Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Giving Tree Family ThanksGIVING Unit

Each year growing up, my family would all sit around my grandmother's table for Thanksgiving, It was covered with a beautiful table cloth, and her fancy china.  My grandfather would carve the turkey.  Mashed potatoes would be kept warm on the stove next to the sweet potatoes.  There would be corn and sometimes beans or carrots.  Oh, and I can't forget the stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy.  In the evening, cousins and other relations would gather at our house for turkey sandwiches and desserts.  Part of the dessert table would always include an ice cream sundae bar.  We'd play board games and laugh the night away.

When first married, I lived far away from my family.  Attending those family functions wasn't possible.  I made my own Thanksgiving dinner for Jason and I. We always found someone to invite to come over and join us.  Then our kiddos came along.

Thanksgiving is the HARDEST holiday ever, when accommodating special needs.  If autism and RAD didn't make things difficult enough, the food allergies make the holiday a nightmare.  After all, the entire holiday is about food!

I started agonizing about Thanksgiving months ago, dreading the whole thing.  At first I thought the best thing to do would be to go on a vacation.  The only problem was, Jason works the holiday, so it's not really possible.  I started asking friends and readers for ideas.  This is when I learned about The Giving Tree ThanksGIVING from my friend Tiffany.

The Giving Tree ThanksGIVING is a tradition she has in her home with her own children.  Instead of focusing on the Pilgrims and Native Americans or a big feast, her family spends the day GIVING.  She plans family service projects that everyone can participate in.  Service ends with planting a new tree.  They put their Christmas tree up at night, and then gather around the tree and read the book, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

When I heard about this tradition I instantly fell in love with it and asked for more details.  After all what better way to show thanks than to give to others.  I LOVED the idea of reading such a fabulous book as part of the day too.

This year will be the first Eddy Family Giving Tree ThanksGIVING.  Since the kiddos are still little, our service won't take all day, but I figure spending the morning in service will be a great start.  Everyone is super excited about planting a tree in the backyard too.  We will still have Thanksgiving Dinner, as the kiddos are actually excited about it this year, but it won't be too elaborate.  Then after dinner, instead of putting up our Christmas tree (It's already been up for two and a half weeks now.), we'll be putting together our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Countdown Tree.  I think it's quite fitting for the day.  Finally we'll end with one last reading of The Giving Tree.

Since our theme for the month is "I'm Thankful For Family," I'm trying to focus on service related to our family.  This week's learning time activities are a combination of those related to our family and trees.  I thought this would be a great kick off to our first Giving Tree ThanksGIVING!  I hope you enjoy!
This post may contain affiliate links.

Language:
Family Name Spelling
The kiddos will practice spelling the names of everyone in our immediate family.  They will also practice spelling father, mother, sister, brother, and family.

Family Word Noun & Verb Sort
Kiddos will sort family related words into the categories of nouns and verbs.  (I just love my new Montessori Grammar Symbols!)

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Family Member Vocabulary
In this activity the kiddos will match up family member titles to definitions.  Once they've done this they can sort family members and place them under the proper titles and definitions.  This activity seemed a little challenging for the kiddos at first, so I'm guessing we'll be doing it together at least one more day, before they venture to do it on their own.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.


Math:
Sequencing Family Pictures
We've done this activity in the past. The kiddos LOVED it.  If it's possible, the kiddos enjoyed it even more today, a second time around.  In this activity, I've included a picture of each kiddo for every year of their little lives.  Their job is to put the pictures in order from youngest to oldest and then place the correct labels below each picture.  If they're feeling up to a real challenge they can sort all of the pictures, not just their own.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Who Is In My Family?
The kiddos will put together a graph of all of the individuals in our family, putting them into groups of babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, adults, and grandparents.  One can graph their real family, or use dice to create imaginary families.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Culture:
Sorting By Family
The kiddos will sort individual extended family members by family, so they learn which cousins belong to which aunts and uncles etc.  We've done this in the past and it was a favorite activity.

Our Family Tree
We've done this activity in the past also, but it's always great to review.  The kiddos will build their family tree using the pictures provided.  I created this tree using family members who are living. Sadly, Jason lost his Grammy over the last year, hence the missing photo.  The kiddos are so blessed to have so many great grandparents still living, and so many sets of grandparents that love them.

Science:
Parts of a Tree
The kiddos will color and then label the parts of a tree in their own little books.  All of them have thoroughly enjoyed this activity. Even Bulldozer has done it!

Source:  The printable for this activity can be found at Trillium Montessori.

Parts of a Leaf
The kiddos will create their own books, coloring and labeling parts of a leaf.  Just like the tree book, this has been a big hit on our shelves this week.

Source:  The printable for this activity can be found at Trillium Montessori.

Tree Match Up
Last year, the kiddos did each of these match ups, but at different times. This year we're doing them as a combined activity.  The kiddos sort and match the different types of trees in the pictures.

Source:  I created the printables for this activity. For your free copies, click HERE and HERE.

Q-Tip Tree Painting Activity
Before doing this activity, we reviewed what a tree looks like during the different seasons.  The kiddos will use Q-Tips to create a tree for each season.  They've really enjoyed this activity and are choosing different kinds of trees, which has been really fun.

Source:  I found this activity at Mess For Less.  The free tree printable I used for the activity can be found at DLTK Growing Together.

A Family Portrait Drawing
One of the kiddos' favorite things to do lately has been to draw pictures of their family.  I thought it might be fun to include a photo of us for them to use as a visual, and see just how detailed their drawings can get.

Music:
Low & High Sound Differentiation with Bells
Next week, our entire unit is about bells, inspired by the song "Carol of the Bells."  This week I decided to pull our new set of bells out for a test run.  It's going fabulously well.  (Thank goodness!)  The kiddos select two bells, ring one at at time, and then decide which pitch is higher and which one is lower. They continue to do this until all of the bells have been separated.  Then, if they're up for the challenge, they put the bells in order from lowest pitch to highest pitch.  Dinomite has completed the entire activity twice now and really enjoys it, even though he does need some help with the pitches.  Princess struggles with the activity, mixing up low vs. high, and loud vs. soft.  Bulldozer however, determines every pitch with ease.  He has even gone as far as matching pitches to sounds he's heard. Today he says to me,

"This is the sound of the bell at the Ferris Wheel.  This is the sound of the bell when riding the carousel.  This is the sound of the bell on The Polar Express movie."  He continued with almost every bell. At first I just thought he was playing, but then listened to the bells he was choosing and sure enough, the pitches were accurate, and if not, they were just a half step off.  I do believe Bulldozer may have perfect pitch!  He doesn't know the names of his notes yet, nor is our piano in tune, so the only things he could compare the bell sounds to were other noises he had heard.  I must say I'm one proud music Mama!

The kiddos continue to practice the piano.  Princess did fabulous today, once I wrote the note names above the notes for her to read.  She's so talented in so many areas.  I kept having visions of her playing masterpieces on the piano.

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Button Leaf Tree
I just love this activity. The kiddos do too. The glass bowl is filled with leaf buttons that the kiddos string on to the pipe cleaner tree branches.  The tree looks beautiful once all the leaves are on.

Tweezing Leaves
The kiddos will practice their fine motor skills by tweezing these tiny foam leaves, transferring them from one bowl to the other.

Hanging Family Photos
What's not to like about a clothes line filled with family photos from the present and past?  I've laminated the photos, so they're thicker and stiffer, making them hang more easily.  The results are beautiful and such a fun decoration!

The Giving Tree Invitation to Play
I couldn't resist including an invitation to play on our shelves this week.  Besides enjoying it during learning time, it will be a great activity to occupy the kiddos, while I'm trying to fix Thanksgiving Dinner on the big day.

For those of you interested in the free printable pack, click on the link below!


Next week we'll be starting our month long Christmas Unit with  a week's worth of activities all about bells.  I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving if you are celebrating!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Music Theory Activities and Printables for Kids (KLP Linky)

This post may contain affiliate links.

I graduated from college with a degree in music.  My instrument is my voice.  Teaching music to my kiddos should come easily to me.  Yet, it seems the opposite happens.  I'm not sure if it's because it means so much to me.  I've noticed the things I love the most are hardest to teach my children.  Or perhaps it's just because I understand so much about music, that I subconsciously expect my kiddos to know the same?  Who knows? All I do know is that they've hit a wall in their music progress.  They were all practicing and playing the piano daily, until I introduced the grand staff and letter names to them.  I don't think they've touched the piano since.  Obviously, they need some practice with music theory.  The thing is, when I taught piano lessons and voice lessons to kiddos in the past, I was always at the piano. We were in a private lesson setting. They were given theory homework.  I wasn't in a Montessori setting.  I wasn't in a classroom setting.  I'm learning this is a lot different.

In an effort to motivate my kiddos to get back to their piano lessons, and to find new ways to enjoy music, I decided to go on a search for fabulous music theory activities.  I can't resist sharing them with you, as they are really FABULOUS!

In the process of my search I discovered two blogs that have several music activities that are great for kiddos. I want to make sure to give them a shout out, as it's very appropriate here!



And now for some fabulous activities!
Music Theory with Mirrors from And Next Comes L

Music Note Matching Game from And Next Comes L at B-InspiredMama.com


Music Dice from Occasionally Crafty



Music Theory Addition from Little Drummer Boy Unit

Taps Analysis from Memorial Day Unit

Learning the Keyboard from March Madness Basketball Unit

Welcome to the Kids Learning Printables Linky Party!


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I Hibernate Printables from Welcome to Mommyhood

5 Little Snowmen from Laptime Songs

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Kids Learning Printables Every Star Is Different

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Transitioning Your Toddler into Your Homeschool Environment

This post contains affiliate links.

Sunshine turned 3 years old last week.  I can not believe my baby is a big girl now! It seems like yesterday she was a baby.  Over the past 6 months Sunshine has been joining us for some, if not all of learning time.  It has been a BIG adjustment for everyone, especially me.  For the most part we've moved past the hurdles.  We've learned a TON.  The transition has been a success!

When we started transitioning Sunshine into our learning time, I asked several other homeschooling mothers of multiple kiddos, just how they did it.  There were a few who felt confident in their success with the transition, but there were many others who were struggling with it.  I also remember talking to mothers who were not only transitioning toddlers into classrooms with their older kiddos, but introducing a baby into the classroom with their toddler.  Either situation is a challenge.  The more I talked with others about it, the more I wished my toddler hadn't grown out of their naps.

 My purpose for writing this post is to share with you what I've learned through this very challenging, yet successful process, and give some recommends, to help your process go a bit smoother than ours did.

1.  Classroom Set Up
Position your toddler as close to their activities and/or supplies as possible.  This helps to keep their physical activity at a minimum, and provides less chances of spilling, dumping, and dropping.  It also provides a special space, just for your toddler and no one else.  If your toddler is in their own space, your other kiddos will be able to keep their space to themselves.  Less distractions, more productivity!  Sunshine has her own special seat at our work table.  Her seat is closest to her shelves and is on the opposite wall as the other kiddos' activities.

This is not to say, your three year old is going to stay in one space.  I know Sunshine doesn't.  Provide a separate area for you toddler, away from learning time all together.  When your toddler needs a break or decides they're done for the day, they can go to this space to relax, play, and/or run around.  Our learning time room is right next to our living room.  If I leave the door open I can easily see Sunshine running around in the living room as we work in the learning time room.

2.  Promote Togetherness
Whether it be your calendar time, singing time, instruction time and/or reading time, include your toddler.  Your toddler could simply hold up a picture or hold a manipulative of some kind, while you teach the others.  When other siblings are taking turns, include your toddler, even if she's unable to actually participate effectively.  Toddlers are very good at coming up with their own adaptations to activities that may be over their heads.  Sunshine LOVES to be included, and quite frankly demands it.  Learning time is much easier when I've made sure to include her in everything we do.

3.  Encourage Independence
Plan and prepare activities for your toddler that don't require you to set up, clean up, help with, or do together during learning time.  Your time and attention is going to be focused on your older kiddos (or baby),  Of course if everyone else is busy, working independently, and successfully, it's fabulous to have the time to sit with your toddler and work together, but most often this is NOT going to be the case.  When Sunshine first joined us, I was creating activities for her that required so much supervision and assistance from me.  I couldn't be in two places at once.  The consequences were quite disastrous.  Neither one of us were enjoying ourselves.  Now that she can work independently, without having to wait for me to help her, she's quiet, smiling, and working hard.  I love to see the expression on her face when she's completed a task successfully and independently!

4.  Focus on the Basics
Toddlers are learning at such a fast pace.  Their little bodies and brains are growing and developing so rapidly.  I love how they have such a strong desire to learn and discover new things.  As easy as it is to take advantage of this phase, and plan as many elaborate activities as you can, stick to the basics.  So much of learning and developing occurs naturally in toddlers. When in a positive environment, they will thrive.  Just remember this happens at their pace, which may be different than your expectations.

If you're reading this post, you're already a parent who is providing a rich and positive environment for your child, full of opportunities for growth.  When it comes to learning time, focus on the basics- identifying colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, along with building vocabulary.  If you're child's not ready for that yet, focus on simple fine motor tasks.  Include some music, art, and physical activity, and you're golden.  Toddlers aren't going to do much writing, so the activities you plan will always include components that help develop fine motor skills and all that other stuff.

Remember that learning  doesn't just take place in the classroom, it's happening during every minute of every day.  My favorite teaching moments with Sunshine occur at the dinner table, when we go for walks, and/or at bedtime, as we read stories together, not necessarily in the classroom.

5.  Materials Are Everything
In order to keep Sunshine entertained and occupied for any period of time, I need to provide her with materials that will keep her hands busy.  They must be her size and 100% safe and child friendly.

Basic craft materials I can't live without include:
Pipe Cleaners
Pom Poms
Buttons, especially those that relate to a theme
Wooden Beads w/ String
Felt
Glue Sticks
Dot Markers
Washable Paint
Paint Brushes
Washable Crayons
Washable Markers
Stamps
Cookie Cutters
Construction Paper
White Paper
Glitter


Basic hands on materials I can't live without include:
Letters
Numbers
Shapes
Puzzles
Animal Figures
Tongs
Tweezers
Droppers
Spoons
Kids Size Rolling Pin
Cups
Bowls


Basic kitchen materials I can't live without include:
Dried Beans
Uncooked Pasta
Corn Kernels
Ingredients to make homemade play dough
Uncooked White Rice
Food Coloring

It's also nice to be able to provide an easel, reading chair etc., but at times that's just not possible due to room and/or finances.  This is okay!

6.  Focus on Interests
Your toddler is going to be more willing to participate and stay occupied for longer periods of time when they're learning more about something they already love.  As toddlers, all of my kiddos had very specific interests.  Dinomite loved dinosaurs and emergency vehicles. Bulldozer was obsessed with whales and construction vehicles.  Princess loved princesses.  (Go figure.)  Sunshine loves animals and art.  No matter what interest you choose, there's always a way to teach the basics we've talked about above.  Perhaps your child loves farm animals and/or tractors? The possibilities are endless!  I can seriously picture an entire shelving unit filled with hands on activities in my head right now.  Let your child guide you!

I hope this post is of help to someone  about to transition their own toddler to a homeschool environment with older siblings or baby.  The process can be quite the challenge.  Remember to be patient with yourself, your child, and siblings.  It's going to take time before everything goes as smoothly as you would like.  After all toddlers are toddlers.  If we can make it through the transition, you can!
Comments and questions are always welcome!