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Preschool

A Meaningful Easter Snack

 

My boys absolutely love Easter. And of course, one of the things that they look forward to each year is the infamous Easter Egg Hunt!

In the weeks leading up to Easter, we probably have at least 50 Easter egg hunts in various forms, just because my boys are completely captivated by “the hunt.” They ask Mommy and Daddy to hide eggs whenever they have a chance. They hide eggs for each other. And as the actual holiday approaches, we get to go to a few organized events (either with our co-op, church, or other family members) where the Easter Egg hunt is in full swing!

As much as I love a good Easter egg hunt (my parents have actually held one for the adults the past few years), I never want my boys to miss the true meaning of Easter – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, when they were young, I started trying to brainstorm ways we could weave the two activities together. Now, of course, we’ve done the popular Resurrection Eggs – which are absolutely wonderful! However, one element was missing for my boys – FOOD! I mean, with all of that hunting, they definitely needed a snack, right?

So, we created this Resurrection Snack Mix that not only points to the true meaning of Easter but also gives them a little something to eat after using all of that energy to find the eggs!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Clean, plastic Easter eggs
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Fish crackers
  • Chocolate chips
  • Small marshmallows or Popcorn
  • Any small red candy (sometimes I’ll save red M&Ms from the Valentine’s assortment or pieces of licorice – see my note below)
  • Large bowl

Now, you can do this a number of ways. If you want to place the actual snack mix items in the Easter eggs, be sure that you wash them thoroughly before filling them with the food items.

Then, fill the Easter eggs with the various items listed above. Leave at least one empty egg. Then, hide the eggs for your kids to find. Be sure to give them instructions NOT to open any of the eggs yet. Once all of the eggs have been found, come back together. Then, open the eggs and dump the contents into the large bowl. As you open each egg, explain what it represents in the Easter story.

The other option is to fill the eggs with instructions about which items to dump into the mix. For example, 1 scoop of popcorn. 1 scoop of chocolate chips, etc. I tend to prefer this option simply because 1) it takes less time to prep and 2) much fewer snack ingredients end up on the floor. If you do use this option, I recommend a 1/2 cup scoop for the popcorn, 1/3 cup or 1/4 cup for the goldfish crackers, a small handful for the pretzels (just because it’s hard to get pretzel sticks to fit nicely in a cup, a tablespoon for the red candy, and a teaspoon for the chocolate chips. Even if you’re filling the eggs with instructions and not ingredients, be sure to still leave an empty egg! If you choose this option, be sure to grab the FREE download. All you’ll need to do is cut out the paper strips and add them to the eggs.

Again, as you add items to the mix, review what it represents in the Easter story. By the time you’ve finished opening all of the eggs, your kids will have been reminded of these truths several times. Here’s what each ingredient represents:

  • Pretzel sticks – remind us of the wooden cross, where Jesus died
  • Fish crackers – remind us that several of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen and he also taught his disciples to be “fishers of men.”
  • Chocolate chips – remind us of the dark sin that we were covered in
  • Popcorn – remind us of how the blood of Jesus makes us as white as snow –
  • Red Candy – reminds us of how Jesus suffered and bled for us
  • When you get to the empty egg, celebrate that it is empty because the tomb was empty – Jesus is ALIVE!!!

Then, you simply pass out the snack mix for your kiddos to enjoy!

When we did ours this year, I couldn’t decide on small red licorice pieces for the red candy or red M&Ms. I loved that the licorice looked more like “strips,” reminding us of how He bled and died for us, but I also loved how the red in the M&Ms covered the dark chocolate (which we used to represent sin) – so literally, His blood covered the sin. So, we ended up using both!

An added bonus to making this snack mix is that it will last for 3-5 days if you keep it sealed well in an airtight container. And this means you can continue to draw their attention back to the true meaning of Easter.

I hope you enjoy this fun snack mix! And if you’re interested in other Easter activities that focus on the true meaning of Easter, be sure to check out my Christian Easter Activities below.

If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave me a comment below – I’d love to hear all about it! And don’t forget to grab your free download below!

Faith, Family, Holidays, Homeschool, Parenting, Preschool

Teach Reading with Confidence

 

I hope you all had a blessed holiday season and that your new year has gotten off to a great start! I seriously can’t believe that it’s 2018!

 

If you’re in the states, like me, starting back to school in January is a little bit of a mix of emotions. It’s thrilling to see the progress that your students have made thus far and it’s exciting to plan new learning experiences as they continue to grow. At the same time, however, I begin to realize I only have a few more months until they move on to the next grade, and I begin to worry if I have done enough.

 

Have I really taught these skills well?

Have a laid a foundation that they’ll be able to build upon in the coming years?

Have I taught them enough?

And even……have I even taught this right?

 

And when it comes to teaching reading, these thoughts especially loom in my mind. Not only do I want my kiddos to have the skills to be able to read well, but I also want them to LOVE reading. I want them to fall in love with books and not constantly feel frustrated because it’s not clicking.

 

Have you been there?

 

If you are a preschool, kindergarten, 1st grade teacher, or a homeschool momma, you know that you have the incredible privilege and responsibility of building your students’ reading foundation. Maybe you’ve felt the pressure that I have. And if you’re in the classroom, you have the added pressure of trying to meet the needs of all your students – even when they can be at such diverse reading levels! And it can be overwhelming to say the least!

 

And perhaps you’d really just love to have someone in your court, assuring you that you’re on the right track and helping you with the necessary tools to do this incredibly important job well!

 

Can I tell you a secret?

 

I’ve got the perfect person (and team) for you! I’ve joined the Reading Roadmap Team with Malia, from Playdough to Plato, and am super excited to share with you this FREE webinar training to help you teach your children to read with confidence!

 

Yes, you heard that correctly! It’s totally FREE!!

In this free training you’ll learn:

  • 4 signs kids are ready to read
  • 5 step plan for meeting EVERY students’ needs
  • 5 common mistakes and how to avoid them.
  • The step-by-step for setting up power house literacy centers
  • and much more!

 

But you have to reserve your spot today!! Just click on the box below to sign up for my affiliate webinar link!

 

 

There will be two live webinars:

Sunday, January 14th and

Wedesday, January 17th

But you have to sign up now to get access to this amazing training!

And seriously, it’s free! What could be better?!?!?

 

 

 

Make sure you sign up today! Can’t wait to see you there!

 

As a part of the Reading Roadmap Team, this post contains my affiliate links to the webinar. I’m totally in love with the course, but wanted to let you know 🙂

Back to School, Homeschool, Literacy, Preschool, Teaching

7 Different Ways to Use Dot Markers

My kids and I looooove using dot markers!

Not only do they help kids with their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but there is really no clean-up for Mom! Yep – no paintbrushes, no water cups, no paint pallets – it’s simply the dot markers and the paper. Seriously, it can’t get much easier than that when it comes to art!

I love that the dot markers can be used for skill-focused activities as well as free creative expression. The boys love the bright colors and the ease of use – and that they last for so long!

There are so many educational and fun ways to use these and I wanted to share a few of my favorites today!

  1. Letter and/or Number Recognition

When my boys first began working on letter recognition, they absolutely loved getting to “dot” the letter on the page. Because using the dot markers made the task so simple, they were really able to focus on the letter recognition skill and have fun in the process. Since this was an activity they asked for repeatedly, I’ve made my A-Z Dot Pictures available for FREE below! Just click on the picture to grab your FREE set!

 

  1. Patterns

Again, the simplicity of use makes these a perfect tool to use when teaching patterns. Since there’s no cutting or gluing this is a great way to practice simple patterns, especially when you’re short on time!

  1. Color by Code

This works similar to the letter and number recognition, except with this activity you can work on distinguishing between different numbers, letters, and even sight words.

  1. Graphing

Kids love to take surveys of neighbors, friends, classmates, and family members, which can then be translated to a graph. However, keeping the graphs accurate can get a little tricky for little guys. Using dot markers can really help with this – especially if you use a different color for each option. My kiddos have always been thrilled with the results!

 

  1. Resist Art Projects

Both of my boys love doing arts and crafts projects, but I am not a super crafty person. But using dot markers for tape-resist art projects have given us some pretty great results. You simply tape off the part that you want to keep white, and then the kids can just go crazy filling in the rest of the space with the dot markers. We usually keep it simple by doing a simple shape with the tape, but I have seen others actually tape the outside of the project so that the kids are actually filling in the shape with the dot markers (kind of like a stencil).

 

  1. Mazes

I’ve already mentioned how we have used dot markers to identify letters, numbers, and sight words, but this option allows your students to practice putting these elements in order. For example, you might have a maze where students have to follow the alphabet A-Z. Or perhaps they’re following counting numbers from 1-20. We’ve even used this type of activity in practicing spelling our names. Using dot markers not only makes it easy for them to fill the space for the maze, but it also makes the path at the end very clear.

 

  1. Free Creative Expression

Dot markers are so easy to use, my kids love them for just creating pictures of their own. They come up with some of the most creative ideas. And if you want to work on fine motor skills while still letting your kids get creative, there are a number of printables that have adorable graphics with space for kids to “dot” in the pictures. This allows them to be creative while still focusing on being accurate with the dot markers.

We absolutely love using dot markers, and I hope this post gives you a few new ideas on how you might be able to incorporate this wonderful tool in your learning.

Do you have other ways that you love to use dot markers?! Leave me a note in the comments – I’d love to hear about it!

Back to School, Homeschool, Preschool, Teaching

Homeschool Preschool: Letter of the Week

When I was first blessed with the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom I  was overjoyed. I soaked up all of the snuggles, hugs, “conversations,” and time with my boys.

 

However, as my firstborn got older, and I came out of the fog of having a newborn, I craved more structure.  Perhaps it’s the teacher in me, but I wanted to start implementing a regular routine in our day. I still loved just getting to spend each day with them, but I knew I wanted to begin working more intentionally with my oldest and create a daily routine that would work for us all.

 

So, our homeschool preschool was born. My husband is a teacher, so when he headed back to school, we started up as well!

 

At the time, my oldest was not yet 3 and my youngest wasn’t even a year, so our preschool was very basic. Lots of play, exploration, and using our imaginations. But for about an hour every day, we tried to work more specifically on skills that I felt were important for him to learn.

 

We always began our day by reading from The Beginner’s Bible and singing a verse song or two. (I highly recommend Steve Green and Seeds Family Worship if you’re looking for some) Then we moved into our alphabet work.

 

For simplicity’s sake, we started with a letter a week. I know there are so many different opinions about the order in which to do the letters – but again, keeping things simple – we just went in alphabetical order.

 

There were some foundational skills I wanted to work on with my son, but I didn’t want to be searching for, printing, and preparing a new activity everyday. So, during the summer (before we officially started our homeschool preschool), I created packets of activities that would set me up for success.

 

The purpose of these activities were to help my little guys begin to recognize and write their letters, to work on distinguishing between capital and lowercase letters, and to introduce them to the sound that each letter made. I also wanted to include activities that allowed them to practice counting objects, begin learning basic patterning skills, and even be introduced to the wonders of science. I’m a huge fan of reading to your kids, so I also looked for books that included ideas or characters related to the letter. And since kids always love a good snack, I brainstormed ideas for letter of the week snack ideas.  

 

Here’s a peek of some of what’s included in each letter packet:

 

 

 

 

 

The beauty of the activity packets was that once I had made them, I was set. I didn’t have a lot of prep work during the week because we focused a lot on play, and when we were all ready to have a little more focused time, the activities were already ready to go. I just printed the pages I wanted for the week on Sunday evening, and I truly had the rest of the time to focus on my kiddos.

 

These packets gave me a focus for the week. And since I already had these ready to go, I could be as creative (or not so creative) as I wanted – or as the week allowed. Baking, crafts, gross motor activities, field trips, art projects, games, the list goes on and on. But I actually had time to think about what those other activities could be because my letter work was taken care of.

 

And I have to say, I absolutely fell in love with homeschool preschool. I loved being able to watch my kids learn and grow. I loved seeing them get excited about learning. I adored getting to instill values that were important to our family.

 

But I also loved the fact that we could move at our own pace. If we needed a break, we took a break and went outside. If someone was sick, we took the day off. If a task was a little too advanced, we waited until he was ready. We weren’t confined to a strict time schedule. It definitely brought some much needed structure to our day, but these boys still had PLENTY of time to play and we still had a lot of flexibility.

 

And what I loved even more – I used these letter of the week packets 2 years in a row for my oldest. During the first year, when he was 2 and turning 3, we just worked on recognizing letters. We talked about each letter’s sound, but I definitely didn’t expect him to master it. I showed him the capital and lowercase version of the letter of the week, but if he was able to recognize any form of the letter during the week, I was thrilled and we celebrated. We worked on counting objects, but I didn’t require him to form numbers correctly or even consistently match a group of objects to the number in written form.

 

Then, the next year, we went through the alphabet again, but this time we focused on different skills. We moved on from just recognizing the letter to being able to write (or trace it). I started to emphasize the sound that the letter makes and we worked on finding objects that began with that sound. He started to recognize the difference between capital and lowercase letters, and he started being able to count a group of objects and point to the number that represented the number of items. Sometimes we repeated the pages we had used the year prior (mostly because he had enjoyed them so much), but we also used pages that were just too advance the year before.

 

By the time that year was over, he knew all of his letters and could identify each letter’s sound accurately. His fine motor skills (writing with a pencil/pen as well as beginning scissor skills) had improved dramatically. For the majority of the letters, he could recognize, write, and differentiate between capital and lowercase. He recognized numbers 1-10 and was proficient in one-to-one correspondence for these numbers. He recognized different types of patterns and was able to continue them. However, most importantly, he was excited about learning. He felt confident whenever we talked about school. And he was eager for more.  

 

The next year, my oldest was 4 going on 5, and so we moved beyond simply working with a letter a week; however, by this point, my second son was now two going on three, and I already had all of the materials I needed to start working with him.

 

And that’s part of the beauty of these digital resources – you can print and re-print pages as often as you like for your kids or class. No need to go out and purchase additional copies! You are set!

 

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed using these resources with my boys – and then with the homeschool co-op that we are  a part of.

 

If you’d like to get a taste of what these packets offer, you can sign up to receive my FREE Dot the Letter A-Z Set HERE.

 

Can’t wait to see how you use these!

Homeschool, Parenting, Preschool, Teaching

Can I Really Start My Own Co-op?

 

 

Community. It’s something we all long for, need, and yet often resist because sometimes it just seems like too much work.

Now, if you’re a homeschool mom, you need this community more than ever! Yes, you seem to be talking with little ones all day, but having a conversation with another adult, especially in person, is a rarity.

And to be quite honest, when you don’t have a community encouraging, supporting, and pouring into you, your motivation to continue can become depleted quite quickly!

So, what’s a mom to do?

Our solution – one that has truly been nourishing to my soul was starting a co-op.

On a side note, when we started, the kids were all preschool age, as you’ll see in my story below, but the principles and applications hold true for moms with older homeschool students as well.

Now, you might be thinking: Can I really start my own co-op? Or, my little one is only 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5), does he really need this? Or, I can barely make it out of my house as it is, do I really have the time and energy to coordinate a co-op? Or, my plate seems so full already, is the effort to attend another thing every week even worth it? The answer to all of these questions is YES, YES, and YES!

I know because I wondered the same things.

After teaching for 8 years, I transitioned to being a stay at home mommy. I was incredibly thankful to be home with my little ones – a newborn and almost 2 – but I was completely overwhelmed. To be honest, I just survived for about a year. While I loved being home to pour into these little lives, I was exhausted. I knew something needed to change.

I knew I wanted to start incorporating some “instruction” into our day, especially for my then almost 3-year-old. I knew we needed more structure for our day because I constantly felt frazzled. And I definitely knew we all needed to get out and connect with other families more regularly. How that was going to happen? I didn’t know, but I started to ask.

The more moms I talked to, the more I found that so many moms were in the same boat. Being a stay at home mommy is HARD. Even when you have a wonderfully supportive hubby (like I have been blessed with), I truly believe it is one of the hardest but most important jobs in the world! So, we started talking…and meeting….and meeting at parks to talk some more.

We asked questions and discussed. We tried out different ideas – some were successful, while others weren’t. But we kept talking and meeting, praying and encouraging. Slowly but surely our co-op was born.

It has now been 4 years. Our little co-op of about 6 kids has grown into a much larger co-op that meets at a church because we’ve simply outgrown anyone’s home. We currently have 4 classes (grouped by age) and will be adding a 5th class next year. To be honest, I have been blown away by the way our community has grown, and it is truly a testament to how much we crave that community.

The friendships that have grown out of these weekly meetings are some of our most treasured – for the kiddos and myself. They have both learned so much – not only academically, but socially, spiritually, and yes even physically. They’ve learned about listening to authorities (other than mom and dad). They’ve learned about conflict resolution – when that one special toy just seems to bring out the worst in them. And I must say, I’ve been quite impressed with their academic growth! Personally, I’ve learned that I am not alone, even when it feels like no one else understands. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be perfect – and neither do my kids. And I’ve learned that the push to get breakfast done, everyone dressed, and out the door with their school supplies (most of the time), is worth it every time.

It has truly been a blessing for our family, and I would love to pass it on to you! I am offering a FREE email course that will walk you through 7 steps to starting your own co-op. There will be an email lesson with a simple PDF printable to make things as easy as possible for you! Don’t worry, you’ll get a lesson every other, so you’ll have plenty of time to process and prepare. And hopefully, by the time fall hits, you will be ready to kick off your own co-op! I am so excited for you to start this journey! Don’t hesitate to ask questions- I am more than happy to help!

Just CLICK HERE to sign up!

Homeschool, Parenting, Preschool, Teaching