Multi-age teaching has many rewards and challenges. I have heard it compared to a bus trip. We all get on in the same place, but have different end points. I great example of this came when we read a book on ancient Egypt last year. All the kids enjoyed the reading from an Usborne World History and Hillyer's A Child's History of the World. After the reading we discussed what we read. The older two made various applications that showed their complete understanding and also the memory of our trip to the Field Museum. Faith, 5 at the time, said, "Mummy's? They're full of bones." Brooke (3) said, "Bones? like a dog chews!" And Nathan (1) finished off with, "Doggies? Ruff, ruff!"
While the topic changes, the conversations each day follow a similar flow (sometimes more on topic than others). The older ones take the knowledge and make it their own applying it to their broader base of knowledge, the younger school age kids soak it up like a sponge building their base, and the little ones just enjoy the ride and look for words they are familiar with.
This year, I have decided to take more time to intentionally work with my younger kids. I tend to be a "better late than early" homeschooler, and I don't really worry about this time making or breaking their future success as a student. However, I do think my little kids need mommy time. They need a time in the day when everything else gets put aside and they get some concentrated nurturing, love, training, and attention. These two little ones are probably closer by my side than the others most of the rest of the day as well, but the three of us thoroughly enjoy this fun time of learning and exploring together.
For a half hour each day we have our Preschool Pause. At the beginning of the week I come up with a list of activities that we will enjoy together throughout the week to come. I draw from the many books I have accumulated over the years, and also from the internet and try to pick at least one activity from each academic subject that I hope to cover (pre-reading, math, geography, science, music, character, art, PE, etc.) Over the course of the week we use most of the activities. What we don't get to, I carry over for the next week or replace with new ideas.
Here is a glimpse into our preschool time this past week:
- Character: obedience role playing, reading and discussion (I will post more about this later this week. We have had a great week of growth in this area.)
- Writing/pre-reading: we work with salt sprinkled on a pie tin. They write or doodle in the pie tin and shake gently to 'erase' and start again. We worked on shapes, letters, sounds of the letters they drew, etc. Very simple, hands on, fun for the kids, and educational!
- Music: loud and soft, high and low sounds while we sang "Twinkle, Twinkle" and a couple songs of their choice.
- Math: made patterns with blocks, counted by tens with a great song from Discovery toys (they don't sell the tape anymore, but this CD appears to have most of the songs we love) that I have enjoyed since child #1.
- Geography term: lagoon. Another book from my shelves, Geography A to Z (like a simple geography dictionary) .We pretended our living room was a lagoon, with the surrounding Couch Islands and swam around in the calm, protected lagoon.
- P.E. beanbag fun! Tossing, sliding, catching, and balancing. I built off what I found in Jump for Joy, a great book (garage sale find) of loads of preschool activities. This book has ideas, applications, variations, tips on finding and making the supplies needed, and all around lots of great information for planning the active part of our days. I love this book!
- Art (turned science) we made bird feeders quite successfully.
Step one: gather pine cones.
The ones that were still closed on the bottom, but open on the top worked best for this project.
Step two: spread the peanut butter, coating the whole pine cone
Step three: toss the peanut butter covered pine cone in a ziploc baggie filled with birdseed.
Step four: Tie a string on the top
Step five: Hang the finished product on the tree outside.
We hung these outside on Friday and have had bushes full of birds to watch the past few days (hence the science part). This turned out much easier than I had anticipated and we got a great response from the birds! (Thanks to Brooke, my lovely assistant for the photos!)
In a nutshell (kind of a big nutshell), that was our preschool time this past week. Everyday we also sing a phonics song, read a book (listen and then discuss), wiggle and snuggle together, and then choose from the activities. None of these things took long to prepare or execute. I probably spent more time typing this blog post than I spent coming up with the ideas to start with. Making the most of these precious moments with my little ones is priceless.