I first came in contact with the Homegrown Preschooler when Leslie and I were vending in Duluth this spring. I loved the booth! As a closet artist, it is everything I want my house to be: warm, inviting, neat, hands-on, practical, and beautiful. So, she had me at the booth. But then I got to talking to her and Leslie is not only a business owner but a Challenge Director. Classical Conversations tribe love, right there! The philosophy of The Homegrown Preschooler is Charlotte Mason inspired and Classical. Sing my song, speak my language; sold.
And y’all do know I have a new little Grandbaby, right? So, I’m on the look-out for cool things to do with little Samwise.
⇐ See, he’s happy Gramma’s on the job!
This is pre-school at it’s best. Charlotte Mason inspired, classical methodology, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, all wrapped into one beautiful package that is guaranteed to inspire and encourage parents of pre-schoolers! Educating one’s kiddos is do-able. More than that it CAN be fun, lovely, and cause one to push beyond their normal to something truly inspiring.
Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hay fields, pinecones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries, and hornets, and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education. ~Luther Burbank.
About the Curriculum
I received The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy Lee and Leslie Richards, along with A Year of Playing Skillfully, by the same authors.
The book is divided into nine chapters in two different parts.
Part One – the Chapters
- Homeschooling- Harvesting a Bountiful Life
- Learning Through Play
- Sowing the Seeds- Preschool Learning
- Setting the Stage
- Home Life=Learning- Slow Down and Teach
- What has Time for this?
- Organizing it All
- Days and Seasons that Don’t Fit in the Box
- Special Circumstances
Part Two – the Activities
- Home Life
- Gross Motor
- Fine Motor
- Language and Emergent Literacy
Each chapter is chock full of activities, suggestions, ideas, recipes, adorable pictures, quotes, and color!
It is visually delightful and crammed full of ideas and resources.
The Appendix is wonderful as it gives you building plans for the awesome play/activity tables that Homegrown Preschooler has in their booth. The tables are perfect for sand, water, little animals, colored rice, cork letters, and more.
The Activities portion is, again, full of ideas and pictures of kids enjoying themselves as they build language and number literacy and life skills. I love this book- it would be a wonderful shower present for an expectant Mom who already has a pre-schooler, especially if you included provisions to do some of the activities.
It’s also a lovely homeschooling primer for those who compelled by homeschooling but are not sure where to start. If you have a pre-schooler- this is where!
It would also be an amazing Grandparent gift! Have this at the ready at Gramma’s house for fun and wholesome engagement when you are watching the littles. This is a great way to build memories across generations.
Over the years we have done many of the activities that are included, but the beauty of this book is that you can pull it out and have ideas at the ready. Also included are supply lists. How perfect is that?
A Year of Playing Skillfully is what really caught my eye. This is an actual Charlotte Mason inspired, classical curriculum for preschoolers.
I took my copy out of the packaging and put it in a 2″ binder. Some of the pages are cardstock/printables and I put those in page-protectors; other pages are 3-hole punched, but if I was going to use this for multiple kids, in a co-op or day-care, I would definitely put those pages in page protectors as well.
What You Will Find – Nine Months of Activities
Each month has a FacePage printed on cardstock that outlines and details the month. Each month includes a Theme and a Character Trait as well as ideas in each of the following areas:
- HomeLife/ socio-emotional
- Field Trips Science/ Sensory
- Outdoor/Gross Motor
- Scripture Verse.
The pages are visually lovely and colorful but not cluttered. You can use the face pages as a checklist if you like or they can be a general guide.
Next comes a month-by-month detailed Activity Guide.
The guide is a detailed, month-by-month plan of activities, books, music, chores, inspiration, recipes, living skills, reading and math readiness, art and science projects, nature journaling, gross motor play, field trips, and more. Complete with lovely pictures of adorable kids participating in them. In other words, these things are DO-ABLE for real Moms, like us. At the end of each month’s activities is a supply list by activity as well as a place to record memories. Brilliant!
What You Will Find in the Activity Guide
- Living SKills
- Reading Readiness
- Math Readiness
- Art Projects
- Science Projects
- Nature Journaling
- Gross Motor Play
- Field Trips
Also included are printables, ready to use multiple times as they’ve been printed on cardstock. This includes games and other age-appropriate pre-school activities like cutting practice and garden planning.
Again- brilliant. I don’t have to go searching, it’s readily available and I can make multiple copies as needed.
Have I mentioned I LOVE this curriculum? It’s more than curriculum- it life prep for littles. It is lovely, well thought out, pragmatic, and thoroughly delightful. KB and Mr. V can’t wait to use this with little V and I have high hopes to jump in with and do some of the activities with them every now and then.
Get A Discount NOW!
The Homegrown Preschooler has offered all our readers a special discount coupon. Use the code TRUENORTH at checkout to save $20 off the Plan and Play Bundle – HERE until September 30, 2020.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.
Getting Started with Homeschooling
Homeschooling is not Rocket Science, but as the world discovered this past spring, it is also not sitting around all day eating bonbons. The big question this spring has been, HOW DO I GET STARTED? Well, here is a quick guide to getting started.
First Things First
Check your State Laws and make sure you have everything in order. Need to sign a letter of intent or register your kids? Get it done.
You can find Homeschool Laws by State at HSLDA.
Create Your Action Plan for Schooling
This consists of your Vision, Mission, and Goals. The more detailed you are now the less confusion will ensue later. Like every big project, the more time that you devote to planning, the more effective the implementation will be, even when it’s not going as planned.
Spending time on “set-up” can save a lot of time (money) and irritation down the road.
Creating a Vision, Mission, and Goals:
- Determine your WHY. What’s driving you to Homeschool? Write it all down. Write down your frustrations, hopes, dreams, and expectations. Then distill it all into one simple sentence. Post it somewhere you’ll see it, so you don’t forget. Habbakuk 2:2 This is your Vision- your BIG picture; the long view vision for educating your kids.
- Determine your Mission for the Year. What will you get done? Write this down by child in the following areas: Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual.
- Determine Your Goals. These should be SMART– Specific, Measureless, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Smart goals are the small, incremental steps necessary to complete the mission.
Create Your Action Plan for Managing Your Home
Successful Homeschooling consists of:
- Time Management
- Household Management
Set a simple schedule to guide you. Here are some ideas for things to include in your program and ways to organize your week.
- Weekly Family Meetings – gather together weekly as a family to coordinate schedules, online classes, meals, and extra-curricular. Divvy up driving, pick-ups, and deliveries.
- Weekly Individual Student Meeting -Set aside time each week to meet with each homeschool student. Go over schedule, responsibilities, due dates, etc.
- Collective Daily Gathering –You can organize this time as a simple Morning Basket, a family devotional, or memory work. We used our Morning Gathering time as a combination of the above and included Memory Work, Bible Study, and Poetry. We schedule an hour a day and love meeting and learning together!
- Work on skills in the morning/concepts in the afternoon. This is a great way to organize your day. Take advantage of fresh minds and attitudes for the more complicated skill-based subjects like Latin or Math in the morning and then more concept-based learning like Literature, Bible, History in the afternoon.
Create a simple plan for meals and laundry.
Housework is a job, homeschooling is a job, and if you are working vocationally, you have that job as well. Make a simple, do-able plan for getting laundry, food, and kitchen responsibilities taken care of. It will keep everyone sane, sanitary, and satisfied.
Life is seasonal and if you are just starting out, plan simply. Start simple and plan to get it done. You can grow into complexity once you’ve got a system and level of comfort with the new normal of adding homeschooling to your day.
Batching is a simple and effective solution to tasks.
Develop routines for laundry. When we had seven people at home we would switch around laundry from washer to dryer daily and then fold and put away all on one day. Put away laundry when it’s folded. Just do it.
Bulk shop once a month and then mini-bulk shop weekly.
The less often you go to the store, the more money you’ll save. Shop with a list and batch cook, or at least batch prep. I usually sauté soup veggies en masse and then have soup ingredients ready to add together to make a delicious pot of homemade goodness that feeds many and can be easily stretched. Have “fast food” meals, like soup, fajitas, tacos prepped, and ready to heat and serve on your busy days. Eat the same basic meals. Bagels and eggs for breakfast, left-overs/ salads for lunch, meat, veggies, potato, or rice for dinner.
Before you even look at a curriculum, determine what your mission is for each student, what goals you want to accomplish, and then what subjects those goals fall into. From there choose curriculum.
There are thousands of curriculum choices and everyone has their favorites. The best curriculum is the one that gets done, so don’t feel like you need to chase every shiny object. I choose curriculum based on solid educational pedagogy, like Cross Seven, that is easy to use but allows for further exploration.
Just because you homeschool doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Outsource any classes that you don’t feel equipped to teach, such as Foreign Languages, plus those you don’t have the time and energy to handle or those in your student’s area of interest for exploration to maximize opportunities. Homeschooling can look like whatever you want it to look like!
Keep it simple (always!) and start with the core four:
For younger students, focus specifically on number fluency and literacy. Choose simple but effective programs that are non-consumables like Alpha-Phonics with Explode the Code along with Poetry, which is a great way to get your kids learning to play with beautiful language and imagery. We also love Right Start Math, which includes Math games. Perfect to add to your Morning Basket or to use with multiple ages.
For older kids, you should begin to focus on growing in reading fluency and understanding. Choose curricula or online classes that teach simple literature analysis and various forms of writing. If you are considering outsourcing some of these, take a look at True North Homeschool Academy’s courses on Essay Writing, Research Papers, and Creative Writing.
For Science, choose a curriculum or class that has a focus on discovery and wonder in the early years. Older students can move into more formal studies which should start with a basic and thorough understanding of the Scientific Method and then delve into foundational sciences like Earth and Space, Biology, and Chemistry.
History is the importance of what happened before, what’s happening now, and our place in it. For those coming from a Judeo-Christian point of view, it includes the important concept that all people, places, and time lead to the Cross, and our part to play in a lost world, awaiting heavenly redemption. Students should have a broad sweeping overview of history, which is why we love studying timelines, along with specific areas, including state, U.S., and World History, Geography, and Economics.
If you have questions or need help choosing age/ stage appropriate resources, we’d love to help! Join us over at True North homeschool Tribe Facebook group or ask about our academic advising.
Focusing on open and go, non-consumable programs, especially for content-based curriculum will save you time and money. A Classical Spine, like Cross Seven in the early years, will give your kids a solid foundation for whatever future studies they pursue.
It is wise to spend time and money on helping our kids explore their interests. Literature-rich resources as well as in real-life experiences like field trips, campaigns, clubs, and camps can be inexpensive ways to teach at home. Add these enriching experiences to your homeschool program as your time and resources allow.
Some curriculum is better than others but the main thing that you want to keep in mind is that if you love it, you’ll use it. If you don’t like or understand the layout or content, you likely won’t! – Lisa Nehring, True North Homeschool Academy Director
Over the years we have used unit studies, note-booking, textbooks, online courses, clubs, camps, websites, certifications, field trips, books, movies, CD’s co-ops, class-days, and more.
Learning can take place almost anywhere, at any time. As you get started, remember, start simple.
It is so easy to add in resources as you discover areas of interest, skills that need to be honed, and the world that needs exploring. Above all, have fun. Education is the transmission of culture and it allows you this beautiful space and time to impart to your children the things most important to you; the real things. Enjoy the journey, it is time well spent.
Not sure what your focus should be?
Our team of Academic Advisors has years of experience in homeschooling, choosing curriculum, and the ages and stages of child development. We have advisors with experience planning for students with Special Needs and supporting those families. Our advisors are ready to encourage you and help you create an amazing, doable plan.
Need a like-minded tribe to journey with? Our Parent Equipping Membership is a great place to start and our Getting Started Homeschool Printable Planning packet was created to help you create a plan, write out your goals, and your vision while keeping your home and students on track. Download it free.
Play is the Work of a Child
I love toys. And I totally believe that they contribute to learning. Holt and Montessori shared the belief that play was a child’s work. They both addressed this differently; while Marie created child-sized tools, John made space, room, and resources available to the child so that they could “work” (which is to say, “play”).
We’ve had toys in our home for over 2 decades, including obscene amounts of Barbies, Bionicles, and other consumer-oriented icons of middle-class America. And while I don’t often personally purchase the aforementioned plastic purveyors of a consumer-oriented culture, I don’t obviously throw them away either. But when I’m choosing the playthings, I am all about open-ended, creative play.
When we lived in sunny southern California, with a pool next door and a huge sandbox out front, toys equaled lots of buckets, shovels, and pool toys. Some of our kids got older and we moved again and my Mom bought the kids an X-box. We traded it in for a huge trampoline. One of the BEST. TOYS. EVAH. We’ve had one for about 15 years and have had no broken bones or serious accidents. As a former lifeguard I set the rules and have zero tolerance for those who don’t follow them. You break the rules, you’re off the tramp.
The trampoline has it’s own culture and games: crack the egg, blind man’s bluff, etc. It is also the best place for kids’ summer birthday party picnics, family stargazing late at night (BYOB- bring your own blanket), and summer reading.
In addition to the trampoline, our family has loved and invested in:
- BRIO TRAIN -ages pre-school through elementary. When Feeche was younger he would take over the entire living room creating Train Town.
- PLAYMOBILE – preschool through late elementary or beyond. Ds 13 likes to use Playmobile to create stop-action scenes.
- LEGOS– as soon as the kid won’t put stuff in their mouths until late adulthood/death. I know this for a fact. My brother-in-law, broker that he is, has been seen, on the floor, playing with Lego’s, well into his 40’s; which we love and appreciate!
- And, of course, the proverbial box.
None of these are cheap, except the proverbial box, and we haven’t been rich (not even close) but we’ve amassed great amounts of each. How? Often 2nd hand (including online; throw out a “WTB” on a well-trafficked home school forum and see what happens), occasionally gifts, toy store closings (I amassed a HUGE box of specialty Lego parts for $15 in a shrewd negotiation during a toy store closing several years ago) and the extraordinary uber sale (I found the Pyramid Play mobile set for 70% off last summer – hello Christmas!).
As for the boxes, we buy in bulk, so we have a steady supply, but if you are looking for super duper large boxes, contact your local appliance store. We collected about 20 one year and Dr. Dh built a 2 story, castle-shaped fort in the backyard for Feeche’s birthday party. It was still standing 10 days later for KB’s and the kids – about 20 of them, had the time of their lives in that thing! Our kids regularly decorate, paint, and cut up boxes to create who-knows-what. But seriously, don’t underestimate the potential of this humble, time-tested toy.
My paternal grandmother, Audrey ruled the game table, though never at cards; she was Plimoth Brethren after all. Besides that, we spent many, many happy hours at my grandparents lakeside cottage playing croquet during languid summer afternoons and then in the evening at card-tables playing Rook and Aggravation and a host of other games I can’t remember the names of with my great aunts and uncles (whose names and love I do remember) and eating homemade apple pie and candy out of dishes. Sweet, sweet memories of my Tribe. Besides the love and the pie, which were de rigeur, one always knew that Grandma ruled and if you were at her table you were just a warm body to justify her winning. Chinese Checkers was her specialty.
So what do games have to do with education?
Well, plenty; like how to be a gracious winner and an affable loser. How to negotiate alliances, cut your losses, take risks, be judicious, and put in time with people when you’d much rather be surfing or doing laundry. You know, sometimes you just need to show up and play games, even when you don’t want to, or it’s difficult.
As for our family, we don’t play a lot of games but we like to win when we do.
- Mancala– easy to learn and play, doesn’t take a lot of brainpower and fun. Introduced to us by our dear friends, The Pontons, 14 years ago when we were just moving into a house, the furniture hadn’t been delivered yet, and their kids were spending the night. How could we not love the game after that?
- Chinese Checkers – The Rummel family contains a long line of world-class players and sadly I relinquished to the title to Feeche last Thanksgiving.
- Risk – world domination, baby. Bring it on.
- Monopoly– yes, it’s obvious, and there comes a tipping point. Flower still digs it, though- it’s what we do for love.
- Blokus– KB and Feeche AND Flower developed a strategy to freeze me out last fall and I honestly swear they have ruined this game for me. It’s a cruel and highly effective strategy that leaves one’s opponents in tears (that would be me).
- Phase 10- when everyone is at drool stage but it’s too early to go to bed.
- We’re adding Scrabble to the retinue to try to ramp up the weak spelling gene (which appears to go hand in hand with the world-class Chinese Checker playing gene- brought to you by my side).
- And our new personal favorites! Risk Legacy and Eclipse!
- Quarter Mile Math– beat the car or the horses and learn your math facts. Good stuff on CD.
- And of course, Ages of Empires. I know, I know. I’m constantly preaching go light on the electronics. But we do have an x-box (which I avoid mentioning because it’s so obvious. We still shut it down every Easter and it’s in the closet till Thanksgiving or the first snow- whichever comes last)
I have some puzzlers in my midst but apparently Flower and I are the only ones who really like to work puzzles. We do once about every decade and a half. Flower still loves the Geography Puzzles. A rocking way to learn the world.
And all of the kids have gone through a serious Usborne Puzzle book
addiction- from my years as a UBAH consultant- we own all of them and they’ve gone through 5 kids, several cross country moves, and a house fire and are still being puzzled through. We also loved their dot-to-dot and maze books. Every one, terrific!
– deductive reasoning for the stalwart souls. We love perplexors!
What are your favorite Toys, Games, and Puzzles? Do tell, ’cause I’m always on the look-out for more!