Archive for the ‘ Theme Time (age 2-4) ’ Category

Typical Day with Tots & PreKs (When the kids were 18months, 3 and 5 years old)

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

This is a post from several years ago that had its own separate page.  At the time the kids were about 18-20 months (or so), 3 years old and 5 years old (I’m not sure exactly when because the page wasn’t dated). We still lived in Australia at the time I wrote this post.

A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool

Someone asked me what our homeschool schedule looks like.  At first I was happy to write about it.  Then the more I thought about it, the more stressed I became.  Practically EVERY day is different here at the homeschool den!  We have a general routine, but I’m just as likely to scrap it and take the kids out for a hike, outbush, to a playground or to the desert park or museum.  Still, I find it illuminating seeing what other people do.  So, I thought I’d do two things. First, I’ll write a general overview of our routine.  Then I also went along and wrote down what a REAL day looks like.  I guess this is as much for my benefit a few years from now when this life (with young kids) is a distant memory.
So here it goes!  Our general routine changes drastically every six months or so as the kids change (especially as ED has gotten older).
6:30 or so ED wakes up. [Shower, coffee]  Snuggle time with ED, milk, books. Then off to the craft table for puzzles/toddler/preschool toys, activities and books.
7:30 LD and DD up, breakfast, Mom reads books, does chores
8:00 DD (age 3 or so) generally heads straight for the theme table to check things out

Here was another theme time table:

LD glances at the table, then decides what he wants to do (often something different — Legos, board game, etc.)
8:30-10:00 DD and LD play together10 or so (or earlier if they aren’t getting along well or if they’re excited) Mom suggests that they do (math, science experiment, craft, lapbook or whatever) This can last anywhere from 1-2 hours (or all day if LD is really into it or less if he’s not)
12-1 lunch, Mom reads books1pm About every other day we have quiet time.  DD usually plays with her doll house, LD builds, etc.  Mom usually suggests to LD that he do X, Y and/or Z (independent reading, handwriting or other independent work).  After ED is situated (either napping which is rare or quietly playing or whatever) I usually work with the kids.  DD reads to me; LD reads to me; we do math work (much of our math-work needs Mom as we use Right Start Math and play LOTS of math games).  If we’ve been out all morning this is when we do schoolwork. Now that the weather is nice, there are days I take the kids out for a hike or whatever.
  • Tuesday mornings we have Kindergym
  • once a week we have a play-date with another homeschooling family in the morning
  • Tuesday afternoon 3:30 DD has dance class,
  • LD has T-Ball
  • Wednesday afternoon 3:30
  • DD and LD do gymnastics 
  • Friday afternoon 4:15 – 5:45 all three kids have swim lessons
  • M, Th we sometimes have playdates, but if not then the kids often play Wii Fit or watch TV (which I don’t really ever allow until late afternoon).
Generally we go out twice a week to do something — outbush, hike, park, Desert Park, Reptile Centre, science or art museum and things like that. 
When it was hotter we went to the pool a lot.
And, as far as what I cover each day, I have a general plan mapped out and taped onto the door (for example, I do science experiments on Monday, try to do music once or twice a week, have different math activities on different days of the week and so forth). We generally have a unit study (or two) that is/are ongoing. Our unit studies tend to last about 2 or 3 weeks.  But, each day at a minimum I have LD and DD do math and reading.  LD also practices the piano and does handwriting daily.  That’s the bare minimum (even if we’ve been out and about).
Blow-by-Blow of a Real Day!!
Okay and so now here’s a blow-by-blow of what today looked like.  Today we stayed home (in part because I looked around and saw the lawn needed to be mowed).  Mind you, some days are more productive than others but this is reasonably typical.

6:30 ED wakes up and calls out for Mom (this is after crying off and on every two hours last night.) I wonder if she will be as sick as DD was a couple days ago (when DD slept from 10-2:45).  Shower, wash ED’s hair. Then off to the kitchen and living room. I immediately get the coffee going, I’m tuckered out this morning.  LD and DD are awake (surprise!) so instead of heading to the craft table (theme time table today is on “the human body”–smells, sound, skeleton kinds of books and activities) I get breakfast for everyone.

Breakfast, I put a load of laundry in, put dishes away. DD calls for me to come read.  I turn away from the dishes.

7:50 I read a story to the kids.  Then I sneak off to put more dishes away.  ED and DD wander off. I remind DD to get changed.  I suggest to LD that he practice the piano.  He makes up some scary music instead. He wants me to write it down, but I’m in the kitchen getting the “smell activity” ready.

8:10 I bring out the smell tray and blindfold (I have 8 mini cups with cotton balls that have various matching smells–vinegar, oyster sauce, peppermint and vanilla).  LD gives it a go.  DD comes out fully dresses, hair brushed.  She wants a turn.

8:30  ED needs to be changed

8:35 I grab tape and Popsicle sticks and invite the kids outside.  I talk about people with handicaps.  What is a handicap?  Do you know anyone with a hearing disability? (Me!  Though I hear perfectly well with hearing aids)  We talk about being blind, talk about other handicaps, diseases that make life difficult, etc.  Then I tape their them and pointer finger and have them try to pick up small shells, a large pinecone, etc.  We talk about arthritis and other disabilities.

8:50 Several phone calls that I need to take (usually I let the answering machine pick up if I’m in the middle of working with the kids).  I keep taping more and more Popsicle sticks on all fingers and toes while talking on the phone!

9:00 LD has now lost interest.  DD is going strong. ED is playing in the yard.  I look at the yard.  Hmm… lawn needs mowing and we have a full weekend ahead of us. DD looses interest and wants the Popsicle sticks off.  Glance at the kids — they’re now involved with their own game with the Popsicle sticks.  Some sticks are in the ground others are being used in the cubby house.

I start mowing the lawn.

9:30 ED disappears into the house having stripped off her pants.  I follow her in since she’s potty training (her decision! Too early if you ask me, she’s only 25 months!! AHHhhhh….)  ED tries wiping herself.  Good effort, but now she needs a bath!  Hmmm… I glance at the floor.  It sure needs to be washed.  I scrub away and mop the bathroom floor while ED is in the tub.

9:50 Continue mowing the lawn, weeding, doing doggie duty.  Kids play hard in their imaginative game.  LD asks to borrow a saw to cut down some palm fronds to make a bird observation tower/cubby (which we read about in a ‘learn about the rainforest’ type of book the other day.  I tell him that’s fine, just to be careful.

11:15 Everyone’s hungry.  I prepare lunch.  The kids come inside one-by-one.  I have them wash hands.  While they’re waiting DD practices spelling her name (with painted letters I have semi-permanently on the table for her).  We all look at a pomegranate; we’ve never had one before and give it a try.  We locate India and SE Asia on the map since I googled ‘pomegranates’ and found out they’re eaten there.  Also tell LD that they were mentioned in Ancient Greek stories.  LD is fascinated by this.  I read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and The Little Mermaid.

12:00 Theme Table — The kids do the skeleton and body puzzles.  Uh-oh ED took the skull and has hidden it somewhere… Mom looks but can’t find it. (Mind you, this is a BIG skull puzzle piece about 7 inches across!!) They do the puzzles (as best they can without the head!) and Mom loads Stanley the Skeleton (from for a short, cute video about bones in the body.

12:15 Movie’s loaded.  Mom shoves dishes into the sink.  Kids watch that video and two others--Ester the Earthworm about how earthworms eat, breathe, etc.) and Look at Me I’m a Honey Bee. I start folding laundry that’s now been dumped into the hallway.  I clean up and put away items from the smelling activity this morning.

12:30 We all sit down to talk about reptiles (an on going unit).  Today we sort animals into invertebrates and vertebrates.  ED is given a couple of animal cards of her own to look at.  Then we talk about the five kinds of vertebrates.  We sort the cards into the 5 categories.  We talk about the similarities and differences between reptiles and birds, etc. LD is quite engaged with this.  We read a DK book together about reptiles. Meanwhile DD lost interest in what LD and I were doing so she grabbed the kindergarten animal classification sorting game.  She sorts things into mammals; reptiles and birds and then plays with the animals for a bit.

1:15 LD asks to watch a “school movie” on reptiles.  He and I choose a few “Discovery Education Streaming” videos.  One’s on reptiles (DD said it was BOring!), one Magic School Bus and one Grossology (about veins).  I put on Diego for ED because she’s at loose ends and I’m hoping to wash the breakfast and lunch dishes and to fold that laundry.  I set two toddler puzzles/toys next to her.  She plays with these and seems happy as I head outside to pick up popsicle sticks.  Hmmm… need to trim the grass around the playground (and do so). Then I go in to fold that laundry and finish the dishes.  I pick up (slightly) as I move through the house.

1:30 I get the gloves on for washing the dishes and wash one (no kidding!) dish.  ED is done with Diego. So, I stop what I’m doing and go read books to her.  I bring in the Ipod and snuggle with her and catch up on a few emails.

2:30 I emerge from the bedroom.  ED rested but I never did get her to sleep.  She’s grumpy but happy to stand next to LD and DD while their show ends.

I realize I’d better get dinner prepared since we have a full afternoon of swim lessons for all three kids (from 4:15 to nearly 6pm).  Chicken parmigiana is now ready to go in the oven.  Saucepans are full of water ready for corn on the cob and cous-cous.

–tackle the laundry in the hall
–wonder where the skull is
–finish washing the breakfast and lunch dishes
–pick up a few more things in the living room (still cluttered a bit more than usual because I had a soccer game and wind ensemble rehearsal last night)
–laminate a couple of card sheets (for another day’s activities)
–try to do all five things at once.
3:05 Laundry is half-folded but the kids are hungry and want a snack.  LD practices piano while I make air-popped popcorn.
3:25 More popcorn.  LD grabs his handwriting from his workbox and work on Handwriting Without Tears.  DD again spells out her name. Then she practices writing a “D” and learns how to write an “e.” Somehow I manage to fold 6 more items.
3:45 Oven is on, I stick in dinner.  I change for swimming.  ED sees this and pulls off her clothes. I ask DD and LD to get changed.  They both do some independent reading.  LD chooses a hard book (I’m surprised, but don’t say anything.)  It’s over 50 pages and has very challenging words for him (he reads about a 4th or 5th grade level).
4:08 I head off to swim lessons with ED.  Dad is now home and gets DD and LD out the door for their lessons which follow.
5:30 I return with ED finish getting dinner on the table. Dad reports that LD read the entire book (finished while waiting for DD’s swim lesson to end).
6:30 Night time routine (change/teeth, books, bed)
8:30 Hubby and I sit down to watch a TV show for the first time all week (it’s Friday!).  I make a cup of “Bengal Spice” tea ready to relax.  We do just a few more things (picking up).
Now it’s 9:30.  My tea is cold, but we sit down together.  Chat for a few moments about some big life-changing things to come and then watch a show.I still don’t know where the skull is! The first load of laundry was folded and put away.  The white load is still in the dryer, but will just have to stay there. Oops, just a sec hubby, I need to write down what we accomplished today in school for our records–I write down reading, piano, handwriting, science. Goodness, I realize LD hasn’t done his math for today.  Scratch my head wondering if this’ll set him back in life. (Just kidding, but I do have lots of self-doubt… do I do enough? Do I do too much? Are the kids learning enough?  Am I pushy? I don’t think so, but then LD did drag his feet about reptiles… but then he got into it once we got going.  Did they take hold of their own learning? Are they excited? happy?  etc. etc.  In the end and what matters though, is that our kids love homeschooling and enjoy being home (and often NOT home!!).  I love watching that excitement… “Lets build this! Let’s learn about that.” I wish I had more people to talk about my days and my life, but ultimately know that this is right for our family.)

Here are the pictures that go along with this day I just described:

Related Posts: See the Theme Time Category (ages 2-4) for more of the tables I set up for the kids when they were tots/preschoolers (be sure to click back on “older entries” to see some of the oldest entries when the kids were really young).
You might also enjoy yesterday’s post about a Typical Homeschool Day now that the kids are older – K, Grade 3, Grade 5. (Plus, there are lots of links to similar posts from previous years at the bottom of that post.)
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Winter Theme Preschool Unit

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Over the break, I wanted to pull together a fun packet for ED with activities she can (mostly) do on her own when I’m working with the other kids.  I settled on a winter-relating unit– snowmen, snowflakes and things like that.  Here are some of the resources I pulled together for her:

When I want to find some preschool resources for ED, here are some of the first websites I go visit:


Find the Difference – Snowmen

1 to 100 Winter Maze

Learn to Draw a Snowflake

Making Learning Fun Snowmen Ideas

Make your Own Winter (or any theme) Tracer Pages   You can choose any words you want, here’s one I made for ED’s pack:

Sledding Fun Maze

Winter Domino Set


Winter Themed Bingo Cards with sight words

I’m sure I’ll be adding to these, but I thought I’d share what I have for ED so far.


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Pete the Cat Unit

Friday, November 30th, 2012

This post has been updated and is now located at our new locatino Pete the Cat Unit

Last week I asked ED what she wanted to learn about. “Kittens!” she declared. I was thinking I would have her make a kitten lapbook, but the more I looked around, the more resources I found for some books called, Pete the Cat. I hadn’t heard of them before, but they seemed to be all the rage among the early elementary teachers who offered many Pete-the-Cat themed worksheets free on their blogs. We checked out three of the books from the library and started in on our own Pete the Cat unit!

These books are so cute — and all three of my kids (even my 9-year-old son, shhh don’t let him know you know!!) sang those catchy tunes.

Our first step, of course was to read the books. We found the official website for Pete the Cat and discovered that you can listen to the author read the books and play the tunes. Awesome!

We listened to them multiple times, multiple days!!

We started playing lots of Pete the Cat games. We found cute board games (roll the die) made by Kristen at A Day in First Grade:

ED loved this button activity and did it independently several times while I worked with the others. It was made by Heidi and she offers it free over at Heidisongs Resources:

I stabled together a new writing pack — with handwriting and maze pages from A-Z Animal Manuscript Penmanship (I bought these a year or two ago) and cat copywork pages (purchased for $1.20) Happy Scribe Copybook, Cats. ED really enjoys these!

ED really liked this roll the die game. Instead of coloring in the buttons, she covered them with buttons (she decided this was how to play!). She did this as an independent activity. It is from the kindergarten blog, Little Miss Hypothesis.

One day she labeled the parts of a cat.  I chose a cat image that had arrows pointing to various parts (like tail, whiskers, eyes, ears, etc.). I had the word spelled for her on the sheet so she was just copying, but she was really engaged doing this.

She also did a Pete dot-to-dot (1-31) I found over at Making Learning Fun:

Believe it or not, that’s not it for this unit, but I’m out of time for now and will try to share more soon.

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Preschool Theme Time: Bugs, Bugs, Bugs!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Last week I put together my huge list of activities to do with my preschooler. One thing I haven’t done in a long time is our “Theme Time” activities.  It is such an easy way to incorporate those games that get shoved to the back shelf.  Last week we did a lot of insect-themed activities.  Here are some of the things we did together:

ED did lots of different crafts. For example she (and the others of course too) made a snail. We brought out the Snail’s Pace Race, a cute game perfect for the 2-5 year old crowd because it just entails rolling the dice and moving the colored snail one space forward.

Here are a few other of  ED’s projects from last week:

 We looked at dragonflies outside (we happened to find a dead one too and took a long time looking at it!), did a couple crafts, and brought out the pattern blocks too. (You can find lots of great templates at pre-Kinders.)

For the first time in a long time, I brought out the pattern activities we’ve had for years. ED was the perfect age for these.

 We printed out copies of Deanna Jump’s cute insect book for emergent readers. DD, ED and a friend all colored insect books:

I also printed out an insect-themed math grid game. I got this one from, but you can get a leaf one free at preKinders and place bugs on it. Each person takes a turn rolling the die and covering that many squares on her grid. The first person to cover all the spaces wins the game.

And we spotted some pretty interesting bugs and spiders in our outdoor hunts. We especially like kicking apart decaying logs to find the huge, black Bess Beetles!

You can find a list of Montessori inspired insect activities over at Living Montessori Now.  I also noticed that over at the Adventures of Bear they also did some Montessori insect-related activities recently. You might want to check that out.

ED and I also spend about ten minutes every day (and I try not to ever miss a day no matter what’s going on) in a chair together to read her Bob Books. We just started those about two weeks ago and she’s doing well.  She still needs lots of help, but is making progress. I recommend those and  Animal Antics as a first reader for your preschooler once they know their letter sounds well.  I used these same books with DD when she was starting to learn to read–see that post here.

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Theme Time: Dinosaurs

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Two weeks ago, I read The Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark to ED.  This inspired a short themed unit on dinosaurs. Here are a few of the things we did, plus other dinosaur books and dinosaur puzzles that I don’t have pictured below.

Last week we were lucky enough to top our theme-time unit off with a visit to the Gray Fossil Site in east Tennessee on our trek to visit Auntie C, Uncle T and the cousins for Thanksgiving at their farm.

Upper – Lower Case Letter Matching from Making Learning Fun.

Time for a scavenger hunt!! I hid dinosaur themed letters all throughout the basement.  ED found the letters and had to find the matching partner (pictured below). I often go to communication4all, Early Learning tab or sparklebox for letters with a certain theme.
The other kids came running and demanded their own scavenger hunts! DD had to find cards and find the card pairs that added up to 12.  LD had division problems and their answers to find and pair up. (Below)

General dinosaur play, of course!!

Triceratops Leaf Counting — from Making Learning Fun
Sight Word Letter Tile Cards from Making Learning Fun. The tiles are from our spelling program — All About Spelling. We love, love, love that curriculum for DD (6) and LD (8).

Dinosaur Counting Cards from 2 Teaching Mommies.

Dinosaur Egg Counting Cards from Making Learning Fun.

LD pulled out some of his fossils and did some reading.  He found this amazing brachiopod fossil in Grams and Gramps’ neighborhood in Missouri.
On our way to Nashville, we happened upon this museum at Gray’s Fossil Site. It is about a half-hour off of I-81 (along I-26).  When they were building I-26 construction workers noticed some fossils. It turned out to be a fossil bed rich with fossils from about 4 1/2 to 5 million years ago. It is an active fossil site and has a wonderful interactive museum.
They have lots of displays  like this saber toothed tiger.
They had so many interactive activities and please-touch areas. Here the kids are trying to figure out what types of bones these are.
Uncover the fossils (with paint brushes and your hands).
The kids spent lots of time at this activity, hunting through a tray of pebbles looking for shark teeth specimen.
The kids were impressed by this triceratops.

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