Early Childhood Homeschooling Made Easy

Taking teaching and your child's future into your own hands.

Our School Room/Kiddie Area – Better known as, toddler school

Last week, my nephew came up to me and said, “I want to learn.  Aunt Jenny, I want to learn.”  It was music to my ears.  I love that he is excited about doing projects, puzzles, coloring, learning songs, etc.  He’ll ask me if we can do a project today, and he’ll get excited when he sees that I bought new craft materials.  It is wonderful to see the love of learning in a child’s eyes.

I am pretty much done working on the kids area now.  I have a few little things to do here and there, but I think it’s come together really well.  I officially showed it to my daughter and my nephew today.  They were so excited to see their area done and ready to use.  The smiles on their faces and the excitement in their eyes made it all worth it to me.

They wasted no time diving into everything to find out what I had hidden in the storage bins for them.  The problem ended up being that they wanted to do everything.  They played with playdoh for a bit.  They colored in coloring books and used stickers.  They sat on the floor and built towers out of blocks.  Kayla looked through flash cards naming the pictures.  Alex played with various other toys.  Then we played around with color viewers so they could see the world in blue, yellow, and red.  They had a blast, and so did I.

They loved seeing the dogs and Sesame Street characters on the wall.  I showed them some of the other stuff I had up on the wall for them to look at, and showed them their personal storage bins.  They wanted me to read them some books, but we never got that far because we had to eat lunch.  They weren’t too disappointed when I told them we’d be hanging out down there again tomorrow.

I am very happy with how everything turned out so far.  I wanted an area that is colorful and kid friendly.  I wanted a place where we’d have enough room to sing and dance, do yoga, play games, do craft projects together (and not stress over the mess), and just plain focus on what we’re doing.  Sometimes it can be hard to focus when there are three dogs around.  (Yes, we have three dogs.)  So it’s nice to be able to take the kids down to the basement, away from distractions.

I like to refer to it as toddler school, even though my nephew is on his way out of his toddler years.  Alex is almost 3 1/2 now.  I know some people say the toddler years are from ages 1-3, while others say ages 1-4.  I think I am somewhere in between.  I see the toddler years as being from about age 1 to 3 1/2 or so.  Alex is seeming less like a toddler all the time, but he still hasn’t quite entered that “kid” stage to me yet.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that he’s still potty training, and is so small for his age.  (And I’m not ready for him to grow up.)  I’m not sure.  All I know is I still consider him to be a toddler.  Kayla, who will be two in November, is definitely my little toddler baby.  She is so eager to learn new things, and she’s into everything.  Her and Alex are such a cute pair.  They learn a lot from each other, good and bad.  Since Kayla doesn’t have a sibling yet, I am so glad she has him around to play with all the time.  I watch him a few days a week, so they have plenty of time together.

Right now, my goal is to let them learn through play and projects.  We will focus on colors, the alphabet, and numbers…but the main focus is letting them learn by having fun.  At this age, kids learn from pretty much everything they do.  It is amazing how they absorb everything.  I want to play off of their natural ability to learn from doing everyday kids stuff.  They are both young, so there is no need for some strict curriculum.  They can learn from coloring, painting, building with blocks, playing games, doing puzzles, singing songs, dancing, doing yoga, decorating pumkins, etc.  There is one thing I can guarantee, we will be singing and dancing…and having lots of fun.  🙂

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Getting Organized

My goal over the last week has been to get organized.  I’ve been working on it here and there, but over the weekend I really buckled down and made some progress.  Some of my main areas for organization was the master bedroom, Kayla’s room, and an area in the basement for the kids (Kayla and her cousin, Alex).  I already worked on the living room a couple weeks ago, so it was time to move on to more pressing areas.  I’m sure all the parents reading this blog post understand how kids stuff seems to take over the house.  I swear, I never thought of our house as small until after Kayla was born.  Now it seems like if we have a second child, we will quickly outgrow this house.

There seems to be toys, stuffed animals, puzzles, flash cards, books, and craft materials all over the house.  The living room and master bedroom have been taken over by all of her stuff.  It is unreal how much stuff a kid who isn’t even two yet can own.  I was having a hard time walking around the master bedroom because of the amount of kids books and whatnot we had in there.  I think I have the situation under control now, which is a major relief.  I’ve been determined to move more of her stuff to her bedroom and to our finished basement.  My husband has pretty much claimed the finished basement as his man cave ever since he moved in, but I am finally putting my foot down and re-claiming part of the basement for a kids area.  In order to do this, I had to start working on the area while my husband was out of the house.  If he was here, he probably would have come up with excuses about why it’s a bad idea to have the kids in the basement instead of on the main floor.  I didn’t want to hear it.  So while he was over at one of his sister’s house for the night to play cards with his siblings, I took the opportunity to start working on my kids area.  I was proud of how much I accomplished in such a short amount of time.  Yay me!

It seems to be coming together fast.  There are only a few more things I want to do in the basement to get it ready for this week.  Kayla is already enjoying the area, and I know my nephew will be excited to see it on Tuesday.  There’s storage, a table and chairs, toys, books, and more.  We have plenty of room to do yoga, do circle time with songs and books, and build with blocks.  And since it’s the basement, I won’t have to worry as much about art projects ending up on the carpet.  The carpet down there is a dark color, and it’s easier to clean.  Not to mention, it’s more acceptable to have a less than perfect carpet in your basement family room, than in your living room.  Or at least that’s how I feel.

Once I make a few last touches, I will be posting pictures of what I’ve done on this blog.  Until then, I have shared some nice school room ideas on my Facebook page from other blogs and articles.  Check them out for some great ideas.

Do you have a designated school room/kids area in your house?  What types of things do you have to make it kid friendly?  What do you think is essential for a school room/kids area?  Please share your thoughts, opinion, suggestions, etc.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Just another day in our world

Fall is definitely on it’s way here.  The high today was only 60 degrees.  In comparison to all the 90 degree days we’ve had this year, it felt extra chilly out.  I’m not complaining though.  I was happy to wear a long sleeve shirt and jeans for a change.  I’m getting sick of my summer clothes.

Kayla looking through a book at the library today. I love this picture with the way the light is coming through the window.

Kayla and I started off our day by going to Storytime.  We sang songs, listened to stories, and learned a few new signs (sign language).  We hung around the library for awhile so Kayla could play with the other kids and I could talk to the other mommies.  We picked some books to check out, then headed home.  When get got home, my nephew was being dropped off, so Kayla was pretty excited.  I let the kids play for awhile before having Kayla sit down for lunch.  (My nephew ate before he came over.)  They made a huge mess in the living room while playing with various toys and looking at books.  They watched a few educational shows on TV.  Well…they watched here and there while they were playing.  I was able to make a quick trip to the store to buy some organizational storage supplies while my mom watched the kids.  And a little after I got home, it was nap time.

Kayla at the library after storytime.

After their naps, they sat down at their little table for juice and a snack.  They watched something on PBS while snacking.  I was able to get dinner in the oven, which made me happy.  I hate having to rush around at dinnertime trying to figure out what we’re going to eat.  I prefer having a set dinner planned.  Once they were done with their snack, I got out the new animal finger crayons I bought and some coloring books.  They were excited to see the new crayons.  Every crayon has a different animal face on it.  The crayons are easy for toddlers to grip, and they also have a hole in the bottom so the kids can put them on their fingers.  It probably sounds a little weird, but believe me, they are cool crayons.  They colored and played with the crayons until my husband got home.  Then once my husband was home, he entertained them while I finished getting dinner ready.

Kayla and Alex using the new animal crayons I bought them.

My sister picked up my nephew around 6:30 p.m.  Kayla, my husband, and I sat down for dinner.  In reality, Kayla and I sat down, and my husband ate standing up.  Don’t ask.  He seems to like standing up while he eats.  He does it all the time.  Now that we have an island in the kitchen, he does it even more.  I made a pork roast and roasted potatoes with onions and peppers.  Kayla’s favorite part of dinner was her strawberry banana yogurt.  Apparently, she wasn’t in the mood for pork and potatoes tonight.  Go figure.  She wasn’t a happy camper when I told her she couldn’t have a cookie since she mostly played with her dinner.  She’s used to getting some type of dessert after dinner.

Kayla was a mess from eating her yogurt.  She had yogurt all over her face, hands, and in her hair.  She managed to get yogurt all over her clothes, as well.  I gave her a bath, got her in her pajamas, and gave her some milk to drink.  For some reason, she decided to pour her milk on top of her head.  Sigh…  I ended up having to re-wash her hair, after taking the milk away from her.  We played with her dolls until my husband came up to take over.  Pretty much every night, he spends about an hour or so with her by himself so they can have some bonding time, and I get to have some “me” time.  They play together, then clean up the living room.  I go into the bedroom and do whatever I want/need to do.  I may watch TV, read a book, workout, take a shower, clean the bathroom or the bedroom, check my email, make a phone call, put laundry away, etc.  I may even just close my eyes and rest for awhile.  It is pretty much the only time of the day that I have all to myself.  I don’t have to deal with my husband, Kayla, my mom, or the three dogs.  (My mom lives with us.  She works nights.)  I get to lock myself in the bedroom and take some much needed “me” time.  I am not someone who needs a ton of time to myself.  I don’t have any strong desire to go have girls days/nights out.  I don’t like going to the gym to workout, when I can do it in my own home.  I usually take Kayla with me when I go shopping, run errands, go out with friends, etc.  But every night, I enjoy having an hour to myself.  I think we all need some time to reflect and to take care of ourselves.  I love being a mom, and I love being surrounded by my family, but I also enjoy watching my favorite shows in peace and quiet.  That’s the beauty of the DVR.  I can wait to watch my shows when I’m locked away in my room, alone.

Most nights, we sit down and watch some TV together as a family.  It’s usually something on Netflix, unless we have a new show on the DVR to watch.  Lately, we’ve been too tired to do this much.  We’ve been doing most of our TV time over the weekend, and heading to bed earlier during the week.

At bedtime, I read Kayla all the books we got from the library today.  There were 13 books total.  She played with her little interactive monkey that she can dress and it plays songs.  We did some flash cards where she named the animals on the cards.  Then I let her go on abcmouse.com.  She fell asleep during one of the books on the website.  The website is nice because it reads the books to the kids.  She was curled up next to me with her head on my stomach, and I could feel her starting to nod off.  Some nights she falls to sleep during our bedtime routines, and other nights she is wide awake until I turn everything off for the night and tell her it’s time to go night-night.  She’s usually pretty good about going to sleep.  Now that she’s asleep for the night, I get to stay up way later than I should trying to look things up on the internet, read blogs, and write my own blog posts.  I get to check my bank balance, make sure all bills are paid, and respond to emails.  And I may even get to read a book before I get overly sleepy.  I love these late night hours when the whole house is quiet and I get to be up all by myself.  It’s peaceful.  This is the time of day that I think about how lucky I am to be home with my daughter all day.  I am lucky to have this opportunity to teach her myself, and not miss out on anything with her.  I get to see how she changes from day to day, week to week, and month to month.  I get to be the person who knows her better than anyone else.  Even though there are days when she drives me nuts with her crazy toddler tantrums and her constant squealing, I love every single second I spend with her.  I wouldn’t trade this for the world.  I love motherhood.

On that note, I’m going to end this blog post and try to decide which book I’m going to read tonight.  I’m in the middle of a dystopian novel, but I just received some new books on homeschooling via UPS today, so I am leaning toward reading one of them.  Decisions, decisions.

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A few great websites for buying school products

My goal is to give Kayla (and my nephew) a relaxed daycare/preschool experience at home.  I think it is important to have the right tools in order to do it right.  I recently did a blog post about some essential items to have on-hand for activities.  Now this post is about where to buy products that you would find in most schools, so that you can use them at home.  You don’t have to be an actual licensed teacher working in a traditional school to buy school supplies.  Any of us can order them online, or go to a teacher supply store.  My mom used to take me to teacher supply stores when I was little.  I absolutely loved them.  She would take me there when there was something I really, REALLY wanted that I used at school.  Or when she needed something to assist her in reinforcing what I was learning in school.  I will always remember going there when I was in elementary school to buy scented markers.  Each marker smelled like a different type of fruit.  One of my teachers had markers like this, and I was insistent that I had to have some of my own.  My mom was nice enough to buy them for me, even though I could tell she didn’t get what the big deal was about scented markers.

Anyway, two of my favorite teacher supply websites are:

Lakeshore Learning –    http://www.lakeshorelearning.com

Really Good Stuff –        http://www.reallygoodstuff.com

If you have one of the physical Lakeshore Learning Stores near you, I highly recommend going there and checking it out.  I love this store and could easily spend an hour in there looking around at everything.  There are educational toys, regular kids books, activity books, lesson plan books, organizational and storage supplies, decorations for bulletin boards, computer software, arts and craft supplies, classroom furniture, etc.  There are so many different things to choose from in the store.  Just walking around the store and looking at everything gives you many new ideas of things you can do with your kids.  Pretty much everything in the store, can be found on their website, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a physical store near you.  I’ve seen a demonstration of their interactive computer software in their store, and I have to admit I was impressed.  The physical stores also have crafts every Saturday for kids.  I haven’t gone yet, but it sounds like fun.

Really Good Stuff is my second choice for teacher supplies.  Some products on this site are actually cheaper than the same product on the Lakeshore Learning site.  I like to check prices on both sites and see which is better.  I don’t think the Really Good Stuff website is quite as big as Lakeshore Learnings website, but they have the same types of products on their site.  One thing I love about this site is that they have an EZ Pay option.  You can divide up the cost of your order into 3 easy payments instead of having to pay for it all at once.  You get your order right away, but you’ll still be charged two more times before your order is paid off.  I tend to be on a budget for what I can spend each month, so this is a nice option for me.  I can still buy everything I need, but spread the payments out over three months.

There are a few other sites that I’ve been told are good sites by friends and fellow bloggers, but I haven’t ordered from them yet, so I don’t have personal experience.  I’ve viewed their products online, and they seem okay.  Some of these sites seem a little smaller though as far as product offerings.  I think they are worth checking out though.

http://shop.teachingstuffshop.com

http://www.discountschoolsupply.com

http://www.rainbowresource.com

http://www.zteacher.com/0810/catalog/

I hope my little list is helpful to some of you homeschooling parents out there.  These sites aren’t just for parents who are homeschooling young kids.  These websites are great for all homeschooling families.

Let me know what you think of the sites.  Which ones do you prefer?  Do you use a particular site that I don’t have listed?  Please share any sites that you can recommend to other bloggers.  Thanks!

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Dance class and a Fall Fest make the weekend complete

Saturday morning, Kayla and I attended a dance class that is offered through one of the local park districts.  The class is only $36 for 7 weeks.  Not bad.  The teacher is well known in the area for being a great dance teacher for young kids.  Even though the official dance attire isn’t required for the class with the kids under 2, I decided to dress Kayla in a ballet outfit.  When she goes onto the pre-ballet class, she will have to wear the proper attire, so I figured I should get her used to wearing it now.  She wore a light pink leotard, a black shirt, light pink tights, and light pink ballet slippers.  She looked adorable.  And better yet, she loved the outfit.  She was so excited to be going to dance class, even though I don’t think she knew exactly what was in-store for her.  She just enjoys going bye-bye.

Kayla holding her favorite monkeys before leaving for class.

Playing in her ballerina outfit before leaving for class.

The class we’re taking is for little ones and their mom.  It’s all about introducing young kids to music and doing some very simple dance moves for their age.  They get to play with scarves, puppets, and rythme sticks.  They dance around to simple, kiddie songs with easy movements.  They also get to sing.  Some of the kids have taken the class before, so they are used to the way it runs, but others are newbies like us.

Arriving at dance class.

Being silly with the other kids.

She wasn’t quite sure how to use the rythme sticks.

Taking a water break.

Kayla had fun looking at the other kids, watching her teacher, and trying to follow along the best she could.  We had a few minor bumps along the way when she wanted to use props we were no longer using, but she did very well for her first day.  I was proud of my little ballerina.

After class, we went home to change clothes and get her daddy so we could head to a local fall fest.  It’s a small fest, but it’s great for families.  There was fresh food, crafts, music, a petting zoo, and pony rides.  The fest was worth going to just to see Kayla’s face light up when she saw the horses.  This was the first time we actually let her ride on a pony.  Before, we were always worried she was too young, or that she would freak out.  Over the last month, her love for horses has grown, so we figured it was time.  There is nothing better than seeing a smile on your child’s face that you help put there.

Kayla riding a horse. She was so excited.

Kayla on a horse at the fall fest.

I walked around with her to make sure she didn’t fall off. She was a little unsteady and still too young to ride by herself.

We had a great time walking around the fest.  We ate some fantastic Mexican food from a food truck, and listened to a talented 16 year old girl sing her heart out.  We munched on popcorn, let Kayla look at the animals, and bought some pumpkin butter to take home to try.  All in all, it was a fun day.

Taking a break to munch on some kettle corn.

A pig and a duck in the petting zoo.

Bonding with a goat.

Kayla and daddy looking around.

Kayla walking around with her daddy like a big girl.

If we were more ambitious, there were two other fests going on nearby this weekend that we could have went to, but we decided to spend the rest of the weekend relaxing.  Well…we did do some necessary shopping and my husband went fishing…but besides that, we relaxed.

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Lunch served by a train

This past week, my sister was on vacation and asked me if I’d be interested in taking the kids to Tyler’s Tenders.  Besides doing some puzzles and playing with playdoh, Kayla and I didn’t have any plans for the day, so I said yes.  Tyler’s Tenders is a train themed restaurant in Indiana.  We have one in Illinois too, Choo Choo Johnny’s, but it’s not quite as nice.  My nephew, Alex, is really into trains.

Coin operated ride

Kayla and I met my sister and nephew there for lunch.  If you sit at the counter (instead of at one of the booths), a toy train comes around on a track and brings you your food.  The kids get a kick out of seeing the train coming down the train with their diner style baskets of food.  And as a plus for the adults, the food is actually pretty good.  I got a panini with homemade chips, and I was impressed.  The chips alone is a good enough reason for me to go back.

The restaurant has high chairs that attach to the counter so young kids can eat at the counter too. The counter has bar stool seating. If you want a train to serve you your food, you must sit at the counter. The kids enjoy it.

The kids had a blast looking at the trains and pushing the buttons to make them move.  There’s a coin operated train ride for little kids, and there’s also a real kiddie train ride that goes around an indoor track.  The kiddie train ride only costs a $1 per ride.  It departs every 15 minutes.  There’s a little clock that counts down till the next departure.  The kids love watching the clock countdown.

Kayla having fun pushing the buttons.

Push the buttons to make the trains move around the track.

Alex and Kayla on the coin operated train together.

Kayla and her cousin on the kiddie train ride.

Kiddie train ride on an indoor track.

Kayla ringing the bell on the train.

There’s also an arcade next door.  We avoided going in there though.  We figured most of the stuff is geared towards older kids, and I wasn’t in the mood to try to get Kayla to leave after going in there.  The arcade is in it’s own section.

If you’re ever in the Schererville, Indiana area, I suggest checking out this restaurant.  It’s a fun place to take kids who have a love for trains, and it’s an awesome mid-week field trip.

http://www.tylerstender.com/

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Some essentials for playful learning activities for young kids

It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining at times trying to keep toddlers entertained, and teach them at the same time.  Although my daughter and my nephew have a lot of time to just play on their own or watch their shows, I also like to have plenty of activities on-hand for them to do.  I thought I would make a quick list of some essential items that are good to have around at any given time for playful learning activities.  I will add onto this list in the future with follow up posts, but here are some of my favorite essentials.

1.  Reusable sticker books – These are great for toddlers since they always want to move the stickers around.

2.  Coloring books and toddler friendly crayons

3.  Dry erase boards, dry erase markers, and magnetic letters/numbers

4.  Chalk boards and colorful chalk

5.  Puzzles and sorting toys – The bigger, chunkier ones are best for toddlers.  My daughter loves puzzles with animals on them.

6.  Fingerpaint and fingerpaint paper

7.  Construction paper – You can use it for so many different projects.  You can simply give the kids colorful paper and let them draw.

8.  Puppets – They can play with these by themselves, or you can use them as props for songs/stories.

9.  Kid’s songs CDs – For dancing to and singing toddler friendly songs.

10. Board books – For looking at by themselves, or you can read to them throughout the day.

11. Stamps and toddler friendly ink pads – Chunky toddler friendly stamps with big ink pads are the best.  Make sure you get the washable ink.

12. Memory games – Now you can find so many different types of memory games with your child’s favorite characters on them.  My daughter has Curious George and Minnie Mouse.

13. Playdoh – My daughter likes taking the playdoh out of the containers, then putting it back in different containers.  I like to use it to teach her colors and to show her how to make animals.

14. Blocks – Plastic, wooden, fabric, etc.  They are all fun for kids and teach them to build things.

15. Flash cards – They can sort them into groups, name what’s on the cards, answer questions about the pictures, etc.

What are some of your favorite essentials for keeping young children busy?

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Checking out storytime at your local library…and then checking out a few books

Kayla looking through a book at the library after storytime.

I’ve been taking my daughter around to some of the storytimes at local libraries.  They’re all slightly different, but have the same foundation.  They sing toddler friendly songs, and the librarian will read a few books.  Some may do other activities like craft projects, dancing, letting kids look at books, and free play.

So far, Kayla loves going to storytime.  She laughs, looks at the other kids, claps her hands, and tries to do a few of the hand movements with the songs.  She’ll be 22 months old this week, so I think she’s doing pretty good for a kid who just started going.  She’s used to mostly being around kids in our family.  She has one young cousin on my side of a family, and a bunch of young cousins on my husband’s side of the family.  This is the first time she’s been to programs with other little kids around her age.

After storytime, we tend to hang out at the library for awhile.  I let her pick out books and investigate the kid’s area.  The first time we went to storytime, she only wanted to look at books.  She didn’t want to play with the toys or play with the other kids.  Her main focus was sitting down and looking at books.  (Have I mentioned that she loves books?)  The next time, she was a little more open to interacting with the other kids and playing with the toys.  Whew!  I was happy to see her take some time to play with the other kids before focusing on all the books.  I know she’s excited to see the massive amount of books, but I also want her to socialize with other kids around her age.

We attended storytime today, and we left the library with 11 books.  That was pretty good since if it was up to her, we probably would have taken all of them home.  We currently have a stack of books from two different libraries.  And we may end up with a third stack if we attend another storytime this week at a different library.  I am a book lover myself, so I completely understand my daughter’s obsession with books.  What’s not to love?

If you haven’t taken your child to storytime, this is definitely something you should put on your list of things to do.  It is a great way to introduce your child to the library, and a great bonding experience for parent and child.  But make sure you are prepared to join in.  You must have a willingness to sing songs with the storytime group.  Don’t worry though…no one seems to be great singers.  We’re all just there to have fun with our kids.

Do you take your kids to storytime at your local library?  What’s your favorite storytime activity?  What types of things do you think could be added to storytime to make it more fun for young kids? 

How do you feel about storytime play groups set up by parents?  A storytime play group would be arranged by parents, where they can get their kids together one day each week/month to read books, sing songs, do crafts, and play together.  The storytime play group can be at a different house each time, or hosted at a local meeting room.  This is something I have considered starting in my area with other moms with young kids.  Tell me what you think of this type of play group?  Is it something you’d consider doing?

 

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Yes, toddlers can be homeschooled too. It’s not just for older kids.

My daughter, Kayla, at the penguin exhibit at Brookfield Zoo in Illinois.

Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve had people ask me questions about daycare.  Do I plan on putting her in daycare?  Will I put her in daycare when she’s X age?  Am I concerned that she will not learn as much since she’s not in daycare?  Am I worried she won’t learn how to socialize or how to share?  Most people did not seem to like my answers.

When I was working from home, people would ask me if I considered putting her in daycare for a few hours while I’m working.  My answer would be that the whole reason I’m working from home is so I can be with her more.  It would defeat the purpose if I sent her to daycare.  I wanted to work from home so I could eliminate commuting from my day, and so I could see her on my breaks and lunch.  I was still able to feed her breakfast, lunch, and dinner pretty much everyday.  That was really important to me when she was just starting to eat baby food.  I wanted to be there to feed her myself and watch her as she tried new foods.  I wanted to experience everything with her.  If she was having an issue, like when she got her first cold, I felt better knowing I was just in the basement if she needed anything.  My husband and my mom watched her while I worked.  We were easily able to work out a schedule that worked for all of us.  (And it was an extra bonus not to have to PAY for daycare.)

When I stopped working from home and decided to take some classes to pursue a new career, people asked if I thought about putting her in daycare while I studied.  Um, no.  I decided to go with an online school so that I wouldn’t have to be out of the house for classes.  I wanted to be able to study from home so I wouldn’t have to be away from my daughter.  My mom agreed to watch Kayla if I needed some study time.  Otherwise, I was able to study while Kayla took naps, when she was playing with her toys, or after she went to bed at night.  I worked my schedule around her.  People seemed shocked that I didn’t even consider putting her in daycare a few days a week.  My question to them would be, why should I spend the money to put her in daycare when I’m at home?  It seemed silly to me.

Now that my daughter is about to turn two soon, I am again getting the questions about daycare.  Do I plan to put her in daycare some to get her ready for preschool?  Do I plan to put her in preschool when she’s 3-years-old or 4-years-old?  They want to know if I’ve given it any thought because they don’t want her to be unprepared for kindergarten.  Sigh…

I think the issue here is that people don’t understand that I am teaching my daughter at home.  No, she is not attending daycare, but she is being homeschooled every single day.  And no, I probably won’t be sending her to preschool outside of the home because I will be homeschooling her.  Will she go to kindergarten outside of the home?  Maybe.  I really don’t know for sure yet.  She’ll be almost 6-years-old when she would be allowed to start kindergarten, so we still have 4 years before a decision has to be made.  There is no rush to make a decision like that right now.  For now, I have taken my child’s learning into my own hands.  I am happy to say that she has a very large vocabulary, and she seems to be developing very well.  She is on target or advanced for her age in all areas.  That’s not just my point of view, that is what I’ve been told by her doctor.  She is doing extremely well for her age, especially since she was born a month early.  She has never been behind developmentally at all since she was born, which has been a relief.  It is a daily adventure watching how much she changes and the things she picks up.  She is around her cousin, who is 3-years-old, a few times a week.  She has been around him a few times a week since she was born, so I am not worried she is not learning to socialize and share.

I read to her every single day.  I’ve been reading to her since she was born.  And ever since she was about 8 months old, we read 10-15 books before bed.  No, they are not super long books.  Just your regular board books and toddler friendly books.  She also brings me books throughtout the day to read to her.  This has contributed a lot to her large vocabulary.  I do flash cards with her.  She watches educational shows like Super Why, Sesame Street, WordWorld, etc.  She has a ton of learning toys.  We match pictures from memory games.  We go on early learning websites.  We do arts and craft projects together.  We go to the park.  I take her in her kiddie pool.  We decorate cookies, make smoothies, and have our own garden.  We sing songs together, dance together, do fingerplays, and do yoga.  I take her to the local libraries and to storytime.  I have signed us up for classes to take together, like Music, Movement, and Me.  We’ve taken her to the zoo, to a kiddie amusement park, to the county fair, to carnivals, and festivals.  I take her to Chuck E Cheese’s and to other kid friendly places.  We go shopping, out to eat, and we run errands together.  I talk to her constantly, and have since she was born.  My husband used to look at me like I was nuts when she was a newborn and I was talking to her and asking her questions.  I told him that is how she will learn.  It is essential to talk to your child.  I have a stockpile of craft materials, learning tools, books, flash cards, computer games, DVDs, etc.  You would think I was seriously starting a school out of our home.  I actually order stuff from stores for teachers so I have the proper tools to teach her.  My child is attending school.  She is attending a homeschool.

My best friend is a teacher, and her mom is a retired teacher, so I have also received materials and advice from them on ways to help Kayla learn.  I’ve done extensive research online, and even own a book or two about toddler activities.  I am a planner, a researcher, a reader, and a writer…so I am all over this.

I think people tend to forget that anyone can do the things that are done in daycare.  You can teach your own child to sing songs, to do fingerplays, and to draw pictures.  You can use flash cards at home.  You can buy the same books they read at daycare, and read them at home.  You can buy brightly colored, toddler sized furniture.  You can teach your child sign language.  You can buy a kiddie yoga DVD or book, and teach your child how to do yoga.  You can sign your child up for for fun classes in your area to get them out of the house, involved in something, and around other kids.  They don’t have to be in daycare to learn to socialize.  They don’t need to be in daycare to learn.

If you are a parent who has to work and you don’t have family/friends who can watch your kids, then yes, I completely understand why daycare is your choice.  But for those of us who have the option to stay home with our kids, we have the unique opportunity to teach our kids at home.  Think about all the bonding you will do with your child by teaching them at home.  Toddlers learn just from playing.  Buy a tea set and have tea parties.  That teaches them about pretend play.  Buy some blocks and build together.  Cut up some fresh fruit and let them put it in the blender for you so you can make fresh smoothies together.  This is great for starting to teach them about a healthy diet, as well as, about the names of different fruits.  Kids learn from the world around them, so why not take advantage of that?

I am not trying to be preachy in any way.  I simply believe that kids learn everyday from regular daily activities, from playing with toys, and from being introduced to new things.  These are all things we can easily do at home.

So the next time someone asks me if I plan to put my child in daycare, and they seem concerned that I am not considering it, I will tell them all the ways I teach my child at home.  Even young children can be taught at home.  And who can possibly be a better teacher than you?

Kayla and my nephew, Alex, doing kiddie yoga.

Another day where Kayla and I were doing yoga together, just the two of us.

Kayla at Brookfield Zoo. She absolutely loves monkeys.

Kayla and I petting a horse at the county fair.

This picture is from 2011. My nephew, Alex, decorating cookies. He was 2 1/2 at the time of this picture.

Kayla doing a holiday craft project in December 2011. She was almost 13 months old in this picture.

Alex doing a holiday craft in December 2011 with help from one of my friends.

How do you teach your toddler at home?  Why did you decide to keep your child at home, instead of sending them to daycare or preschool?  I would love to hear from other parents out there.

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Activities to keep kids busy

I like to give my daughter and nephew activities to keep them busy.  It gives them something to do for a little while, and it gives me the opportunity to do things like make lunch or dinner.  The activities can change from day to day, and from week to week.  It tends to depend on my mood, their mood, and what I have on hand.  This week, I had them draw on chalk boards and do an art project with stamps.

These activities are super easy and take very little effort to get ready.  I have two little chalk boards and a container filled with different colored chalk.  All I have to do is sit them down at their mini table with the chalk boards and chalk, and then ask them to draw.  I turned on some toddler tunes for them, so they sat their drawing and singing along with the songs.  When certain songs came on, like Wheels on the Bus, I would ask them to get up and dance with me.  They would dance and sing with me for that particular song, then they would go back to drawing.  They enjoyed the activity, and I enjoyed having some time to get other things done.

My nephew, Alex, holding up his drawing.

My daughter, Kayla. It’s hard to keep her seated for long.

For the art project, I taped some construction paper together and attached it to the top of their mini table.  Then I gave them each a piece of their own construction paper.  I sat out two large ink pads on the table with a bunch of different stamps.  Some of the stamps were of animals, but there was also a star stamp and a heart stamp.  I bought the stamps in a set of 12 rubber stamps for $10 from a local craft store.  I told the kids to put the stamps in the ink, then stamp their papers.  They had a blast.  Sure, they got ink on their hands (and my nephew managed to get it on his face), but since it was washable (kid friendly) ink…it washed right off.  To my delight, they didn’t even drop any of the stamps on the carpet, so there are no ink stains.  Towards the end of them doing this activity, I gave them each two crayons to draw with.  They loved the stamps so much, they didn’t even care about the crayons.  I think they both made a few very small marks on their papers with the crayons, then forgot all about them.

I typically estimate about 20-30 minutes for activities like these.  Beyond that, they may start to get bored.  Sometimes if you add a new element to the activity half way through, they will get excited all over again.  For example, if they are using stamps and you later give them stickers to add to their pictures, they will get excited about the new element.  By adding a new element, you may be able to stretch the activity out to 45 minutes.

A few weeks ago, we lost our power for a few hours and I had to find various activities for the kids to do that didn’t require electricity.  I got out two dry erase boards and washable dry erase markers, sat them at the kitchen island, and told them to draw.  My daughter was tickled pink by the idea that if she moved the eraser back and forth on her board, her picture would disappear.  It’s funny how the simple things can be so exciting to a toddler.  As a parent, I try to remember that activities and projects don’t always have to be fancy, or time consuming to put together.  The kids are easily entertained.  Sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple.

Power outage day activity

Kayla’s favorite part was erasing everything on her board.

What are some of your favorite simple activities to do with your kids?  How do you keep your kids busy while you get other things done?

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