Early Childhood Homeschooling Made Easy

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A Summer Full of Reading

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My daughter absolutely loves books. I was one of those pregnant women that not only talked to my baby while she was in the womb, I would occasionally read to her too. From the time she was born, I would read to her at night before bed. Of course when she was a newborn and infant, she would mostly just look at the pictures, try to eat the book, and stare at me while I read. The older she got, the more she started to get excited when I got out a book. From the time she could crawl, she would bring me books. I would be sitting on the couch in the middle of the day and she would crawl over to the coffee table, pull one of her books off the table, and push it back to the couch while crawling. It was pretty funny to watch. The moment she learned to walk, she would bring me book after book to read.

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A few months before her 2nd birthday, I started taking her to storytime at the local libraries. She was in love. She would get so excited when we would walk into the building and she would see all the books. She would listen intently to the librarian read the books during storytime, and she would clap and cheer when the story was over. The librarian seemed to get a kick out of her enthusiasm.

After storytime, they encourage you to stay in the children’s area and let your child explore by playing with the other kids and picking out books. The first few times we attended storytime, I found it interesting to watch Kayla. While the other kids would run to play with puzzles, games, puppets, blocks, etc., Kayla would gather up a few books and sit down to look at them. She’d go into one of the reading cubbies, or climb onto a rocking chair, and she would just sit there and look at books. The other kids would be laughing and playing, while Kayla would be completely caught up in all the books. She would walk around gathering books to look at, and for me to read to her. She quickly caught onto the fact that we could check these books out and take them home with us. Once she figured that out, she would load up the basket on her stroller with books. Eventually, she did notice that there are toys and activities to do in the library as well, and she now plays with the other kids. She usually starts out playing with the other kids, then goes around looking for books to check out. We typically leave with a stack of 8-12 books, all for her.

I am a big reader myself, so I am overjoyed to see Kayla’s love for books. We read books together at least once a day, if not two or three times. On average, we read 10 books a day. And as she gets older, the books are becoming longer and with more words.

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A couple of weeks ago, I took Kayla to our local library. When we were checking out our books, the librarian asked Kayla, “are you going to read all of these books?” Kayla’s response was, “yeah…I love books!” The librarian laughed and asked her, “are you going to sign up for our summer reading program?” Kayla happily responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” The librarian said “great,” and provided me with some information on the program.

It had crossed my mind in the past that I should sign her up for one of the summer reading programs, but I wasn’t sure what was required and how old you have to be to participate. Although I worked at a local library in the children’s section when I was a teenager, I couldn’t remember all the rules and requirements. It was nice to find out that these reading programs through the libraries start from birth. You can have your child participate at any age. And most of the libraries either allow you to set your own reading goals for the summer, or they set a very low goal for young children. They make it very easy for even busy parents to be able to help their children accomplish their goals.

After some thought and research, I ended up deciding to sign Kayla up for several summer reading programs at different libraries. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been to three different libraries on six different days. The more I thought about it, I figured why not sign up for programs at a few libraries and use the books we check out from each library for their particular program. Each library will be hosting their own summer events to get the kids involved at the library, and they are offering different prizes and incentives. The first program we signed up for gave out “Dig into Reading” t-shirts to the first few hundred people. Kayla also got to color a few pictures, put her name on them, and have them hung up in the library. She was so proud. The library staff convinced me to sign up for the adult summer reading program, and I received a convenient re-usable library bag. Sure, I already carry a few re-usable bags in my purse for carrying library books, etc., but it was still nice to get one that has a picture of someone reading a book on the front.

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My husband, who isn’t a reader, has always been surprised by Kayla’s love of books. I think he was downright shocked when I told him the other day about how I asked Kayla where she wanted to go (when we were leaving the house), and her response was, “to the library…to get books and see kids.” He doesn’t really understand it, but he does encourage it.

I personally enjoy our time reading together each day. It is such a great way for Kayla and I to bond on a daily basis. I love to see her eyes light up when we read a book that she likes. There is nothing like having her snuggled next to me in bed (or on the couch) while we read a book that warms the heart, makes us laugh, or starts a conversation. One of my new favorite things is when Kayla wants to “read” to me. She will go page by page telling me a story based on the pictures, or what she remembers from the book. Sometimes, she even has parts of books memorized. It brings a smile to my face every time. She is already showing several signs of being ready to start learning how to read. I can only imagine how her love of books will grow even more when she is able to read to herself. But even then, I will look forward to our daily time spent together reading.

Please, if you are looking for something for your kids to do this summer, consider signing them up for a summer reading program. It’s worth it.

After storytime last fall.

After storytime last fall.

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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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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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