Sunday, January 24, 2016

Home Schooling: Ideas for Keeping Little Ones Happy, Awesome Picture Books, and Help with Multiplication

It's Sunday night here, and the house is quiet. Little ones are tucked away and hopefully asleep.
Hubby is taking some time to decompress after a very busy week, and I'm taking a few minutes to think about what what has transpired over the last few weeks and what needs to happen over the course of the coming ones.

I don't often write about schooling my children, but it is a big part of my life.
My oldest turned twelve yesterday, then I have a nine year old, a four year old, and a two year old.
My younger two do not nap, so I've been slowly finding special things for them to do only during school time. This allows them to play, but keeps the schoolroom and house from descending into chaos.

My littlest has a VERY short attention span, so it took time to find things that would engage her for more than a few seconds. On the off chance that someone else might be in the same boat as me, I thought I'd share a few things we love for "school" time with the littles, plus a few book suggestions, and an awesome idea for older kiddos struggling with memorizing their multiplication facts.

First up, the books in the top picture:
The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney ~ No words, amazing pictures, incredible story.
The King of Little Things by Bil Lepp ~ This was a Christmas gift and my girls have almost the entire book memorized. I've read it quite a few times, but it gets better every time!
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce ~ Exquisitely beautiful, and will make you cry every time.
Journey & Quest by Aaron Becker ~ Book 1 and Book 2 of a planned trilogy, these books have no words, but brilliant, mysterious pictures. They are like Harold and the Purple Crayon{another little kid fave in our house} all grown up.
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith ~ Sweet and fun!
Have You Seen my Dragon? by Steve Light ~ A counting book about a lost dragon in New York City...can it get any better?
Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel ~ Frog and Toad have been favorites since my childhood. 
Our favorite story is the chocolate ice cream swamp monster!

Yes, it is work and expense to get picture books for our children. Do we think it is worth it?
Are these only for little kids?
Absolutely not.
Our big girls love all these books, too {especially Journey and Quest}.
If you don't have the money for these, tuck the list away, and use it for ideas for Christmases and birthdays. Money spent on living books is always money well spent.

Bingo Daubers ~ Though my little ones love to play with markers, I hate to let them, because they always scribble on the table and then when they get bored with that, smash the tips. These are the perfect solution. These are made for smashing and rough use, and they let just enough ink out to keep the kids happy. My little two love these!

Chalkboard and chalk ~ My four year old especially loves having her own slate and chalk. She draws on it, colors it, and we even use it to practice her pre-writing skills. Plus, she thinks she's just like Laura {in our Laura Ingalls Wilder books we are reading as a family}.

Beeswax ~ I had never used beeswax before, but had heard lots of good things about it.
We got some for Christmas, and I'm sold. It takes a little work getting used to using it, because the little ones have to warm it first before it can be molded, but once they learn that, it's wonderful. The best part is that it NEVER DRIES OUT! That's a really big one, because how much modeling clay gets wasted because it wasn't closed up?!? As long as it isn't dropped in the dirt, it can last indefinitely. Any figures the kiddos want to keep can be kept for as long as they like and then remolded when they are ready to do something new with it. It's also great for teaching beginning readers the shapes of their letters. Instead of always making them write, they can roll out the beeswax and form it into letters {especially helpful for those showing signs of dyslexia}.

Play dough ~ I usually make my own play dough, because we can't buy it here, play dough dries out when left open{see beeswax above}, and in the tropics, play dough molds. Yep, it's nasty.
I've tried lots of recipes, but this one is my favorite. I use lavender essential oil in mine, and it smells lovely, plus lavender is supposed to keep one calm.....and when there is play dough everywhere, anything that might help me stay calm is a good thing. I do store mine in the fridge, because again, this is the tropics!

And last, for those of you with bigger kids struggling with multiplication....
Waldorf Multiplication Stars.
We found these are extremely helpful for my picture thinker/dyslexic. They help her to see the patterns in her mind better than just lists of facts.
If you've got a child who struggles with memorizing through flash cards and drills, these may be a help. They don't give the answers, but do allow the child to self-correct as they practice.
Here is a youtube video explaining how to use them.

What about you? Do you have anything new you've found to keep your little ones busy and your big ones learning? If so, please share!

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