understand the basics of most holidays
Cut curves and zig zags
Glue without help
Hold a pencil correctly
Color inside the lines - and recognize that trees are green and water is blue
Expand a simple pattern
Sort by shape and color and texture
Line up from biggest to smallest and vica versa
Jump on both feet forward at least a foot
Jump in place on each foot (one at a time)
Bend over and touch toes without falling over or bending knees
Walk on a straight (2 inch wide) line.
Stack blocks 5 high
Know nouns and verbs (cat is a thing - run is an action)
Capital vs lowercase letters
Question mark and period
Basic map skills  (like what they do on Dora)
Basic solution skills (like Blue's Clues)
Basic manners
Fix a simple meal for themselves
Identify common animals and their sounds
Identify common zoo animals and their sounds
Names of baby animals (kitten, puppy, colt)
Identify most common objects and their names  (Get a good My First Dictionary)

That is all I can think of right now.

One more thing ... somewhere around age 4 - after they have realized that words have meaning.   Go around your house labeling as many common items as you can ... bathtub, kitchen, stove, refrigerator, hair brush, comb ...etc.   Especially label the things that he comes in contact with every day.   As you label the object WITH him, spell out the word and tell him what it says.  Most kids will soon be able to recognize at least a dozen of these words within a few months - no matter where they are seen.   Make a habit of pointing to words as you pass them and saying them.   Even if your child shows no interest immediately - sooner or later, he will begin to study the words.   Later, when they are learning to read, these will be familiar friendly words, and make reading less of a chore.

Note:  Not all children will be able to do this on schedule - this is assuming you have a completely average normal or above average child.


Even a special needs child can learn this way - and often with amazing results.  Even if she can't say a single word, or can barely move, including her as much as possible as you go about the day will be a priceless gift to the child.

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