FIRST Day of Preschool

sunny-tablewith-wordsA new semester has brought a new group of students.  Today they all took their first step into preschool class.  Most were pretty timid upon walking through the door.  A few tears were shed during the first hour, but they were easily assuaged with a little comforting.  My philosophy with my students is to entice them out of their shell rather than push.  In preparation for first day jitters, I had each parent send me a family picture ahead of time.  When the children came into the classroom, they took off their coats and hung them up.  Then they were told to go to the photo table and find their family.  Hah!  Here’s a task they could not fail.  They KNEW the answer to this test!  You could see visible relief on their faces as they marched themselves and “their family” over to our table to choose a seat.  I try to have Mylar balloons for each student this first day of class.  Who doesn’t love a Mylar balloon?  They make the atmosphere feel fun and festive right off the bat.

 

WELCOME ACTIVITY
The students found a seat they liked, propped their family photo against their balloon’s weight and proceeded to engage in doing wooden puzzles.  Very few preschoolers can resist the draw of bright wooden puzzles, but I had one today.  He was particularly nervous and could not be drawn out by the lure of puzzles.  Luckily, he was excited to see my shape-sorter ball on the table as well.  This was a “puzzle” he could enjoy.

SCHOOL SKILLS HOUR
Once all the kids had arrived and had sufficient time to explore the puzzles, we welcomed the class and went around the table with each student holding up their picture and telling us about who was in their family.  We noticed that some of our students were the oldest in their family while others were the youngest.  Some had both older and younger siblings.  Two families had all boys and one family had all girls.   I asked students to raise their hands if they had 2 kids in their family, 5 kids, etc.  It was a great time to compare how our families were similar and different.

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After everybody got a chance to share about their family, we brought out my Snail’s Pace Race game.  This is probably THE BEST preschool game around.  I like to think of it as a preschool version of the Kentucky Derby, but without the betting.  Theoretically, it is a non-competitive game, but kids can always find a way to compete.  Playing games is a wonderful way to teach a child so many skills, not the least of which is, “How to be a good winner/loser.”  We went over that lesson, and then I took note of the behavior of the children.  Do they have their colors down? (Yes!) Can they play by the rules?  Do they take turns nicely?  Does anybody try to cheat?  The kids took turns rolling the color dice and moving the snails and we all cheered for each snail as it crossed the finish line.

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Mylar Balloons with Tiny Solo Cup Baskets

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Stones kept our balloons anchored until we were ready to do our experimenting with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night before, I’d weighted the Mylar balloons by tying them to tiny Solo cup “shot glasses” which I’d melted holes into by using an ice pick which I’d heated up by holding it over the flame of the stove.  Just as I’d hoped, the shot glasses were not enough weight to hold the balloons down, so I added a stone to each cup to keep the balloons weighted. Back to our school time —  I had the children remove the stones from their cups and we spent several minutes delighting in letting the balloons go and trying to catch them before they got away.  Then I laid an assortment of small items out on the table — toothpicks, Q-Tips, little Lego people, hairbands, tiny pom pom balls, fish and teddy bear counters.  I challenged the students to experiment with what it took to keep their cup down.  We found about 4 toothpicks was enough for one boy.  Another discovered that if he put two pom poms in, the balloon sort of floated mid-air.  Some kids had fun just seeing how full they could stuff their cups with all the trinkets.

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One little bear made this balloon kind of jump around. It took two to anchor it securely.

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With no added weight, the balloon would float to the ceiling. With just the right amount of added weight you could get it to hover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We folded baby wipes then painted designs on the top layer, and reinforced the design by adding extra paint where needed on the bottom layer.

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Unfolding brought squeals of delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ART PROJECT
For our art project, we made “tie-dyed” squares.  I got the idea here.  We found it much easier for 4-year-old hands to just fold the baby wipe into quarters rather than twisting and wrapping rubber bands around them.  We painted them with these wonderful liquid watercolors.  While this meant we had to turn our folded wipe over and reapply some of the colors to the backside, I think the results were just as satisfying.

SNACK TIME
Snack time was  another learning experience.  Besides apple slices, we gave the children graham crackers and a little pot of peanut butter and instructed them how to use their plastic knife to spread the peanut butter.  Next they were offered mini chocolate chips, chopped pecans and coconut flakes to sprinkle on top.  Some had never tried coconut before but found they liked it.  This led to a conversation about how even though new experiences (like trying coconut or coming to the first day of preschool) might seem a little scary,  if we are always afraid to try new things, we will miss out on so much in life.

GROUP GAME
Our group game involved sitting around in a circle on the floor and taking turns rolling a ball across the circle to each other.  As we rolled the ball, we had to shout out our name.  Simple as this was, the kids anxiously waited for their turns and seemed to really enjoy the activity.

FREE PLAY
Now, the last hour of our day, it was time for free-play.  Today’s stations included playing with our tunnel, wooden blocks, rubber animals, stacking cups, this Fisher-Price gumball machine (which, even at 4 years old, these kids can’t seem to get enough of),  throwing sock balls to try to hit a Mylar balloon tied to a chair, and a story time corner.  We also brought the wooden puzzles back out for those who didn’t get enough of them earlier in the day.  All play stations got lots of activity.  Free play is a vital part of the preschool experience.  After spending over two hours in the classroom following directions and mostly staying seated, these kids need time to roam and explore.  It’s a wonderful social experience where kids learn to take turns, share toys, cooperate, create and, in some cases, stand in line.

Blocks, animals and cups? The possibilities are endless.

Blocks, animals and cups? The possibilities are endless.

When the parents showed up to pick up their “experienced” preschoolers, they were met with happy faces and chattering children anxious to share about their day.  In order to enhance this communication between parents and children, I send home a take-home letter listing all that we did that day and post pictures to our private group page.

Parenting and Home Schooling Goals: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Today I’m going to write a challenge to parents, particularly to home school parents, but it is applicable to all parents.  When we first started home schooling, nearly 3 decades ago, we were advised to write a mission statement, to remind us why we chose this route and to help us focus on our goals.  I’m not sure I ever did that, and probably it would have changed quite a bit over the years.  In its simplest form, it would have been to teach my sons to love learning.  To that end, I’ve definitely succeeded. 

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Some of the other goals I may have set – goals which conference speakers directly or indirectly encouraged us to seek – we didn’t reach.  There was a lot of perfection pressure in the home school community in decades past.  It’s still there to some degree, though the direction may have changed a little.  Ultimately, I found making these things my goals often hampered what I’ve come to hold as my most important goal and also put unfair expectations on my boys.  All this pressure to present the perfect picture can wrongly imply to your child that he isn’t good enough – will never be good enough.

I discovered some years back that I was starting to develop a “salvation through home schooling” mentality.  If I did everything right, my boys would embrace my values, love the Lord and live to please Him.  If I parented as well as I was supposed to, I could save my children from choosing sin.   Oh, I probably would never have admitted or even recognized that’s what I was doing, but when it came down to it, that’s what it was.  One of my mantras now is, “You can’t home school (parent) the sinful nature out of your children.”  That’s not your job, and it’s not possible.  If it were, we wouldn’t need the saving grace of God.  We wouldn’t need Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection to give us true salvation.

Anyway, I didn’t do everything right; I did a lot of things wrong.  For one thing, my boys grew up with a mom who struggled with, at times, debilitating depression.  Striving for perfection can often lead to depression, by the way.  It took some hard knocks to wake me up to what I was doing.  My husband once told me I had to quit trying to make our kids fit other people’s standards for them.  This too I vehemently denied and I deceived myself.  First I tore him down for not setting (“suitable”) standards for our children.  Then I beat myself up for not being able to model, much less convince my children to adopt, those standards.  I’m here to tell you, you can and should model Christ to your children; this should be our real focus and our constant prayer.  You can lead your children toward Christ, but how, when and even if they truly accept His grace is between them and Jesus.   They will make mistakes and they will force you to face your own mistakes.

I have watched decades of kids graduate from home schooling.  I have talked with dozens of moms distraught over the choices made and actions taken by their adult children.  It is hard to accept the brittleness of goals you put so much effort into achieving.  I have learned we were looking at the wrong goals.

And so I challenge the present generation of hard-working parents:

If you are doing this (home schooling / raising children) to raise saints for the Kingdom, that is a good and godly goal, but they may grow up to rebel.

If you are doing this for “social security” — that is, so your kids will be your friends, that is a lovely goal for your adult children (younger children need you at a different level), but they may walk away from you.

If you are doing this to raise an academic genius, it’s entirely possible they may end up being “average” students.

If you are doing this to proudly build a tower of success (shame on you) it will likely come tumbling down.

If you are doing this to knit your family tightly together, you may succeed, or it may all unravel.

If you are doing this to keep your children from the world, it may result in them clinging to the ways of the world with all their might.

If you are doing this to earn a badge of honor for yourself, you deserve a badge of shame.

If you are doing this to prove you can, you are always at risk of proving you can’t.

What do you do when you have poured all your energies into a goal which ultimately you have no control over?

There is, I have found, only one purpose for home schooling or everyday parenting of your children which is pretty much guaranteed to get the desired results.  That is, you are doing this as an exercise in love and obedience.  Every opportunity you take to love and obey is pretty much guaranteed to expand your ability to love and obey.  In the process, you will have very likely strengthened your family.  Honestly, who can ever have too much exercise in loving those given to us by God?  And who can ever claim they aren’t in need of practice in obeying the Lord? 


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To that end, I have found one response to parenting and home schooling challenges which always seems to work.  Love your children in such a way that they will know they are loved.  Whether they embarrass you, question you, defy you, hurt you – and they will — respond with love.  Read 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 if you need a reminder of what love looks like.  That chapter does not just apply to marriage, in fact, I believe it speaks more to how God loves us.  It is a model of how we ought to love one another.

If you have to cut off friendships that are hurting your relationship with your children, cut them off.  If you have to sacrifice some of your ideals, sacrifice them.  If loving your child means readjusting the goals you set for them, then do it.  When your child needs correcting, let it be given with love, not anger.

When it comes to the “schooling” part of home schooling, love is what drives you to seek the right approach to help your child understand.  Love is what enables you to ask for help when you need it.  Love is what gives you the strength and ability to make the sacrifices required.  Love is what brings you to your knees in prayer to understand, build, strengthen and enable that child.

Read great books to your children.  Teach them the math, science and grammar skills they’ll need.  Teach them history, handwriting and health.  Teach them to love God, their family, their country.  Teach them the life skills they will need and teach them to give of themselves.  But also, be sure to teach their hearts to dance.   Teach them to laugh and sing and hug.  Listen to their heart.  Recognize their strengths and come alongside them in their weaknesses.  They are not your trophies; they are your gift and your responsibility.

When all is said and done, it is near impossible for your child to succeed in life and happiness if they don’t believe they are loved. 

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Home School Co-op Ideas

As a follow-up to my home school co-ops post, here is a list of some of the group learning activities we’ve done over the years.  Some are not technically a co-op, but they still present excellent opportunities to learn together with other families.

HISTORY PARADE -Gather together a group of creative families with each family committing to creating an entry for the parade.  Each family’s entry displays what they are studying in history that year.  This could involve costumes, banners, wagon floats, perhaps even a musical piece from that period of history.  Set a date for your parade (I suggest February, to alleviate those mid-year blues.) and arrange to march through the halls of a local senior living complex  or assisted living facility(or several of them). Just parading through the halls will greatly bless the residents, but if you want to go further, have some families take responsibility for handing out notices ahead of time to the residents to guarantee a great audience.

A parade in the nursing home is a fun and unique experience which will delight the residents if you're not too noisy.

A parade in the nursing home is a fun and unique experience which will delight the residents if you’re not too noisy.

Other families can organize refreshments which you share with the residents while you visit with them or give presentations about what you are studying.

PRAIRIE PRIMER – In this wonderful year-long co-op we went through the Prairie Primer and decided what activities we wanted to do together as a group.  Each family read through the corresponding Little House book for the month and did whatever other activities out of the book they wanted to cover as a family. We met twice a month for group activities, with different families hosting each gathering and all 6 families contributing assigned duties for each meeting.  Some of the terrific things we did together included:

  • making cheese
  • non-electric night in which we had a night of entertaining activities by candle light and the punched tin lanterns the kids made at the previous activity.
  • doing a shadow theater which was really awesome
  • a prairie Christmas celebration
  • making silhouette portraits
  • making leather mocassins
  • a night with the grandparents which included square dancing and a “Farmer Boy”  banquet of recipes from the Little House Cookbook
  • a campout weekend at Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin, Wisconsin

MIDDLE AGES – This one was a two-month commitment.  Families studied the Middle Ages in whatever way they wanted, but our group gatherings included the following activities:

  • designing a family crest and making it into a banner

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    Human Chess Players

  • playing human chess and learning what the different chess pieces represented
  • building a 3-room castle complete with drawbridge out of refrigerator boxes
  • visiting a Middle Ages re-enactment
  • taking a field trip to Medieval Times
  • hosting a banquet in which the children were assigned parts to play (minstrel, jester, server, cup-bearer, juggler, etc.); we ate cornish hens, multi-grain bread, venison and other fine fare off of (pita)bread trenchers; we decorated the hall with our family crest banners, and thoroughly entertained all the grandparents as we tried to prove that yes, their grandchildren were getting plenty of social exposure and were, indeed, learning a great deal.
    Family Crest Banner

    Family Crest Banner

    Castle Building

HEALTH and NUTRITION-  One field trip included a trip to the grocery store where we were given a guided tour through the produce department and got to taste some of the more exotic fruits.  After that, we were allowed to roam the aisles on a scavenger hunt where the kids were to read labels to find items with very specific nutritional content.  Another field trip included a tour of a dentist office and some education about good oral health habits.  An activity day focused on the five senses and included crawling around in a model ear, dissecting a cow’s eye and other sensory activities.  There were also fitness tests, keeping food diaries, and a day of learning about balancing fun with work in which the kids learned to do fun things such as face painting and juggling.

YOUNG PUBLIC SPEAKING – In order to ease the (elementary aged) kids into public speaking we met monthly with a group of families to recite memorized poems and to give short speeches within assigned parameters — for instance one month it might be “How to do something,” another month, “describing my favorite place,” or “our family tradition”.

BOOK DISCUSSION GROUPS – In addition to our literature discussion groups, especially at the high school level, we would tackle the tougher subjects by going through the same books together and creating presentations, quiz questions, and other challenges for each other or just generally discussing the matter together with other students and their moms.  In this manner, we covered such topics as American government, psychology, worldviews, logic, and science labs.

"Blood and Guts" group on "Nervous System" day

“Blood and Guts” group on “Nervous System” day

BLOOD and GUTS –  That’s the name of the book we used.  In this co-op group, one of the moms (a registered nurse) taught the lessons — each month focusing on a different body system; one mom set up arrangements with a local butcher to get a pig heart, lungs, digestive system, and whatever other body parts we were studying that month “strictly for educational purposes” — we had to sign a form each month promising proper handling and disposal; another mom organized snacks for co-op days (How could we eat?); and one amazing mom agreed to host our monthly meetings in her home.  Additionally, each mom contributed a variety of experiments and activities to further expand upon that month’s particular body system.

Our plastic tarp version of a tipi

 NATIVE AMERICANS – In this two-month co-op, each family chose a different region of the country and studied the tribes that lived there.  Our group activities included

  • learning Native American games, dances and crafts
  • making costumes
  • constructing a 12-foot tipi
  • studying the various types of houses in each region
  • visiting the Indian Summer Festival
  • culminating in a night where we gathered together to share foods from, model costumes of, and present reports about our chosen region’s tribes.

WORLD TOUR –  Each family takes a turn hosting the group and chooses  a country for their family to study.  On their host day, they provide food, crafts, activities and presentations about that country, teaching what they’ve learned to the other families.  Each child gets a passport and marks off the various countries as they learn about them.

Alternatively, this can be done as a one-time event.  Rent out a gym or other large hall at a church or school and host a World Tour night.  Each family chooses a country to study.  They put together a display about that country and stand at their table ready to talk to visitors about their chosen country.  Optionally, families might provide food from that country to give out in small samples.  They are also instructed to bring stickers, a rubber stamp or some other form of representation of their chosen country with which they can mark passports.  When visitors arrive  they receive a passport with all participating countries listed.  As they “tour the world” they get each county’s sticker placed in their passport at the appropriate spot as they gather information from the kids about the country they studied.

SCIENCE FAIR –  Whether you want to run this as a co-op or class in which the students learn how to do a science fair project, or otherwise leave it up to the families to study that themselves and just organize the event, a science fair is a great way to get kids excited about science and the scientific process.  Be sure to provide judges and awards.

WILD WEST – Work together with other families to recreate the Oregon Trail, the gold rush, the Pony Express.  We went to a nearby Wild West Museum and learned all kinds of things.  The Pony Express and the Oregon Trail were two of our favorite memories.  I will write more about them in another post.

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Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to give this co-op thing a try if you are a home schooling family.  If you are not a home schooling family, perhaps I’ve given you a window into our world that explains why we are so sold on educating our children in this manner.  This is why I try to explain that you can’t compare home schooling to public or private schooling as easily as some people like to believe.  It’s just a very different approach to educating.  It’s not for everybody, but I’m so grateful we chose this route for our family and feel very blessed to have been able to share the adventure with all of the wonderful families we’ve met along the way.

If you’ve participated in home school co-ops, I’d love for you to tell us what you did and how it went in the comments below.

Home School Co-ops:  How and Why?

 Australian and Asian Animal parade at Milw. Zoo 1990

Australian and Asian Animal Parade

If you are looking for a way to break away from the monotony of textbooks and wish to add a little life to your curriculum, co-ops are the way to go!  I’m not referring to such things as enrichment classes which can serve something like 80 families and 150 students, though in a sense, they are a co-op.  What I’ll be discussing here is small co-ops of a handful of families focused on studying the same topic for a set amount of time.  When planning a co-op there are several things to be considered:  How do you go about choosing families for your co-op?  How controlling should you be?  What type of problems might you run into?  How can you choose and limit activities?  I will give you the basic model we created that has proven very successful for co-ops I have been involved in, and then go on to answer the other questions and concerns.  In another article, I will share some of the different events and activities we did as a group.

Ideally, the co-op should enhance your chosen topic without putting undo time and energy constraints on its participants.  Your co-op doesn’t have to be a year long thing.  You can plan a 1 or 2 month commitment if you want. Truthfully, I can’t co-op continuously.  At most, I can do two years in a row.  Co-ops expend a lot of creative energy and can burn you out if you don’t take occasional breaks from them.

Civil War

Civil War Co-op

We’ve been involved in a number of co-ops over the years. Some have been wonderful.  Some have added extra stress to our home school. Some were just for a social outlet. By the grace of God and the pioneering spirit of the early home school families, we managed to create a beautiful model with the first co-op we attempted.  For the most part, we have used the same basic set up for all the other co-ops we ran.  Here is the model we created:

  1. Keep it limited to about 6-8 families (You will likely need to “close” your group at some point to keep it from ineffectively growing out of control.)
  2. Choose the families carefully; you need to have similar expectations and similar commitment levels.
  3. Choose a topic to study together; let each family study the subject as they see fit at home, but focus on being prepared for upcoming co-op activities.
  4. Lay out a schedule for the semester/year appointing two families to organize the events for any given month. (It works much better to have two moms working together rather than assigning one mom to take on all the planning for any given event.) Every month a different set of moms steps up to the plate so there is not too much burden on any one family.  Alternatively, we had each mom team take two months in a row and then they were done hosting for the year.
  5. We liked to meet twice a month, once for a field trip or speaker pertaining to our topic of study and once for a group event (a themed banquet, learning new skills, an art project, each family giving a presentation, etc.).
  6.  Limit your activities.  Weed out those that are less valuable or too demanding in time, money or energy.  Even still, it is possible to incorporate several different activities into a single group activity day.
  7. While only two families are involved in the organizing for each month (Be SURE to rotate this responsibility!), ALL the families are assigned a contribution of some sort whether it’s bringing supplies, bringing food, preparing their own presentation, etc.
  8. Make a clean “end” to your co-op, thereby freeing yourself to move on and/or create a new co-op with other families (or some of the same). Things get stale if the same 6 families keep trying to carry on co-ops together year after year.
Prairie Family gets a visit from Mr. Lincoln

Pioneer Days

CHOOSING FAMILIES

The chemistry of the families involved can make or break a co-op.  Be a little exclusive here.  If you have a friend or two that you know would love to do this with you, invite them privately and let each of the 3 families invite one other family to the group.  You don’t have to advertise that you are starting a co-op.  Personally, I have a hard time saying no to anyone, but when it comes to co-ops, if you’re not willing to draw some lines, you may as well skip co-oping.  Completely open co-ops are dsestined to fail.

You have to have somewhat like-minded families for this to work.  If one family wants to be really laid back and focus on crafts and another family wants to have each child deliver a 10 page report, you’re going to have problems.  If two moms are working their bottoms off and the other 4 are sitting in the other room just chatting with one another, that’s not going to work well either.  You need families committed to participating and not just taking.  There’s nothing wrong with focusing on crafts OR research papers; just make sure the group is like-minded.

Castle Construction

Building Castles with the Middle Ages Co-op

Another question is what to do about younger siblings.  We have always allowed preschoolers to participate.  And it was an unspoken rule that parents would keep their younger children involved or otherwise involve them quietly in a corner of the room so as not to disrupt the activity or stress the hostess.  It is also important to understand the necessity of respecting the home and belongings of the host family.  Again – Keep your co-ops small and manageable.

There are other reasons for limiting the size of the group.  First of all, if you are meeting in somebody’s home, it’s unreasonable to have 30 kids show up.  Secondly, it’s important that everybody does their fair share.  If every participating family doesn’t have to carry a share of the load, you will end up with uncommitted families that will take advantage of those that are willing to put in the work.  Usually you want at least 2 families working together to “host” any given event, but if you get more than 3 or 4 families hosting, it becomes “too many hands in the pot”. Finally, you will find if you limit the number of families, it will be a more intimate group where real friendships have a chance to blossom and grow and it is unlikely that anyone will be ignored or left out.  Also, it’s less intimidating to plan and activity or make a presentation before 12 peers than it is before 30.  Big enough to share the load, small enough to avoid cliques – that’s my recommendation.

If you don’t know many families, you may have to just publicly put your feelers out there on your local home school forum or facebook group.  If that’s the case, really spell out what you are looking for – something like this:

Oregon Trail Day

Oregon Trail Re-enactment

“Fun family of upper-elementary students looking for 5-7 other families to co-op for two months on the Solar System and two more months on the Oregon Trail.  You can choose to join us for either or both studies.  We will not be following any particular curriculum.  We will have a planning meeting for each co-op to decide exactly what we want to do as a group, but other than that focus, you use whatever materials you like to study the subject.  We will meet twice a month for each co-op alternating between field trips or speakers and hands-on activities and presetnations.  You must have a student in the 3rd – 5th grade level to join.  Older and younger siblings are welcome to participate as well.  We expect all children to be kept under control and to be respectful and cooperative.  Each family will commit to helping organize one of the two events for each study.  Failure to hold up your end of the bargain may result in asking you to leave the co-op so other “cooperative” families can fill your spot.  We will limit the co-op to a maximum of 8 families.  If more families than that are interested and willing to commit, we may break into two groups.  If you are interested, please call …”

You can also put out a more general announcement such as, “Is anybody else studying The Oregon Trail or the solar system?  We might be interested in doing a few group activities together.”  Gather whoever is interested, then split into groups based on ages and/or levels of commitment.  It’s possible only one or two families end up responding and it becomes evident you won’t work well together.  If that’s the case, just graciously decline and say you’ve decided a group might not be best for you at this time.

With a little planning, a good dose of commitment, and the careful choosing of participants, co-op groups can add tremendous depth and fun to your home school experience.

Next time, I will share some of the things we’ve done together in co-ops and other ideas for group activities.

Home School Help – Tending to Toddlers and Preschoolers


Balancing Teaching Your Older Children with Tending to the Younger Ones

Balancing Teaching Your Older Children with Tending to the Younger Ones

It is very easy to neglect your toddlers or preschoolers while trying to carry out your home school responsibilities. Younger children without a doubt, create a challenge for any mom, especially the home school mom.  We are torn between guilt and frustration as our younger children wander aimlessly about through their day, trashing the house and interrupting our teaching efforts. This post is to remind you that you are a family first, and a school second.

If you have read my earlier post on LESSON PLANNING, you will find that to be a great start in being able to make more time for your young children.  School-aged children with a weekly lesson plan in hand have far more direction and need far less of Mom’s constant attention.  In addition to making out a plan for your students, make out a plan for your pre-schoolers (even toddlers) as well.  How detailed you want to make this is up to you, but it should have at least these two things:  Every day you should have at least one special play activity scheduled.  You should also schedule at least one older child per day to spend an hour of playtime (or reading time) with the younger ones.  (Write their assigned time right on their school lesson plans.)  These two items alone could well give you two hours a day to focus on school without neglecting the little ones.  In addition, schedule time for you to spend with your younger children.  If you don’t consciously schedule it, it often gets forgotten.  I know it may not be possible to spend a large chunk of time, and maybe you can’t even get it in every day, but at least a few days a week plan an activity alone with this child.  It could be as simple as reading a book, playing hide and seek for 15 minutes, or letting them help you put groceries away.

Assign each older child at least one hour per week where they are scheduled to play with their preschool siblings.

Assign each older child at least one hour per week where they are scheduled to play with their preschool siblings.

Make sure each of your older children has at least one hour a week (each having their scheduled day/s) assigned to playtime with their younger siblings.  It would be best, but not necessary,  if these hours were scheduled at the same time each day.  Little ones thrive on routine.  It might also come in handy to give students a ½ hour assignment to play with the baby at those times when their brain needs a break.

It might come in handy to give students a ½ hour "assignment" to play with the baby when their brain needs a break from the books.

It might come in handy to give students a ½ hour “assignment” to play with the baby when their brain needs a break from the books.

Now, about those daily special play activities – Pick at least one item each day that is done only on that day of the week, during school time.  You can even call it their  “school”  if it helps.  A sample schedule might look like this:

Monday:  stringing beads

Tuesday:  playdough

Wednesday:  pattern blocks

Thursday:  popcorn play*

Friday:  painting

* By Popcorn Play I mean buy a 25# bucket of popcorn seeds from Sam’s Club and set it aside just for play use.  Dump it into a large, wide container (We’ve found a plastic toboggan to work particularly well, otherwise and underbed storage container will work nicely.) and let them play with it like sand — measure, pour, make roads, bury things.

You could even plan one activity for the morning and one for the afternoon.  The child should be where you can keep an eye on him, but try to plan activities that he can do without much assistance.  By allowing these activities only on the assigned days, it keeps the interest level high and your child will play at the activity much longer, thereby developing a healthy attention span.  Also introduce you child to daily chore assignments, and allow him to sit in on school when possible.  My 3 year olds loved to cuddle up on the couch when we were reading aloud even if they had no clue about what was being read.  It’s just a nice “belonging” thing to do.  If my boys were playing phonogram Bingo, we gave the preschooler a card and they’d tell him where to put the marker chips.  If they were using math manipulatives, their younger siblings were right beside them building things out of the same manipulatives.  Always let them sit in on fun stuff like science experiments and art projects.  And finally take full advantage of their naps!

I will write what could be a sample schedule, and then I will list lots of activity ideas.

8:30 chore time (some simple but contributing tasks)

9:00 free play or joining in on school activity

10:00 assigned morning activity (This would be the special activity chosen for that day of the week.)

11:00 play with sibling

12:00 lunch and recess (Get fresh air!)

1:00 nap

2:00 assigned afternoon activity (a second activity done only on this weekday)

2:30 Mommy Time!

3:30 free play

4:00 play with siblings while Mom makes dinner

You will note that I have included “Free Play” periods.  It’s very important that children are allowed some freedom in their day.  There should be times when he can explore, learn to entertain himself, or play as he desires.  The opportunity to do so is sadly lacking in today’s overly structured, schedule-packed society, and it’s not fair to the children.  Also, PLEASE, don’t plop that tot in front of a screen!  Granted, there are lots of wonderful things to explore TOGETHER on the internet — caterpillars morphing into butterflies for example — but really, REALLY limit the time your young children sit in front of a screen, be it TV, computer, tablet or phone.  And as much as possible do screen time along with your child rather than using it to babysit for you. That being said, I will now go ahead and list suggestions for things to do during the scheduled part of the day.

IDEAS FOR ASSIGNED ACTIVITES:

  • playdough

    Bring bath toys in the kitchen for water play time.

    Bring bath toys in the kitchen for water play time.

  • pattern blocks
  • popcorn play  (like sand play, only with popcorn kernels)
  • puzzles
  • play with water (much like the popcorn – Place a vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen floor with a plastic dishpan full of water.  Supply the child with a baster, funnel, cups, strainer and small toys to strain and let them have at it — under supervision, naturally.  When they are done, grab the mop and you’ll get a cleaned floor out of the bargain as well!)
  • sorting activities (sort by color, size, texture, category, likes/dislikes, …)
  • drawing / coloring
  • cutting, pasting & stickers
  • Duplos
  • Fisher Price Little People, Imaginext, or Adventure sets (These collections are easily built via rummaging.)
  • rubber stamps
  • digital books (This is one of my few suggestions for being in front of a screen.  Make this the exception and not the rule for reading time.)
  • listen to music (dance with streamers or bop a balloon to the music)
  • blocks (At about 1 year old, my boys particularly enjoyed dropping cube-shaped letter blocks through the hole in a plastic cereal container.  Eventually they moved on to building towers, then zoos and cities.)
  • toy animals (the hard rubber type – great for sorting, setting up a zoo,  or playing “survival of the fittest”)
  • matchbox cars
  • play food / dishes
  • practice cutting skills with old magazines (I am told by enrichment teachers that a number of our 7-8 year old students still cannot handle a scissors properly.  You need to give them practice in this skill.  There are plenty of “safe” scissors available.)
  • roller-skating in the basement (assuming you have slow kid’s skates!)
  • chalk on basement floor (a wet mop will take care of it)
  • build a blanket tent and look at books or camp with stuffed animals inside
  • wash windows (a spray bottle full of water and a rag)
  • math manipulatives (Pattern Blocks, Unifex Cubes, balance, Cuisenaire Rods, links, counting bears, dominoes, geoboards, fraction circles, etc.)
  • Tending to Preschoolers

    Math manipulatives can be used creatively.

    costume box

  • special videos (use sparingly)
  • puppets
  • obstacle course
  • decorate graham crackers with frosting and sprinkles *
  • make snack kabobs with toothpicks, mini marshmallows, pinapple chunks, cheese cubes, raisins, etc. *
  • magnetic letters or other magnets
  • look at photo albums
  • rhythm instruments
  • paint-with-water books
  • bean bag toss
  • weighing and comparing items with a child’s balance
  • practice dropping clothespins or pennies into a mason jar.  Count how many you get in.  Do it from a standing position with the jar on the floor or kneel on a chair and balance your arm on the chair back.

*allow them to serve the snacks they’ve prepared to their older siblings – if they dare eat them!

Okay, that’s enough to get you going.  Choose five or ten activities and assign each to a day of the week.  You may use additional activities  for Mom or Sibling time.

Don’t cast that child aside.  He will grow up all too quickly and is at a very precious age right now.  Be sure your home school doesn’t leave him a casualty.  God Bless your efforts.

Home School Lesson Planning

Lesson Plan Binders
The first few years that I home schooled, I would try to schedule out each week ahead of time.  Even so, sometimes I would wake up in the morning and wonder,“What were we supposed to do today?”  It’s amazing how brain dead you can get with mountains of laundry, dishes and papers to be corrected staring you in the face.  Several years later (Don’t wait that long!) I finally learned how to lay out a lesson plan that was easy to use and very effective.  I have used that same basic format for nearly 20 years now and we couldn’t function without it.   This has made a world of difference in our home schooling day and in what we accomplish in a year.  My method is not by any means the only method out there, and it may not be right for you, but for those of you struggling with how to plan your day this is well worth the effort.

I have created Lesson Plan Forms using the “table” tool in Microsoft word.  It is helpful to have all this information stored in your computer, but easy enough to do by hand as well.  You will want a weekly lesson sheet for each child.  This is a basic chart with the days of the week listed across the top and the various subjects or book titles listed down the side.  If you are planning for just one child a standard teacher’s plan book works fine.  I note on my master copy which subjects need to be done with Mom or siblings.  Across the top I have the child’s name and grade, the week number/dates  and a blank to record the number of hours for that week.  (In my state we have to keep track of hours.)

If you are doing this on computer, enter as much of the unchanging information into your table as you can, then highlight it, hit copy, and paste it 30-40 times (depending on how long your school year is).  You can then type in (or cut and paste) the various assignments for each week. You may skip this part if you don’t want to have a record on the computer of the whole year.   If you are doing it by hand, make a master chart for each child, then run 40 copies of each one.  I buy different colors of paper to print out our lists, and assign a color to each child.  It makes it easier to identify who’s list is laying under the coffee table and it gives the task list a cheery look.  Use bright colors!
Here are some blank forms you can copy if you prefer to write them out by hand.
Blank Lesson Plan PagesCreating Home School Lesson Plans

BREAKING DOWN THE BOOKS

Make a stack of all the books you plan to use for each child. If you will be using more than one book for a subject — for instance, reading a book about electricity, one having electricity experiments and one about Thomas Edison — make note of what order you wish to read the books.  If you are doing unit studies, determine how long you will spend on each unit and what books and activities you intend to use.  Now you need to decide how to break each book down into daily assignments.  Some books are easy.  With many text books it is obvious to do one lesson a day and reserve some days for tests.

Other books are not so clear cut.  They may only be used for a few weeks, or may not be broken down into easy-to-divide lessons.  I’ll page through these books, determine how much I think my child can handle in one day and break it down that way.  I might otherwise decide how many weeks it should take to complete this book.  I will look at the number of pages /chapters/lessons and determine how many need to be done each day or week in order to meet my goal.  For instance if my child is to read a 23 chapter book and I think he can handle 2 chapters a day, I know it will take 12 days to complete the book.  I’ll then decide if we can afford to spread it out over 3 weeks or if we’ll have to fit it into 2 weeks.

If I’m breaking it down by pages rather than lessons or chapters, I will actually page through the entire book to figure out where a logical place to break would be.  You don’t want to end the week two pages form the end of a section. In this case, I figure out how many pages we should average a day and try to break it close to that amount. In addition, you’ll want to note any special activities of field trips you  want to do when studying a book.

You don’t have to do every subject 5 days a week.  As  much as I am able, I try to keep each subject down to 4 days a week, and each day I alternate which subject gets skipped.  This way if we have a field trip or day off, say on Friday, I can schedule every subject’s  “off day” for Friday that week,  and not have to catch up. You should type out or write down your breakdown of daily assignments for each book.

Here’s a six week segment for a science book we used.
6 week breakdown for one book

Once you’ve broken down all the books you can transfer the daily assignments to your weekly lesson plans.  Here is where individual preference really steps in.  Because I store all this in my computer (where it’s really easy to cut and paste changes as we go along) I try to lay out the daily lesson plans for the entire year.  I usually spend my summer months doing this.  I know from experience that I don’t have much time or brain power to do this once the school year starts, and if it’s not written out it doesn’t  happen.  This can be an overwhelming task and you may prefer to fill out your forms week by week.  If you have a list of daily assignments for each book this is not difficult.  Just check off the assignments you’ve completed and you’ll know exactly where you’re at.

Here is what a weekly lesson plan incorporating all the subjects will look like.
3 versions of weekly lesson plan

There are some incredible benefits to having a plan such as this.

  • You make great progress, and those extra books
    that you’d really like to fit in some time actually get assigned and completed.
  • You hand your child the assignment sheet each week (or tape it on the wall) and both you and your child know exactly what needs to be accomplished.
  • If you file the paper at the end of the week you have a nice record of  what you’ve done.
  • It’s a great lesson and satisfying experience in setting and completing goals.
  • It places both the freedom and the responsibility of effective time management in your child’s hands.

My boys cross off each box as they complete it.  If your child is feeling particularly motivated he may whip through the tasks in a few hours.  If he is dragging his feet, you simply don’t allow school to be done (no TV, no play, no dinner if need be) until all the day’s assignments have been checked off.  My boys will occasionally decide they want a day off and work diligently for a day or two to get an entire day ahead. I don’t specify any order as to how they have to work through their day – as long as they get through the whole list.  School is no longer done or not done according to how frazzled Mom feels today.  It also makes my boys happy to know Mom is not going to just keep adding assignments to their day until they faint with fatigue!

Lesson Plans for Every Child

I hope this helps give you an idea on how you can organize your lesson plans.  For me, the important thing is that each child has their own sheet.  The teacher planning books are good for one or two children, but there’s just not enough room for larger families.

If this whole thing is too overwhelming for you, keep asking others how they do it until you find a system that works for you.  I’ve known people that just write out at the end of the day what they’ve done that day.  I personally am too tired at the end of the day (and lacking in the discipline) to take the time to do that.  Others will write a date in the corner of the workbook pages which shows when that page is to be completed.  Still others will just fill out lesson plans each weekend for the upcoming week.   If your system is not working, find a solution.  If it’s working well, stick with it.

Some How’s and Why’s of American Spelling

 

Granted, spelling is tough in the English language.   I used to be horrible at spelling before I learned how to teach it to my boys.  As is usually the case I learned a lot more as a teacher than I ever learned as a student.  Regardless of what spelling program we used, we would apply the following Spelling Rules and identify the Phonograms  in each word, thereby eliminating a great many of the “spelling exceptions”.

Phonograms 2

 Its overwhelming to try to learn all these rules and phonograms at once.  I find it works best to teach your child the phonograms, flashcard style, starting with the first 3 or 4 and then adding a few every day.  Some parents will also have the child write each phonogram as they learn it.  Daily review of all learned phonograms is essential.  For phonograms with more than one sound, teach them all the sounds IN THE ORDER GIVEN when you introduce the phonogram.  It won’t necessarily make sense to them right away, but later you can say, “The [a] is making it’s 3rd sound,” and they should know which sound you’re referring to.  You should provide a special reward when they’ve mastered the daunting six-sound [ough].   After they’ve learned the phonograms, I would have them underline all the phonograms (at least the ones with more than one letter) when introducing a new spelling word.  If the phonogram has more than one sound have them write a small number above the phonogram indicating which sound it’s making.  Teach the spelling rules AS THEY BECOME APPLICABLE  in their spelling words or in the words they are trying to write.  This sounds very tedious and laborious, and it is — at first.   You will, however, be amazed at how quickly your child becomes adept at it, and the constant repetition drives the rules deep into their memory.  In the beginning limit your word-marking to just 3 or 4 words a day.

Phonograms and Reading:
After I teach my children the first five phonograms, I start putting together short words with the phonograms they’ve learned and teach them how to sound them out.  So, with the first five phonograms  a-b-c-d-e  (2 days worth of learning so far) you can teach them to read bad, dad, bed, cab,dab … even cad if you want to give them a new vocabulary word.  (I would hold off on using any words with the 2nd or 3rd sounds until they are getting pretty comfortable with sounding out words.)  Continue creating new words daily utilizing the new phonograms they learn.

Phonograms and Spelling:
When your student has read a short list of  words that are made up of the phonograms learned thus far, dictate the words back to the child and have him write them out.   Any words that get misspelled should be repeated the next day.   When your child gets to multiple letter phonograms, he should underline each one in the word when he spells them out.  When he gets to words which use later sounds of a phonogram he should write the correct number above the phonogram.  I would use this process throughout learning all the phonograms and spelling rules.  Then, you can apply the rules/phonograms to any spelling program you choose to use.

Here’s the daily procedure:

1) Learn a few new phonograms.
2) Learn a few new words using the phonograms learned to date.
3) Spell any words you got wrong yesterday, underlining any multiple letter phonograms and numbering their sound if applicable.
4) Spell the new words introduced today.  Underline phonograms and number as needed.
5) Play spelling games with the words you’ve learned and teach spelling rules as needed.

 

Below are the spelling rules.  Click here for the Phonogram Chart

Helpful Spelling and Phonetic Rules
This is a collection of rules and tips I have picked up or discovered over the years. They are written here in no particular order. Parents should become very familiar with these rules so they can explain to their children why words are spelled the way they are. It is difficult to learn how to spell with the English language, but if you really get to know these rules, you will see there is far more reason and far fewer exceptions than you previously thought. Please note when I refer to the vowels’ “long sounds” I am referring to them making the sounds they make in these words: bake, be, pie, go and cute. When I refer to their “short sounds” I am referring to them making the sounds they make in these words: can, get, pin, not, cut. Some vowels make more than these two sounds. (see my phonogram chart)

1. The letters [a], [e], [o] and [u] usually say their long sound (their “name”) when they come at the end of a word or syllable. ([i] can say it’s long sound at the end of a syllable but often it will say its short sound.) ra-di-o, go, be-long, to-fu

2. Usually, a double consonant allows one consonant to stay with the first syllable, thereby allowing the vowel to say its short sound.
Compare: ba-by and ba-bble

3. When reading , pronounce only one of the double consonants (in the accented syllable) When spelling sound out both of the double consonants.   lit-tle, ban-ner

4. [c] will say “s” (its soft sound) only when followed by an [e], [i], or [y].
Whenever [c] is followed by [e], [i], or [y] it must say “s”.    city, since, bicycle
(The exception to this is rule #17 below.)

5. Unlike [c], [g] CAN say its hard sound when followed by [e], [i], or [y]– girl, get
but, LIKE [c], [g] can’t say its soft sound (“j”) UNLESS it is followed by [e], [i], or [y] gym, gem, region
(Now you should always be able to tell the difference between angel and angle!)

6. A [y] that is NOT preceded by a vowel will usually say the long “i” sound at the end of a 2-3 letter word. fly, by, cry

7. A [y] that is NOT preceded by a vowel will usually say “ee” at the end of word that is more than 2-3 letters or more than one syllable.
many, pretty, any

8. In English, every syllable has to have a vowel.

9. English words very seldom end in [i], [v], or [u] except for these exceptions: you, thou, hi (Some words from other languages will end in these letters — spaghetti, sushi, tipi, tofu, Hawaii)

10. There are 6 types of silent-e’s. They are as follows:
a. Silent-e helps the vowel to say its name. (Words ending in vowel – consonant – silent-e) cake, ride, cone, dune
b. Silent-e represents the vowel in words that end in the “l” sound and would otherwise not have a vowel in the second syllable.
lit-tle, pud-dle, wrin-kle
c. Silent-e prevents a word from ending in [i], [v], or [u] – see rule number 9.    blue, pie, give
d. Silent-e allows the [g] to say “j” or the [c] to say “s” – see rules 4 and 5.     hinge, since, rice, cage
e. Sometimes a silent-e will follow an [s] (presumably so the word will not look like a plural).    horse, sparse, house
f. Sometimes there is a silent-e for no particular reason.     are, come, some

11. [or] may say “er” only if preceded by a [w]– worm, world, word but it won’t always say “er” in this situation — worn, swore, sword

12. [ar] will usually say “or” if preceded by a [w]: warm, war, wart [exception: wary ]

13. Memorize the sentence: Her first church worshiped early on the journey.
It demonstrates the six different ways to spell the “er” sound. er – ir — ur – wor – ear – our
These are listed in order of frequency. Most often “er” is spelled [e-r] Remember that [or] will say “er” only if preceded by a [w].

14. Use[i] before [e] except after [c] and unless it says “ay” as in veil and vein.
To help remember the exceptions to this rule, memorize this sentence. Neither foreign sovereign chose to forfeit leisure to seize the counterfeit.

15. [sh] is never used at the beginning of a syllable after the first one unless it is the suffix “ship”. It is used at the beginning of a word or at the end of a syllable. [ti], [si], and [ci]are used to say “sh” at the beginning of a syllable later in the word.

16. [tion] says “shun” at the end of a base word

17. [ci] will say “sh” when followed by [al] or [ous] as in special and spacious.

18. [si] says “sh” when the syllable preceding it ends with an s, (ses sion) or when the base word has an s where the base word changes.
tense, tension

19. [si] (not ti or ci) can also say “zh” as in vision.

20. [su] sometimes says “shu”. — sugar, sure

21. [tu] sometimes says “chu” — picture, punctuate

22. One-syllable words ending with c-v-c (consonant-vowel-consonant) need another consonant before adding an ending that begins with a vowel. — hop >> hopped, bat>>batting

23. Words of two syllables that have the accent on the last syllable, AND that end in c-v-c need another consonant added before adding an ending that begins with a vowel. —  begin>>beginning

24. Drop the silent e on words before adding an ending that begins with a vowel (unless needed for c, g, u, i, etc. noticeable) bake >> baking
Note: judgment and argument are exceptions to that rule.

25. The letters l,f,s and z are often doubled after a single vowel saying its short sound. — fizz, dull, staff, will [not when the vowel says its long sound (its name) —  gaze, rule]

26. Other consonants may be doubled at the end of words too. —  egg, add

27. Sometimes i and o will say their long sounds if followed by two consonants.
roll, kind, folk

28. The letter [x] is NEVER followed directly by the letter [s]. excited, boxes, expect

29. The letter [s]never says “z” at the beginning of a word. : zoo, zebra

30. Drop one [l] when adding all, full or till to either the beginning or the end of a word.  — awful, until, always, alright

31. The letter combinations [dge], [ck], and [tch] are used only after a single vowel that doesn’t say its long sound. — edge, duck, stitch.
A short vowel can be followed by just a [c], but that is unusual (plastic, picnic),  however a long vowel or double vowel won’t be followed by [dge], [ck], or [tch] (rage, bake, teach).

32. If the letter [y] is not preceded by a vowel, change the [y] to [i] before adding an ending. — pretty >> prettier
This rule applies even if the ending begins with a consonant. —  fly>> flies

33.  When adding the ending “ing” to a word that ends with [y], DON’T change the [y] to [i] — cry>>crying

34. Don’t change [y] to [i] when it is preceded by a vowel. — play >> played

35. Specific names of people, places or things are capitalized.

35. The past-tense suffix [ed] says “d” or “t” after words that do not end in the “d” or “t” sound. —  laughed, baked
If the word ends in the “d” or “t” sound, the [ed] forms a separate syllable and says “ed”. — sledded, batted

36.  In English, the letter [q] is always followed by the letter [u].  Together they say “kw”.  queen, quilt, equal

Craft Gathering for Families

We tried this idea out with our home school group as a Christmas Gathering with mostly Christmas themed activities, but you could do this any time of year with other craft/activity ideas.  It’s a great way to share talents and enjoy a multi-generational afternoon with friends.  Our Christmas Gathering, by the way, was a grand success and included about 50 families.

Ours is a 3 hour event with multiple craft/activity stations set up all around a large hall allowing children of all ages to freely move from station to station creating projects or participating in games/activities.   Naturally, we provide a snack area as well.

All participating families “fund” this event by either providing the supplies and supervision for a craft OR  by bringing 2 liters of juice, 3 dozen cookies (or equivalent amount of healthier options), AND $5 to go toward the cost of paper goods and rental or donation for use of the hall.   My goal is to have at least 20 craft/activity stations set up.  Any last minute families are expected to choose the juice, snack and cash option.

While teens enjoyed some of the activities, it is probably a better idea to include them as assistants.  They can man the food area, be in charge of or assist a craft/activity table, or assist moms with multiple children in taking their children to the various booths.  Don’t forget about the older generation either.  Invite grandparents along to teach a craft or participate with their grandchildren.

I let parents come up with their own crafts or activities, but also supplied a list of possibilities for those who were willing to host a table but were lacking ideas.
Image

Here is a plethora of ideas, but be sure to read all my TIPS at the end of this article as well.

CRAFT IDEAS

  • Beaded bracelets
  • Bookmarks
  • Cake pops
  • Christmas Origami
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Cookie Decorating
  • Gift jars (This one could get pretty costly though.)
  • Gift Coupon booklets.  (Coupons good for help with a chore, providing a service, guaranteeing a good attitude, etc.)
  • Graham Cracker “Gingerbread” houses.
  • Hot Cocoa in Bag (Provide a variety of additions to layer.  Use the clear, cone-shaped, decorating icing bags with curling ribbon to tie them shut.)
  • Little gift boxes made from old Christmas Cards
  • Marshmallow Corn Flake Crispy Wreaths (with red cinnamon candy “berries”)
  • Paper chain for the Christmas tree OR a count down ‘til Christmas chain (rip off a link every day)
  • Potato Print Wrapping Paper
  • Puzzle Piece Wreaths
  • Refrigerator Magnets
  • Scrapbook paper cut in triangle flags and paper-punched to string together for a wall banner.
  • Scrapbook Style Christmas Cards
  • Sock snowmen
  • Snowflake Cutting
  • Snow globes – using baby food jars

Image

ACTIVITY IDEAS

  • Balloon Animals
  • Christmas Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Coloring / word search table
  • Face Painting
  • Grand Prize Game
  • Guitar Accompaniment to sing Christmas Carols
  • Hand bells or xylophone  with charts to follow to play Christmas Carols
  • Kid’s’ Karaoke
  • Letters to soldiers
  • Nativity Costume Corner (just a dress up corner to act out the Christmas Story – not take home costumes)
  • Puppet Booth
  • Temporary Tattoos

TIPS Image

  • Be sure to give families at least a 2 month notice of this event to allow them time for preparation and to watch for sales for their crafting supplies.
  • It’s best to do this somewhat messy activity in a tiled rather than carpeted area.
  • I do not run this as a drop-off activity.  It is expected that every child in attendance will have an adult that is keeping an eye on them.
  • You may want to station a worker at the door to take the cash donations and keep children from leaving the area.
  • Keep the food and drink contained in a specified area.
  • Be sure to assign someone to oversee the snack area.
  • I hate for families to miss out on the fun, so I ask “food families” to register, but also allow last minute families to show up as long as they bring the required food and cash donation.
  • Set a deadline for craft families to register their craft at least a week before the event.  (Most will need more time than that to prepare anyway.)
  • If two or more families have a very similar craft idea, the 1st family to register their craft gets to do it.
  • You may want to allow 2 families to sign up to do a craft together for two reasons.  1) It allows the expense and preparation time to be shared.  2) One of the moms can keep an eye on both families’ children as they move from station to station and the other can man the booth.
  • I wouldn’t allow more than 2 families to work a craft together or you will not have enough activities to keep the children occupied.
  • I suggest craft families be prepared for about 100 kids to visit their booth.  This is based on 50 families.
  • My other suggestion for crafters is that their craft can be completed in less than 10 minutes.
  • I try to have a number of crafts for every age group and some that are fun for all ages.
  • We suggest each family bring a box or bag in which to collect all their children’s creations, but also have on hand a supply of plastic grocery bags for whoever needs them.
  • You could alternatively set up a concessions area to sell snacks and charge admission if you want to do this as a fund-raiser.  I know WE were working with large families on tight budgets so I tried to make it as economical as possible.  Know your participants.
  • Reminder for the organizer – don’t forget nametags, ice, cups, plates, napkins, plastic table covers.
  • This is a big event for a single person to organize.  Find yourself an organizing buddy.God bless your efforts.  May your event be as much fun as ours have been.