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Stop and Smell the Preschool Roses

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, May 19, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 40 May 19, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

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Notes from Heather
-- Stop and Smell the Roses
Helpful Tip
-- Free Grammar Education
Resource Review
-- Animal Classification
Reader Question
-- Preschool Formal Learning?
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Stop and Smell the Roses

This issue we are answering a question about 'formal' curriculum
for a 3 year old boy who is very interested in learning. One of
our readers -- a grandmother -- shared some wisdom that really
touched my heart. I've never heard it put quite this way, so I
wanted to share it with our readers a little closer to the top
of the newsletter! Read it over a few times and let it sink in.
Much of this is applicable to our children at ANY age.

And it gives me the warm fuzzies all over, too. :-)


"Remember that while learning is important, it is not the most
important part of a child's world at this age. Children need to
be kids -- they need their childhood time to be care-free; to
play. If we convey to our children is that the most important
thing in their life is to always be reaching toward something
that they are not now, we teach them that they are not okay where
they are. And how does one learn to 'stop and smell the roses'
in life if one is always discontent with who and what they are now?
Enjoy this time with your son. Make his days full of love, joy,
snuggles and popsicles. And try to see the world through his eyes,
for it is filled with wonder. And the exploration of that wonder
*with* him will teach him so much -- without you even trying."


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

"Here is an awesome grammar site:


It's free. It gives immediate feedback. It's self-paced and
regularly checks progress." -- Julie


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Review

Safari Search -- Animal Classification System
For more information or to order: www.bluewavelearning.com

Safari Search is a product of the Blue Wave Learning Company.
It gives children a very basic introduction to classifying animals
and could be used in conjunction with an elementary study of
animals. Rather than traditional (boring) drill work, Safari
Search accomplishes the same goal as drilling, but with the 'feel'
of a game, which serves to engage children in the learning process.

The Safari Search system includes a flip chart, 29 animal flash
cards, and 7 category header cards. Each animal flash card has a
nice photo of the animal on one side and several paragraphs of
information on the back. Important information is highlighted so
that the animal characteristics can be readily found. The cards
also share an interesting "Did You Know?" fact about the animal.
The flip chart is the main tool used for classifying animals. The
student will look at the animal flashcard and begin on page 1 of
the flip chart. Page 1 asks "Do I have a backbone?" A 'yes' answer
sends the student to the next page to further classify the verte-
brate animal -- otherwise (s)he is directed to the page to classify
the invertebrate. The student continues answering questions until
they end up at the correct classification (e.g. bird, fish, amphi-
bian, arachnid, etc.) The flip chart (4"x 6") is meant to be por-
table so one could take it to the zoo, park, farm, etc., in order
to classify other animals. The Blue Wave Learning website contains
free activity pages for use on field trips. Tests are also available.

While it does achieve the teaching of animal classification, Safari
Search only provides mastery of the basic levels of classsification.
There is no age level stated for the system. It would be useful for
a young student (age 4-7). It would also benefit an older student
who has not had any exposure to various animal groupings. Students
older than 7 might find the system to be too simplistic (able to
classify the animal without use of flashcard information or flip
chart). I would like to see this company expand their system to
further subdivide and classify animals -- rather than stop at fish,
break it down to osteichthyes (bone) and chondricthyes (cartilage).

A great tool for teaching visual learners, Safari Search is most
suited for those parents/teachers working with young children. The
pictures and process encourage exploration and beginning research
skills as students respond to each question in order to learn the
proper classification of each creature.


[A note from Cindy: My family and I will be at the FPEA Convention
this weekend (5/22 - 5/24) in Orlando, Florida. We have a special
bonus for anyone who shops at our booth on Thursday night. Stop by
our booth, (#713) Homeschooling From the Heart, to shop on Thursday
evening, and enjoy "Tax Free Thursday!" Print the coupon here:
http://www.homeschoolingfromtheheart.com/taxfree.html and enjoy!

We'd love to meet Homeschooler's Notebook readers, so please stop
by anytime and say hello! I'll also be speaking this year. You
can catch my workshop, "Getting a Jump Start on College" on Friday
at 1:45pm. -- Cindy]

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am new to the Homeschool Notebook. My son is only three and
I would like to get him started with education/formal learning
already. I will not be sending him to public school when he is
ready for Kindergarten unless we live somewhere with a good school
system. Right now where we live the school system is really awful.
Any ideas on getting him started now? Or should I hold off until
he is older? He seems very interested in education and learning
already which is why I am wanting to get started to foster and
build on that interest. Thanks." -- Timori

Our Readers' Responses

"It sounds like you feel your child needs pre-school at home.
This is not really necessary at this age. Here is a note I
sent a friend in response to her desire to keep her 3-year-old
home in the face of pre-school pressure from others. I think
it addresses some of your unspoken questions also.

'Preschool is just a contrived home life with all the bad habits
of other homes exposed to your impressionable child. They color
with them, read to them, provide play dates, nap, play house,
have snacks, take field trips to the library, the grocery store,

A good home does all that and more, and naturally tailors it
all precisely to the child's needs -- no planning necessary.
Regardless of which educational option you are led to, preschool
is only necessary if you see it providing something you cannot
give at home. (Not to mention that you can avoid some of the
routine 'daycare' immunizations and many colds, RSV, pinkeye,
and bugs for a few more years until natural immunity from every-
day living has built up. Your whole family life benefits in
this way.) Your child will be more comfortable around adults,
more sure of themselves and less likely to pick up bad behaviors.

You may even choose to homeschool through Kindergarten, basically
living in an engaged manner with your children during those years
-- taking them with you, talking to them, reading interesting
things, experiencing nature, the arts, cultures, etc. A few
workbooks are okay if they are interested, but nothing formal is
necessary. And then send them to a more traditional school.
They will be at the same school readiness (or beyond) as any kid
who has been in preschool and Kindergarten. I guarantee it.

A good home is the world's best and most reliable educator and
developer of persons. (Also instituted and sanctioned by that
great educator -- God!) A good home will prepare a person for
any situation. I believe the greatest indicator of how a child
does in whatever educational situation they are in depends mostly
on their home life.' " -- Jannell in SD


"Hi, Timori -- I think that your three year old son would really
benefit from 'Little Hands to Heaven' from Heart of Dakota Pub-
lishing. Their website is www.heartofdakota.com . I am using
their curriculum now for our six and eight year old children.
Each year the daily lesson plans are laid out already for you.
They give you a list of books that they feel are appropriate for
each grade level. Because it is made up the way it is, I can
teach both of our children from the same teacher's guide but use
different books to meet their individual needs." -- Mary in NY


"You have a little learner who is interested in everything it
sounds. Don't smother that with formal learning. There is
plenty of time for that in later years -- much later years in
my opinion. Read to your child a lot; many times a day -- and
read some more! Observe things outside with him let his curiosity
lead him! 'Study' ants and flowers and bugs; every child loves
all of God's creation. Read to him some more, make cookies
together so he can see how measuring works. There is so much
you can do to teach him that won't squelch his eagerness. Don't
push writing, either. Boys' fine motor skills develop slower
than girls -- when he is ready he will do it without complaint.
(My 10 year old son still balks at writing, so we do very little
of it.) Guide his enthusiasm and you will have a life long
learner. Don't kill that healthy lust for knowledge as our
schools always do! Wait and enjoy!" -- Sandy


"I got a homeschool curriculum catalog in the mail that includes
reading lists for preschoolers. I just went to the library and
checked out those books to read with my son. I also got one of
those books, 'The Everything Preschool Book'. We color together
and learn by just playing. He calls it his 'homework' and sits
at his little desk and works hard. I find every opportunity I
can to teach him things just with everyday doings, so that teach-
ing is just part of life. We'll be starting what I call 'formal'
schooling (with regular purchased curriculum) next year. But to
him, school is fun!" -- Cindy H.


"I started teaching my son when he was 3 years old. We began
by learning the alphabet. We used jumbo flash cards with the
letter and a picture on it. They were about the size of a sheet
of paper. I took 5 or so cards with the different letters on
them and we would go through them every day. I would say the
letter and the sound it made. I would have him repeat it back
to me. As he would learn each letter and sound I would replace
that card with a new card.

I did not teach him the alphabet in order from A to Z. I found
when you do it that way the children have to say the whole alpha-
bet just to remember one letter. We also saved the vowels for
last since they made two sounds. We worked on the correct way
to hold a pencil and how to print his name. We only worked a
few minutes a day so he didn't lose his concentration. When he
was 4 we moved to putting letters together to make words. By the
time he was 5 he was reading and printing words. Just take your
time and work at his pace. Don't push him to learn too much too
fast or it may backfire on you." -- Holly S. in Indiana


"It is wonderful that your son is an eager learner, and it can
be very tempting to jump to the conclusion that he therefore
would benefit from structured, 'formal' education. However,
there is a wide body of research that says otherwise. You and
your son will be best off if you make the most of his natural
inclination for learning by incorporating a wide variety of play
based activities into his day/week. Read to him often; visit
the library on a regular basis. Turnoff the TV and reduce or
eliminate videos and computer based games. Play with construc-
tion type toys (blocks, duplos, k'nex, etc.), play with play
dough, color pictures with crayons, paintbrushes, finger paint
-- on the horizontal and vertical surfaces. These activities
are fun but also build the fine motor skills necessary for hand-
writing. Work on puzzles -- this builds visual perceptual skills.
Run around, jump, play outside, take wheelbarrow walks (you hold
his ankles, he walks on his hands). Encourage lots of gross
motor play; large muscle development must take place to support
fine motor skills. Cook together. Count anything. Sort socks,
toys, cars, etc. by color, size, and other attributes. Point
out signs. Talk about letter sounds as part of your regular day,
not as a structured activity. Sing. Go outside and watch the
bugs, look at plants, explore whatever nature is around your
home. Visit the zoo. These types of activities will do far
more good than sitting down with flash cards and workbooks. The
time for formal schooling will come soon enough -- enjoy your
little boy now, while you can." -- Laurie, Mom to 7


"We have a 3 year old son (in April) as well. We have decided
to start Pre-K with him this August. Although he already knows
most of his colors, some shapes, and has some sort of idea about
counting (1-2-3-6). We are going to be very relaxed and just
let it flow. I sat down with him last week to get an 'interest
list' from him. He wants to learn about frogs, pirates, castles,
birds, butterflies, people (community), dinosaurs (what 3 year
old doesn't?), turtles, gardening, the beach, Pilgrims/Native
Americans, and boats. Some of the items he knows about because
they are on his sibling's interest lists. Some items we will be
covering when we go on vacation to New Hampshire and Massachusetts
at the beginning of the school year. Others we will just be read-
ing about or finding appropriate videos to see.

The Magic School Bus videos are great for his age and cover a wide
array of topics. They do however, talk about evolution (I think
it's in the one about Space), but I don't think he understands
that. We also purchased a few Pre-K workbooks, and Sing-Spell-
Read-and Write. It is for 4 year olds, but there are cassettes in
the package that he will be able to utilize. We will be starting
basic sight words on flash cards that look like Noah's Ark (his
name is Noah). Check out your public library, show him all the
types of books there are. Our library as an unlimited borrowing
amount and you can take them out for 3 weeks (some items only 3-7
days). There are several learning CDs that teach counting, the
alphabet, colors, shapes, rhyming, etc. I just purchased 2 for
$1.99 each from CBD. One was 50 Top Kindergarten Songs, and the
other was 50 Top Toddler Songs. They have others as well.


I think you are right to start especially if he is showing interest.
We are starting to unschool, this coming from a very traditionally
strict homeschool. We (mostly me) have had to rearrange our learn-
ing habits, and styles. I love to foster the children's interests.
I feel if it is something they don't like they will put a wall up.
They'll do some work, but just enough to get it done. It took me
5 years and 2 homeschoolers to date to figure this out, and I'm
still learning. I do know one thing, I will not be making the same
mistakes with the next two children. I have an idea about our 3
year old's learning style. I think he is a kinesthetic learner like
his brother. So play-doh, blocks, piano, sand, cooking, basketball,
coloring, painting, etc. will all be things we use for him. These
will also develop motor skills too. I'm looking forward to the
next school year and years to come. He is so fun now, and it will
be neat to see how he develops further. Now, if I could only keep
my 13 (almost) and 7 1/2 year old homeschoolers as excited and
interested we'll be all set!" -- Kellie in NY


"A year ago I was in your same frame of mind -- wanting to start
a formal homeschool education with my 3-year-old. When I queried
homeschool list members I was strongly encouraged to relax and let
PRE-school be before school, letting her just be a kid for awhile.
That made a lot of sense to me, so here's what we did this past
year: As we were shopping, if I found a fun pre-K workbook or
maze book, I would get it and let her work through it at her own
pace (she called it her 'homework'). I already had her enrolled
in a weekly music class, so we kept that going. We discovered
a homeschool PE class offered for her age group and went to that
for its 2-month weekly course. We learned about a farm life
class for 5 weeks and attended that. We found a painting/learning
colors in Spanish class at our Children's Museum and had a blast
at that. In the summer she took a swim class and a creative move-
ment class through the Parks Department. It has been a relaxed,
fun and varied year. She thoroughly enjoyed all her classes,
being with other children her age, and she gained a lot of learn-
ing casually through those activities. We also read a LOT of
picture books. So, just a thought for you, you can spend time
in a real life PRE-school with a little bit of occasional struc-
ture without committing yet to a formal curriculum, and let the
child's love of learning be nurtured in that way -- and give
yourself time to research alternatives for the future. It worked
really well for us." -- Ellen D.


"I would suggest just reading a lot of good fun books that your
child and you enjoy. Reading is really so good for them at that
age. And they learn comprehension skills which helps them in
the future with their ability to actually do schoolwork. I would
not start a curriculum of any sort at this young age. They will
probably burn out. I would also suggest fun outings like the zoo
or nature centers. Children learn so much just from observing
nature and the things around them. I would also suggest limiting
T.V. as much as possible, and only watching shows that are edu-
cational like Sesame Street and stuff like that. Let him color
and cut with scissors and do fun creative type things that he
enjoys. Building blocks are very good for small hand coordina-
tion also." -- Bev


"If he's interested and excited about learning, by all means
build on that! Be careful though; young children can quickly
become burnt out on learning if they're pushed to do more than
they are ready for. Readiness means more than just academic
ability; there are issues of physical development and emotional
maturity at work as well.

What we did when my children were smaller was provide a lot of
options: good picture books and chapter books for reading aloud
to him (or together once he's beginning to read), a variety of
games, manipulatives, art and craft supplies, tapes of stories
and songs to listen to while we were in the car -- use your
imagination. Then we let the child decide what he was in the
mood to do.

We made ourselves available to them to help them, reading stories
to them, playing games, explaining things and answering their
questions with *real* answers (albeit at times scaled down to
their ability to grasp ideas), not with just brushoff answers.

When they're surrounded by opportunities to learn, but are not
forced to do things on *our* schedule, it's amazing how much
they can absorb." -- Luanne in TN


"I have started my 3 year olds with preschool books from Study
Time Publishers. I believe it's from an Amish producer. The
only way I know to contact them is by mail. The address is
6490 S. - 300 W. Topeka, IN 46571. The first book (in a series
of 4) is called 'About Three' and has very simple exercises for
those little ones who are itching to get their fingers into
workbooks. There are a few pages where they are asked to 'cross
out the picture in each row that is different'. You would think
that's an easy thing to do, but for my 3 year olds it has been
difficult. I tend to skip over those pages that are beyond their
capability until they are able to do them. I, too, like to
encourage their love of schooling and at that age try to balance
teaching perseverance and thoroughness while stimulating or
preserving their love of learning. Most of mine have wanted to
do almost half of the book the first time they pick it up. But
then they get into some more difficult exercises and are willing
to take 'smaller bites'. I let them work at it as they want to
-- not necessarily every day or even every week. But when they
ask for something, I have it there for them. The first two books
in the series have parts that 3 year olds can do. If you are not
familiar with life skills such as sewing, carpentry or barn work,
there may be some exercises in some of the books that they won't
be able to do. But that's in the more advanced workbooks. Some
of the pictures include a treadle sewing machine, a wringer washer,
a (horse and) buggy, etc. When mine are around 5, I also include
the preschool series from a Mennonite publisher called Rod and
Staff Publishers. There are 6 books in this series packed with
wholesome activities. You can reach them by phone - 606.522.4348."
-- Marie


"Fostering an interest in learning at this age is a great idea --
within certain parameters. First, make the learning fun. Gear
everything toward what he is interested in. I often checked out
fun learning books from the library and read to my children at
this age. And if money allows, invest in hands-on learning mani-
pulatives of the alphabet, colors, shapes, and things of this sort.
Sometimes the best learning manipulatives at this age are a big
box of crayons and lots of paper. Mastering the dexterity of
drawing and coloring is one of the most difficult, but fun, things
for a young child to do.

Second, don't forget to do lots of physical activities with your
son. I found a cheap butterfly net at a local Target. I bought
several, and my three year old grandson is having a ball catching
bugs and looking at all the wonders thereof. And he is learning
while having a great time outside! He also helps me in my gardening,
and we talk about all the important things -- like how to water a
plant, and why it is important to give the plants a 'drink'. I also
bought him a bucket and we collect rocks together... and have lots
of fun looking at them. These types of fun learning projects create
in the child a fascination and wonder about the world around them.
And while I am sure the 'educational' programs on the TV are of some
value, a child this age has much more fun doing than watching.

And finally, remember that while learning is important, it is not
the most important part of a child's world at this age. I am a firm
believer that we push our children way too hard too soon in this
society. Children need to be kids -- they need their childhood time
to be care-free; to play. If we convey to our children is that the
most important thing in their life is to always be reaching toward
something that they are not now, we teach them that they are not okay
where they are. And how does one learn to 'stop and smell the roses'
in life if one is always discontent with who and what they are now?
Enjoy this time with your son. Make his days full of love, joy,
snuggles and popsicles. And try to see the world through his eyes,
for it is filled with wonder. And the exploration of that wonder
*with* him will teach him so much -- without you even trying."
-- Kay in Texas

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a 7 (soon to be 8) year old daughter that I have been
homeschooling from Kindergarten. She HATES to write anything.
We've been doing a journal throughout the school year but getting
her to actually do it is like pulling teeth. I'm frustrated,
she's frustrated, and we're both worn out from the struggles.
Does anyone have any suggestions?" -- Shannon


Do you have some advice and/or wisdom to share with Shannon?
Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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