Early Childhood Homeschooling Made Easy

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

Going to see Santa

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I’ve been meaning to take Kayla to see Santa, but I’ve been struggling to find the time during Santa’s business hours.  In my family, it is a tradition to take the young kids to see Santa every year.  (And truth be told, sometimes when we’re not so young anymore.)  They can tell Santa what they want for Christmas, get their picture taken, and wish Santa a Merry Christmas.  The kids in our family tend to not be afraid of Santa, so it’s a fun experience that we look forward to each year.  I have very fond memories of going to see Santa when I was little.  By the age of about 4 or 5, I knew that he wasn’t the REAL Santa, but just a guy who worked for Santa at the malls.  His job was to meet and greet the kids, make sure we’re being good, and to get our official Christmas wishlist.  I believed this with all my heart.  And a part of me has never stopped believing in the magic of Christmas. A magical time of miracles, giving, forgiveness, thankfulness, hope, and joy.  It’s a time to put your faith into things that you can’t see, and believe in something bigger.  Greater.

I love seeing Kayla’s eyes light up when she sees Santa, or even just talks about Santa.  Yes, my 2-year-old is quite the talker, and you can’t grow up in this family without knowing all about the big guy.  By last Christmas, when she was just over 1-year-old, I already had her referring to the big guy as Ho Ho.  And by this past Summer, she was already well aware that Ho Ho is Santa Claus,  and that he has elves and reindeer.  We even took her to Santa’s Village Amusement Park twice over the Summer.  (A great little kiddie amusement park in Illinois.)  So now with only a few more weeks until Christmas, Kayla is super duper excited about Christmas and the prospect of Santa coming to our house to bring her toys.  She watches all her Christmas cartoons over and over again.  I am happy to report that she absolutely loves Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which is one that I always watched when I was growing up.  We sing silly Christmas songs together, do craft projects, bake cookies, she tries to help me wrap presents, and we read meaningful (and some fun) books about Christmas.  Ah…what’s not to love about this magical time of year?!!!

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When we got to the local mall today, Kayla was ready to run right up to Santa to say “hi.”  I informed her that we had to wait in line for our turn.  There were two other families in front of us.  Going during the middle of the week at 3:00 in the afternoon was definitely helpful.  Kayla looked around at the animated figures with a look of wonderment on her face, and she patiently waited for her turn to see the guy in red.  When it was finally our turn, she ran right up to him and said hi.  She was all smiles and had no issues sitting next to him in his big chair.  (But she wasn’t willing to sit on his lap…let’s not push it.)  She happily chatted away with Santa about who knows what.  I only caught bits and pieces of what she was saying to him.  When he asked her what she wants for Christmas, the only response I heard her give him was “toys.”  I guess that pretty much sums it up.  As I fumbled to get my camera ready for a few shots, and Santa’s helper prepared to take a picture, Kayla continued to ramble on to Santa.  And of course once we were ready to start snapping some shots, she wouldn’t give us her big, cheesy smile anymore.  The pictures still came out nice, but I was hoping to get a picture with a really big smile like we got last year.  Oh well.  I was just happy to see that she never got scared of him.  She was too excited about seeing him in person to be scared.  And I think it always helps when the kids in front of you in line are also in good spirits.  There is nothing like a crier to to ruin it for everyone else.  I’ve seen it happen…not cool.

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Kayla told me she had fun, and she was all bubbly when she went home to tell grandma about her visit to see Santa.  That was more than I could have asked for today.  The smile on her face made the seven bucks I had to pay for the mall picture completely worth it.  And there is something nice to be said about the few malls that still do the traditional one picture shot for a decent price, like when we were little, compared to the big picture packages that you have to buy at most malls now.  I’m okay with keeping it simple, but making it memorable.  I’m already looking forward to taking Kayla to see Santa again next year.

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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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Early learning websites – Giving your child a headstart

Over the last month or so, I’ve been letting my daughter play around on some early learning websites.  There are some that charge a monthly fee, and there are others that are

Picture from abcmouse.com…early learning website for kids.

free.  My daughter’s favorite site is www.abcmouse.com.  She gets so excited when she sees the home screen pop up.  She calls the site, “mouse.”  This site does charge a monthly fee, but so far I think the small fee is worth it.  There is a wide variety of things to do on this site.  There is an interactive farm and zoo where kids can learn about animals.  Your child can listen to songs, read along with books, do art projects, complete puzzles, and play games.  There are also printables to help encourage continued learning even when your child is offline.  There are six learning levels and a special toddler section.  This site is suitable for kids ranging from toddlers to kindergarteners.  One of my favorite things about the site is the interactive farm and zoo.  My daughter’s eyes light up everytime she sees the animals moving around and hears them making noises.  It’s such a cute way to get kids to learn more about animals.  The voices reading the books on the site can sometimes get annoying, but I deal with it since my daughter enjoys them.  I grin and bear it for my daughter.

My best friend’s mom is a retired teacher, and she recommended some great free sites to me a few weeks ago.

www.starfall.com

www.storylineonline.net

www.wedolisten.org

On starfall.com and wedolisten.org, kids can read along with books, learn their abc’s, listen to songs, etc.  These sites are very cute and user friendly, but they aren’t as advanced as the abcmouse.com website.  Storylineonline.net is an interesting site because it has celebrities reading children’s books.  For instance, you can watch a little animated video of the book, A Bad Case of Stripes, and it is being read by Sean Astin.  If you don’t know who Sean Astin is, he’s been in movies like, The Lord of the Rings, Goonies, and Rudy.  Your child may not know who the actors are reading the books, but as a parent, I definitely get a kick out of it.

Here are a few more good early learning websites that you might find useful:

www.abcya.com

www.cookie.com

www.turtlediary.com

The last three websites are recommended for ages 3 and up.  My daughter is not quite 2-years-old yet, and I take her on these sites to play around.  If your child is under the age of 3, they may not be able to navigate around the site by themselves, but they can still enjoy it.  Turtlediary.com is a free site that can be upgrated to a paid site for access to more activities.  I personally just use the free activities on the site.  I haven’t had a need to access the paid activities yet.

All of these sites can easily be incorporated into homeschooling lesson plans, or they can be used to supplement a traditional school education.

What is is favorite early learning website?  Do you know of any other early learning websites that you can recommend to others?  Do you feel your child benefits from using these types of early learning websites?

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