Home Education

Resources for Learning in the Early Years

If you’ve read any of my past posts, watched any of my videos, or have followed me for any amount of time, then you know I take a tricky stance on learning in the early years. On one hand, I come from an early childhood development and education background… and on the other, I am a homeschooling mom.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to examine the educational experiences I was setting up for my children, especially my toddler and preschool-aged babies. My 12-year-old is in the thicket of middle school and what comes with all that, but even still, he needs and good educational experience.

In this post, I want to shine a light on resources for learning in the early years. I will start with what is most commonly considered to be needed, and navigate to the lesser thought of, but more powerful (in my opinion).

Curriculum

I see this question A LOT: What kind of curriculum do I need for my 2 (or 3) year-old? Knowing what I know NOW, NONE! Yes, I have a toddler 2 and 3 curriculum lesson plan in my Free Resource Library but when you look at it, it is more about introducing and “teaching” natural concepts that are more life skills related.

In a nutshell, there is no need to spend any kind of money of a full-blown curriculum for your toddler, or even preschooler.

Printables

If given an option between curriculum and printables, I would definitely lean more towards printables. These are what I use for my children when they are wanting to color, practice with scissors, or if I want help with introducing a concept or topic.

They seem to love the idea (for now) of sitting at the table with their caddies and working aimlessly on what they “school”. I go with it because one, they initiated it, and two, they are learning.

There are tons of ways to get your hands of free (or inexpensive) printables for your young learners:

Side note: When I speak of printables, I am also including familiar terms such as printable packs and unit studies. Some of us are homeschooling multiple children of varying ages and these “packs” and “unit studies” come in handy!

Visual Aids (TV Shows, Movies, Music, Games Etc.)

This is an area that is highly frowned upon, yet at the same time most often used in this day and age. Take this suggestion with a grain of salt and not me trying to implore that your little learner needs this in order to be smart. As for me and my home, we do allow TV time, game time, and music and movement.

None of our children have their own computers, tablets, phones, etc., but our oldest does have a Nintendo DS and access to a computer when needed for educational purposes. Things have been just fine because that’s all they know! Whatever you choose to do for your family is totally up to you. On the other hand, I would like offer some show, video, and music suggestions to consider:

  • Netflix (Octonauts, Story Bots, The Magic School Bus, Deep, Titipo, and more!)
  • YouTube (Sid the Science Kid, TreeSchool, Jack Hartmann)
  • Music & Movement on YouTube: The Learning Station, Little Baby Bum, Have Fun Teaching, The Kiboomers)
  • Games (anything with matching, sorting, stacking, etc.)

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Books

Before children are actually reading, they are still reading. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. When young children pick up a book and look through it, their minds are processing a ton of information.

Having what I call a home library is one way to introduce your child to the earliest stages of reading and writing. They learn so much by looking at pictures and characters (that later become known as letters and numbers). They are practicing reading without even knowing that’s what it is! It’s even better if you are taking time to read to them as well.

Good children’s books for young learners should have:

  • hard covers and thick pages
  • lots of colors
  • minimal words
  • concrete concept/topic
  • things to touch and point out

I’ve honestly rarely come across a children’s book that made me think, “Hhmm, well that’s not good.” And if you’re looking for a great place to start with building your home library, I highly recommend Usborne Books & More! (I can even help you get started, let’s chat!)

A VIDEO YOU MAY ENJOY: HOW TO LESSON PLAN USING USBORNE BOOKS

Toys

What child doesn’t like toys, am I right? Toys are a great way to naturally enhance a child’s learning, and the possibilities are endless. Some great advice I received from another homeschooling mom is that toys without noise allow children to use more of their imagination. She gave a sample story of how her 2 year-old played with some wooden toys for almost 20 minutes and what processes were taking place during that time. (Check out our chat about that here.)

I would have to agree that while noisy toys seem to be fun and full of learning, there is certainly something to be said about toys that allow children to think for themselves. Some toys to consider are:

  • blocks (wooden, stacking, Lego-style, etc.)
  • natural figurines (people, animals, etc.)
  • dramatic play materials
  • puzzles

And now for the less conventional…

Siblings

I for one know what it’s like to grow up without having siblings close to my age. My two siblings (a brother and a sister) and I are each 7 years a part, so I had friends that I depended on more than anything. However, if you have children close in age, that can definitely be seen as a “resource” for your children learning.

Siblings learn from one another all day every day. My husband and I find ourselves saying, “Don’t teach your brother that!” or “Where did you learn THAT?” Most of the time the answer is from another sibling. These are also precious times of learning because it’s building memories and experiences they can look back on (and tell funny stories about)!

Home Life in General

So much learning takes place in the home without much effort. Most of the time this is overlooked by trying to create a structure that most of us are familiar with from our own childhoods packed with childcare from an outside source combined with public schooling.

Truth is, the home-front can be one of life’s biggest lessons. Children are constantly learning every day lessons through simple tasks such as:

  • how to clean
  • how to cook
  • personal hygiene
  • functional skills

These experiences should never overlooked, but embraced and enhanced upon. I used to deter my children from the kitchen when I cooked because let’s be honest, I just wanted to get it done and everyone fed. Now, I see the learning that takes place when we are gathered around the table and they are watching me cut vegetables, mix ingredients, and come out with a good meal.

They feel even better and more accomplished when they can participate – again, more learning!

Nature

This is what some homeschool methods are getting back to. Children living in, loving, and learning from the very nature around them. There are so many lessons to be learned from nature. It’s funny how attracted children are to it as well.

My 5 year-old daughter will refer to “sun up, sun down” when talking about the passing of a day. Using nature at its finest. Not to mention the activities that can be done in nature:

  • nature walks
  • picnics in the park
  • leaf, rock, and stick collection
  • camping

There are many resources that can be used to foster learning in the early years. The idea is to keep it natural, keep it fun, and let your children’s interests shine!

CHIME IN: What are your favorite go-to resources for learning in the early years? Let me know in the comments below!

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Home Education

4 Important Skills Every Preschooler Should Know Before Kindergarten

Oh the preschool years… Those sweet little humans drive you crazy with their constant testing of their independence. But on the other hand, they still need you for some things and still love to cuddle up in your lap for a good story.

This is the time when many parents, and even educators, start to worry if their child is learning what needs to be learned. They start throwing around the words ahead or behind. Which if you ask me are arbitrary assessments.

I am a huge believer in child led learning. Each child has their own unique learning timeline, so they are never ahead or behind since every child learns a skill at a different time.

What shapes their unique learning timeline is the environment and the experiences you give them. Want them to be a reader? Then read to them, have letters out on the shelf, and visit the library. Want them to be good at math? Cook with them, let them see you paying the bills, and count out loud when handing the cashier money. Want them to write? Let them help you write the grocery list and journal together. 

You see, whatever you want them to learn, you must provide it in their environment. The more of  a natural experience it is, the better. It’s easier to develop motivation to learn the skills you want them to learn if they have a real, personal reason to learn it.

There are 4 skills that I think every preschooler needs to have before they enter Kindergarten. I’m going to start with the least important and move to the most important.

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Alphabet

Yup, I’m adding the alphabet as the least important skill your preschooler needs before Kindergarten. It’s actually tied with numbers, but since most parents tend to add more emphasis on the alphabet, I decided to add it first.

I think your preschool should be exposed to the alphabet through games, puzzles, and books. The best way to learn the alphabet is through reading lots of great books.

Your preschool should know what a letter is and understand what letters are used for. But knowing the actual names and sounds of each letter? Not that important at this age.

However, if your kiddo is extremely interested in letters, then by all means teach them. But if your kiddo is fighting you or not engaging in letter activities, don’t push it.

We learn our letters through hands-on experiences. We use sound boxes and focus on the sounds rather than the letter names. I chose to focus on sounds because that’s what we use to actually read. The letter names are not important when learning to read and write. We also focus more on lowercase letters since 90% of what your child reads and writes is lowercase.

Numbers

In our homeschool, we learn numbers just like we learn letters. We play a lot of games, do puzzles, and have numbers lying on the shelf for counting objects. Again, numbers are not important in the preschool years unless your kiddo is super interested and engaged in learning them.

It’s more about exposing and developing a motivation to learn them.

Emotional Regulation

Now we’re getting into the most important skills your preschooler should know before entering Kindergarten. One of those skills is emotional regulation. Your preschooler should be able to stop themselves when angry to calm down and ask for help. They should be able to identify their own feelings and feelings of others.

Preschoolers should also be able to do simple problem solving. In our homeschool, I’m working on problem solving with my two preschoolers. If they have an issue, we sit down together and talk it out. They help me come up with solutions to their problems and we test them out together.

Love of Learning

And the most important skill your preschooler should have is a strong love of learning.

Most of your learning should come from what your preschooler is interested in. Your routine should have a few hours each day where your preschooler can explore on their own and in their own way.

Your job is to guide them. Ask questions that get them to think and deepen their curiosities. Provide materials for them to learn more and process what they’re learning.

A strong love of learning is the basis for a quality education. It’s not about what your child knows. Instead, it’s all about how your child learns. Focus on the process of learning not the content being learned.

Want fun, hands-on preschool activities? Click the image below to download our My Body Preschool Unit Study.

Click the graphic to see more!

CHIME IN: What are some ways you prepare your preschooler for kindergarten? Let us know in the comments below!


About the Author: Amanda Stockdale is on a mission to help families fall in love with their homeschool. She uses her 4 essentials to child-led learning framework to help homeschooling moms raise passionate learners while still finding some YOU time every single day. She is the creator of The Preschool Experience Curriculum and her signature course Raising Passionate Learners.

 

 

Home Education

Developing Fine and Gross Motor Skills Through Play

The preschool years are a prime time in children’s lives when they are developing essential skills that will help them when they begin structured learning. By training the small muscles in their hands and fingers your preschooler will be ready to start writing when it’s time. In a similar way when your child learns to control their larger muscles they develop their coordination and focusing skills.

The good news is that developing fine and gross motor skills can easily happen through play In fact, you may already be giving your children opportunities that are strengthening their fine and gross motor skills and not even realize it. I hope to encourage you in what you are already doing well and inspire you with some new ideas that will help your child have fun while developing these essential skills.

5 Resources for Developing Fine Motor Skills

Many of the following resources you probably already have on hand. The best part is your little one will just think they are playing and not even realize they are developing their fine motor skills at the same time. 

Play Dough

The rolling and shaping of play dough is a fantastic way to work the small muscles in a child’s hands. Set out some play dough and fun tools, like cookie cutters and a rolling pin for your child to play with. Play dough mats are also a great way to use play dough and teach at the same time.

Peg Puzzles

Puzzles are great for teaching spatial awareness, but they are a great fine motor tool too. Playing with peg puzzles helps children develop the tripod grasp, which will make learning to hold a pencil easier. 

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Duplos

Set out a bucket of Duplos and let your little one create. Duplos are an awesome way for your child to develop their fine motor and creative skills.

Padlock & Keys

If you are anything like my family, you probably have keys that you have kept but have no idea what they go to. Please tell me we’re not the only ones….

Put those keys to good use and make a fun fine motor activity for your preschooler. Get a cheap padlock at the dollar store. Then put the key that unlocks the padlock along with other random, useless keys on a ring and let your child try to find the right key that unlocks the padlock.

Cups

Use cups in sensory bins or a sink of water. Holding a cup, scooping, and pouring all work the muscles in the hand. Plus it keeps little ones entertained and busy, which is always a good thing.

5 Fun & Easy Gross Motor Activities

Has your child ever had a day that was rough, but the day improved greatly after your child had a chance to run and play? Children need opportunities to work their large muscles everyday. Here are a few easy ways to provide them the opportunity to do so.

Balance Beam

Put a long piece of painter’s tape on the floor or use a pool noodle cut in half lengthwise as a balance beam. Encourage your preschooler to walk across it without falling off.

Obstacle Course

Set up an obstacle course using furniture and items around your home. The great thing about obstacle courses is that they can be tailored to target specific skills your child needs to work on, such as skipping, crawling, walking backwards, etc.

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Toss

Help your child develop their hand/eye coordination by tossing a ball or soft object back and forth to you. You could also make laundry a fun activity for them by having them toss the rolled up socks into a laundry basket.

Dance Party

One of our favorite ways to get the wiggles out and brighten everyone’s mood is with a dance party. Turn on some fun music and let loose with your little ones.

Playground

Playgrounds offer many opportunities to work a variety of large muscles. Taking your child to the park or letting them play outside on your own playset is an easy and productive way to develop gross motor skills.

If you’re looking for more activities for your preschooler be sure to check out my blog, Many Seasons of Motherhood. My youngest two are preschoolers right now and teaching little ones through play is a passion of mine.


Misty is a child of God, wife, and mom of five, in the midst of many seasons of motherhood. Time goes fast. It is her heart to encourage other moms to find joy in each season of motherhood and make precious memories in the process. She shares about homeschooling, motherhood, and family at Many Seasons of Motherhood. You can connect with Misty on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Home Education

The Joys of Literature-based Learning

I have been homeschooling going on five years and until recently, I had never considered adopting literature-based learning as a method I would use in teaching my kiddos. We already read every single day and sometimes stay in a particular book for a certain amount of time.

But to build an entire unit based lesson from a book – that’s something I had never done!

I noticed my (then almost) two year old spending quite a bit of time looking at a particular book. He held on to that book all day – looking at the pages, attempting to chew on it a bit, flipping and flopping it around. So I grabbed it and began reading it to him.

He was super engaged. Then he started pointing out colors, shapes, and other attributes… then it clicked. I told him and his sister that we would be doing some fun learning with this book, and in rushed a TON of ideas of what I could do using that one book – Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? A children’s CLASSIC!

We are now on week two of a literature-based lesson plan that I created and I am in love with the possibilities. Seriously, they are endless. My brain combined with Netflix, YouTube, and Pinterest – there has been and will be cooking, crafting, writing, and dancing every day all from this ONE literature-based unit study.

Something else I found interesting about the literature-based learning approach is not only is it versatile, but it has some great statistics to back it up. Children who are introduced to a literature-based learning method are reported to have enhanced thinking skills, improved vocabulary, an increase in reading comprehension, a boost in reading ability, and heightened language growth. The best part about it is there doesn’t have to be an overwhelming time spent on planning! (win-win)

With my new interest in literature-based learning, you will begin to see lit-based unit studies pop up in the shop. They will be detailed with sample lesson plans, worksheets, ideas, material & resource ideas, and more!

Be sure to follow my Facebook page With the Huddleston’s as I always post a little snippet of ideas that can be done with the resources I create. If you’re not already on my email list, you’ll wanna get on that too! Simply drop your email to the right and grab a free digital magazine for doing so!

In the meantime, you can get my first literature-based learning unit study – What Do You See? in the SHOP.

What’s all in this unit study?

  • over 80 pages
  • sample lesson plan included
  • blank lesson planning template
  • sequence cards for story-telling
  • for each animal
    • facts sheet
    • animal coloring page
    • letter coloring page
    • letter tracing
    • sight word book written by Michelle Huddleston
  • Other book suggestions
  • Suggested YouTube videos
  • Animal-themed recipe ideas
  • Pinterest finds
  • Netflix finds

Enough activities included for over a month’s worth of studying about animals, and perfect for multiple ages!

CHIME IN: what are some of your favorite books you’d like to see as a lit-based learning resource? Let me know in the comments below!

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Home Education

Sight Words: to teach or not to teach?

Ever since my teaching years in the brick and mortar classroom, to teach or not to teach sight words has been a popular question. I personally see the amazing benefits of teaching sight words and opt in to incorporating them into my homeschool curriculum.

Here is why I think sight words should be taught:

  • When children can automatically recognize words, it can help with comprehension.
  • When a child is reading, instant recognition will help them better read independently.
  • Visual recognition of whole words contributes to a child being able to read fluently.
  • Words can be taught before phonics instruction.
  • Most sight words do not follow the rules of the English language.
  • Sight words make up about 50-70% words encountered in normal, every day text.

There are many ways to implement sight word activities on a weekly, even a daily, basis and it is my goal to provide you with ideas, resources, and activities that we use in our homeschooling!

With that in mind, I’d like to offer you a Winter Sight Word Pack FREEBIE that is loaded with five interactive worksheets. From recognition and matching to coloring and tracing, you’ll find these worksheets handy when teaching the Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Words.

As always, I recommend printing and laminating my resources to make them reusable… especially if you are schooling multiple kiddos! After you laminate them, stick them in a labeled binder and you’ll have a resource you can use over and over! I recommend this laminator, and this amazing deal on a pack of laminating sheets, and these binders for easy, durable storage of all your resources!

Check out my Homeschool Pinterest Board to see lists of words and other great activities to incorporate into your homeschooling routine!

Click HERE to snag your FREE WINTER SIGHT WORK PACK!

There are other FREE Sight Word printables HERE!

Enjoy!!

 

Until next time, happy homeschooling y’all!

 

 

 

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