Early Childhood Homeschooling Made Easy

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

May is gone already?!!

I can’t believe over a month has gone by since my last post. It feels like I was just typing up that post and uploading pictures. It’s amazing how fast time goes by. In the past few weeks, Kayla and I have finished up our soccer class, gone to the library a few times, started a few early reading programs, worked on our garden, went to see Sesame Street Live on Mother’s Day, and gone to the zoo for the first time in 2013. Oh, and my older nephew graduated from high school. It’s been a busy month. And that is just the major things we’ve done.

I won’t go into tons of details about the things we’ve done. I’ll just put up some pictures and let you see for yourself. It’s been a great 5 weeks. Happy Spring!

Kayla got a certificate for completing her soccer class.  She was very proud of herself.

Kayla got a certificate for completing her soccer class. She was very proud of herself.

Playing at the library.

Playing at the library.

Kayla's garden bed.  When we first started planting it.

Kayla’s garden bed.

Mommy's garden bed.  Before we added more.

Mommy’s garden bed.

Sesame Street Live show

Sesame Street Live show

Kayla watching the Sesame Street Live show.

Kayla watching the Sesame Street Live show.

Art project Kayla made for grandma for Mother's Day.

Art project Kayla made for grandma for Mother’s Day.

My nephew after his high school graduation.

My nephew after his high school graduation.

Art project Kayla made as a present to her cousin for graduation.

Art project Kayla made as a present to her cousin for graduation.

Kayla and daddy watching the polar bear at the zoo.

Kayla and daddy watching the polar bear at the zoo.

Smelling our flowers we bought.

Smelling our flowers we bought.

Using chalk to learn.

Using chalk to learn.

Riding around in her new jeep that daddy bought for her.

Riding around in her new jeep that daddy bought for her.

Having fun playing with play-doh.

Having fun playing with play-doh.

Using her own little stand mixer to make brownies.  Yes, it really works.

Using her own little stand mixer to make brownies. Yes, it really works.

Kayla in the foam pit at gymnastics.

Kayla in the foam pit at gymnastics.

Rock climbing at gymnastics.

Rock climbing at gymnastics.

Jumping from color to color (while naming the colors) at gymnastics.

Jumping from color to color (while naming the colors) at gymnastics.

Walking up the wall with her feet.  She's getting good at this.

Walking up the wall with her feet. She’s getting good at this.

Swinging on the rings with her coaches help.

Swinging on the rings with her coaches help.

She found a stuffed dog on one of the obstacle courses.

She found a stuffed dog on one of the obstacle courses.

Naming the colors of the balls for her gymnastics coach.

Naming the colors of the balls for her gymnastics coach.

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Benefits of gymnastics and other sports/activities for young kids

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There are many benefits of physical activity for young kids, and kids of all ages. Physical activity is a great way to develop fine motor skills, as well as social skills. Fine motor skills are a prerequisite for learning and mastering the movements and coordination required in sports. When kids start these activities early (at a young age), they are better able to acquire the skills necessary to achieve higher levels of success. More importantly, when you encourage your children to start these activities when they are young, they still have that fearless mindset that allows them to be able to explore these activities without the fear of getting hurt. Sure, as their parents, we have to worry for them and try to make sure that they are learning in a safe environment, but their fearlessness is an asset.

Between the ages of 3 and 6 is a good time to start paying attention to what sports and activities your child is interested in. During this period, if a child’s interest in a certain sport or activity goes unnoticed, they may have a difficult time achieving higher levels of these skills later in life. (This differs with every child, of course.) At the end of the day, the most important thing is to find activities that your child enjoys doing. If they aren’t having fun, then it isn’t worth it. I think we all just want our kids to be happy.

Here are 10 ways boys and girls of all ages benefit from gymnastics from the USA Gymnastics’ Guide:

1. It’s fun
2. Develops strength
3. Develops flexibility
4. Develops coordination
5. Teaches listening skills
6. Gains self-esteem and confidence
7. Provides social interaction with peers
8. Teaches goal setting
9. Develops cognitive abilities to help in the classroom
10. Develops skills to enhance other sports

Gymnastics will also help enhance a child’s social skills. During a gymnastics class, children will able to observe, practice waiting their turn, follow directions, respect each other and listen. All of these skills are very important for a child to practice to enhance their social skills. As a child achieves new skills and is encouraged by their coach/instructor, they increase their self esteem, gain a sense of control over their body’s movements which then increases healthy self empowerment and body awareness. These are valuable skills for young children to learn.

The minikickers soccer class my daughter is signed up for advertises that they aim to use soccer as a medium for children to develop their balance, agility, coordination, color recognition and numerical learning, along with increasing their confidence and social skills. These are just some of the benefits of being involved in sport activities. Each sport offers unique skills and benefits to children, along with keeping them active and healthy.

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Take the time to ask your children what interests them. If they say they would like to take a karate class, look into signing them up for one at your local karate studio or through your local park district. As parents, we sometimes want to pick and choose what activities we’d like our kids to be interested in, but it’s important to get their input and let them pursue their own interests. Let your child find their own passion for sports and other activities. There are a wide range of activities young children can get involved in. Just do the research for activities in your area. Most areas seem to offer dance, softball, gymnastics, soccer, karate, crafts, basketball, swimming, tennis, etc. Some areas may even offer things like horse riding lessons, junior farmer camps, nature classes, and baking/cooking classes. When kids are really young, usually under 3-years-old, most classes will require parent participation. This a great way to bond with your child.

Some tips for exposing younger children to sports and other activities:

– Provide a wide variety of experiences that improve object handling skills and promote hand-eye coordination.

– Focus on gross motor skills at first, such as standing, balancing, walking, running, etc. Remember that skill learning takes time, practice and repetition. Choose some activities that are directed, and others undirected. An undirected activity would be one where a child is free to use their on imagination or do free play without being directed to do it a certain way.

– Focus on activities that your child shows a natural interest in, and encourage them.

– Provide plenty of positive reinforcement to encourage self esteem to reduce the fear of failure in physical activities.

– Check with your local parks and recreation district to find affordable sports and activities for your child. You can also look into local studios, companies, and gyms that specialize in a certain sport or activity, such as a dance studio or your local aqua center.

– Make sure the activity you choose is taught by coaches/instructors that are good with kids and have a good reputation in your community. Above all, we want our kids to have positive experiences.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any activities my daughter has been involved in. I would be happy to share our experiences with you. Over the past year, we have attended storytimes at local libraries, taken a dance class, and she is currently taking gymnastics and soccer. I strongly believe that if your child doesn’t enjoy a particular activity, don’t force them to do it. These experiences should be about having fun while doing something new.

Kayla at the library after storytime.

Kayla at the library after storytime.

This was taken last fall during her dance class.

This was taken last fall during her dance class.

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Toddler gymnastics and soccer

Kayla having fun at Tumblebear Open Gym at Patti's All American in Indiana.

Kayla having fun at Tumblebear Open Gym at Patti’s All American in Indiana.

It’s amazing to me how fast this month has been going by. I’ve blinked and it is already the middle of the month. The last several weeks have been extra busy for us, and I can’t seem to find the time to keep up with my blogs…writing my own blog posts, and reading posts from other bloggers. I keep telling myself every day that I will find the time to write a post, and then I don’t. I’m disappointed with myself, but life has a way of taking over at times.

With that said, we’ve been busy doing lots of fun and exciting things, so that makes up for it. I pride myself on exposing Kayla to new experiences and activities. I think it’s important for kids to be exposed to various activities in order to be well rounded. I love taking her to the zoo, to children’s museums, to kiddie amusement parks, to different stores and restaurants, etc. I also enjoy getting her involved in a variety of classes so she has an outlet to burn energy, to learn something new, be around other kids her age, and experience something she may end up developing a passion for someday. (You know, just because I homeschool, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in socialization. I just believe in going about it in a different way.) It’s also quality mommy/daughter time since at this age (two-years-old), parents are required to participate in most activities.

Over the last couple of weeks, Kayla has started taking a gymnastics class at a local gymnastics gym, and taking soccer through a local park district. We’ve also attended two open gyms at other gymnastics gyms (besides the one where she is taking a class). It feels like for the past two weeks, I’ve been driving around all over the place taking her to different activities at different places. It’s fun, but it takes its toll.

I’ve been thinking about signing her up for a gymnastics class for awhile now. She’s extremely coordinated for her age, she’s bursting with energy, and she’s a bit of a daredevil. Gymnastics seems perfect for her. A friend from high school recommended a gym (Gym-Kinetics) to me last year, and I did a lot of research before signing her up for a gymnastics class. I wanted to make sure I picked a good gym with great coaches that work well with children. To my delight, she loves it. It seems to be a perfect fit for her. She bounces around like a bunny the whole time, full of energy. By the end of class, I’m a little tired myself. Who knew spotting a toddler and following her around a gym could be so much work? Kayla seems to get more hyper from being in class, and I’m ready to take a nap afterwards. Go figure. The gymnastics coach is young, playful, and the kids seem to adore her. So far, I am happy with how the class flows, and I can already see Kayla learning new things. I do worry a little bit about safety, but they have the place pretty well padded with all types of tumbling mats. I think toddler gymnastics is a great idea for parents looking to get their kids out of the house and doing something active. Plus, it gives kids their first glimpse into the world of gymnastics. Kayla loves watching the older kids do flips. She watches them in awe. Only time will tell if Kayla has any skill as far as this sport goes, but for now it’s all for fun. Having fun is the most important part anyway.

Gymnastics class at Gym-Kinetics in Illinois.

Gymnastics class at Gym-Kinetics in Illinois.

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I was thrilled when I found a soccer class for young children a few weeks back. One of our local park districts offers Mini Kickers Soccer for kids 5 and under. The class is taught by a British company that works with the park district. I thought for sure Kayla would enjoy this class because she absolutely loves kicking balls and running around. The week leading up to our first class, we practiced kicking the ball everyday and she got pretty good at it considering her age. Kayla would ask me every single day if we could practice. The day of our first class, she woke up excited about going. Once we got there, it was another story. She was a bit overwhelmed by the size of the class. The way the class works is they eventually divide the kids up by age, or at least that’s what the description of the class says. They are supposed to put the 2 and 3-year-olds in one group, and the 4 and 5-year-olds in another group. When we arrived at our first class, there were about 15 kids running around a big gym kicking balls with 4 coaches hanging around. As we walked farther into the gym, we saw all the parents/caregivers, remaining kids in the class, and younger siblings sitting in the bleachers. There was a massive amount of people there for this one little 45 minute class. Kayla was looking around at all of the people and her enthusiasm seemed to slip away. We sat down on the bleachers for a few minutes so she could observe her surroundings before class started. I encouraged her to go and kick a ball around with the other kids. She didn’t want to venture too far away from me. Once class started, she got excited again and did really well for about 30 minutes. After that, her attention seemed to start slipping away and she seemed to be overwhelmed by the amount of people moving around in the gym. I will admit it was a bit chaotic, and I hope the coaches are able to rein things in a bit in the future.

Observing the other kids when we first arrived for soccer class.

Observing the other kids when we first arrived for soccer class.

The soccer class was the biggest class we’ve taken so far. Most of the classes we’ve taken, and the storytimes we’ve attended, have had 10 kids or less, plus one parent for each kid. This soccer class had about 20-25 kids, plus some kids had two parents with them and younger siblings. I can see how a toddler would have a hard time adjusting to this type of class size. She also seemed confused by the fact that there were four coaches. She didn’t seem to understand who she was supposed to be looking to for directions. I think she’ll do fine once she gets used to it. Once the first class was over, she was ready to leave. Usually I have to practically drag her out of a place after class is over. This was a new experience having her grabbing my hand and leading me toward the door. The fact that she still wants to practice kicking the ball at home gives me hope that she’ll still want to go back each week.

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On days when we don’t have anything else going on, I’ve been taking Kayla to open gyms. Some of the local gymnastics gyms have open gym once a week where members and non-members can come in to use their equipment in a supervised environment. Some of the open gyms are for all ages up to 18-years-old, and others are only for younger kids. The first open gym we went to was at a very nice gym, but it was crowded with older kids. We didn’t have any issues with the older kids. They mostly kept to themselves and were considerate. From watching them, I would say most of them were students at the gym, and they seemed very focused on what they were doing. The majority of them seemed to be there to practice and have fun with their friends. With all the older kids around though, I had to watch Kayla very closely to make sure she didn’t get in anyone’s way or get hurt. Most of the equipment was geared toward older kids, so Kayla was limited on what she could use. Not to mention, she doesn’t have much patience for waiting her turn. The open gym was on a Sunday, so there were a lot more people there than if it would have been during the week. I would recommend to this particular gym that they do a separate open gym for younger kids.

Walking around at the open gym at United Gymnastics Academy in Illinois.

Walking around at the open gym at United Gymnastics Academy in Illinois.

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Inflatable at open gym

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The second open gym we went to was on a Wednesday afternoon and it was only for kids 6-years-old and under. All of the equipment they had set up was for younger kids. They had a very friendly coach in there supervising. Kayla seemed to like the coach right away. It was a welcoming and caring environment. I was surprised by how much I liked this open gym compared to the first one we attended. This particular gym is known for being a gym that focuses on classes and development for young kids. The decor is kid friendly, the staff is inviting, and they have a wide variety of unique classes offered there. I’ve been considering signing Kayla up for a few classes there, but was hesitant about doing it without seeing the place in person. If I’m going to drive 25 minutes or so to take Kayla to a class, it better be worth my time and money. This place would definitely be worth it. It’s a wonderful environment for kids.

Tumblebear open gym at Patti's All American in Indiana.

Tumblebear open gym at Patti’s All American in Indiana.

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I don’t want to fill up our schedule too much, but I am glad that Spring is here and we’re finally getting out of the house again to have some fun. I no longer have to worry about cold and flu season. (We got sick 4 times in 3 months at the end of 2012. Whatever Kayla gets, mommy gets too.) It’s so nice to get back to doing some activities outside of the house besides shopping and going out to eat. And Kayla loves being able to see other kids. She lights up when she sees all the other kids running around. She sees one of her cousins a few times a week, but there is nothing like seeing a bunch of other kids her own age. I can’t wait until all the June dance recitals are over so that I can get her back into a dance class. That was a class we could both enjoy. Until then, gymnastics and soccer will keep us very busy.

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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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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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