I've had a couple questions from people, so I figured I'd get to them all at once:
I use a recipe from education week that you can find in my links on the right side of this page. Just click on the one I entitled Best All Wheat Bread Recipe Ever. This recipe defies all common bread making knowledge. The yeast does not get proofed, you just stick it right in with the dry ingredients. Then, instead of using warm water, you use the hottest water your tap can produce. The side "tips" that I got from Gove I'll share with you. Instead of using the oven you want to just leave it on the counter. I think he uses plastic Tupperware boxes (like what you'd store things around the house in), to raise his. I preheat my oven, stick the pans on top of it and then cover. Plus, you'll need to let the bread rise at least 30-45 minutes. After take the bread out of the pans and onto a cooling rack, then cover the bread with the plastic box mentioned before. If the box covers the bread and the rack it allows the bread to cook a little longer because of the steam and that makes a nice bread. Oh, and this recipe is for two loaves.
Well, I'm not sure that I have any great ideas, but I will post some things that we do around the house. The first is that we've unplugged the t.v. The kids used to be able to go in the library and watch a show first thing in the morning before we got up or when we needed a minute to get things together during the day, but that's no more. They weren't watching a whole lot to begin with, and only had access to PBS and TLC (we had Disney on their for a while, but soon realized that their programing wasn't always appropriate, so they've been X'd), but none at all has been nice. If we do need that second during the day we put on a good movie and they can watch that, but that doesn't happen much. My hubby is even giving up his big screen tv, I'm so proud of him! So, focus on reading and other hobbies/talents is a great way to start coming up with more ideas, and you'll be surprised at how many come from your little one(s).
As for mommy and daddy guided activities.... after Asher goes down for a nap that usually allows for about 2 hours of free-time. I decided to dedicate this time solely to my kids. So, we start with some specific "school" related things and add on from there:
*We have a calendar set that allows us to keep track of what today, tomorrow, and yesterday are. So first thing is to make sure the day is correct and to talk about what is going on today, what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow.
*Then we step outside and see what the weather is like (cloudy, sunny, warm, cool, hot etc...), then it's back inside to put the correct conditions on the wall.
*Then we say the pledge of allegiance and sing the preamble (gotta love Schoolhouse rock!)
*I mention things to them like who the president of the United States is, where we live, and any other random thought that pops into my head about current events that affect us.
*Learning letters is always fun. We have a bunch of different things we do for this:
-A bag of stringable letter beads. I like to pull out the letters for their names and we look at them, say the letters, sound them out etc.
-Magnetic letters. Nothing is more fun then sticking stuff on the fridge! Unfortunately we have a stainless steel fridge, but at least the sides are magnetic, so we pull it out and the kids can stick them on there.
-Letter hunt. I read from a homeschool site the BEST idea ever. We love this one. Find some small letters that span the alphabet (we use our stringable letter beads, which is good but I wish I had more now since two sets of the alphabet are constantly out of commission now), and put them in a box completely covered. The suggestion was to use rice, which would be a great idea, but we usually use a lot of rice so I opted for our less used oats. So, whatever you have that will cover the letters and be fun to move around works. Anyway, the kids can search for the letters and then match them up with bigger versions somewhere else. The original idea was to have them on the ground, the kid finds the small one and runs to the proper match and so you have kind of a little race. Personally, I just printed out a sheet of paper that has all of the letters spaced out on it and stuck in a sheet protector so they can do this for a quiet activity. The containers I use are the kind of shoebox sized plastic containers complete with lid so all we do is slip the sheet in the box, close it up and it's ready for another day. **The oats do leave some dust behind, plus I can give you no promise that whatever substance you use will completely stay in the box... just set the kid somewhere that's easy to clean and have a vacuum handy. A little (or big like it is at our house) mess never hurt anyone. Don't freak out, just tell them that they need to keep it in the box and later vacuum it up. Mess solved, and it just so happens kids love to vacuum! You might want to enlist their help.**
-Printed letters. I have big lined kindergarten paper and we right out words for Noah to trace (and Nyah to doodle on). We normally stick to first and last name and focus on saying the letters aloud with him. I'll tell yah, he's pretty proud of himself when he does this... you've never seen a happier kid, so it may be tedious in some points of view, but he loves it.
-Do-A-Dot-Art. This is great for art and letter learning combined. You can either draw out things for them to trace (like letters so they learn the shape), or let them at it. It's basically a large pen with a rounded tip that they can press up and down and it leaves a dot. I love these! They're great for so many projects. If you goggle Do-A-Dot-Art you'll find some fun stuff, I highly recommend it.
-Watercolors. Who doesn't love watercolors. My kids love to paint, and because watercolors are really washy they're an easy choice for me. Recently we've taken sponge stencils (pretty cheap at Walmart), and painted them then stamped them down. Nyah usually dumps the water or just uses wanted to paint by the end, so make sure you do this over a hard floor!
-Washable paints and nature. My kids haven't met a rock they don't like, so they find a good one and we paint it. It's good to do the paints in steps with little ones (letting the paints dry between colors) otherwise you just have brown or black paint by the end.
-Super scented playdough and kitchen tools. We make our own playdough with colored drink mix so it smells yummy (no, it doesn't stain), and then I gather random stuff from the kitchen and we all go at it.
-Crayons and markers. An oldie but a goodie! Both of my kids have their own pencil box (complete with name on it so you have yet another place they see the letters), in it is their pencil for printing letters as well as their own stash of art supplies.
-Cutting. Who knew cutting could be so fun? The kids love it, I don't count it as my favorite activity since I don't want them to hurt themselves or cut anything they're not supposed to, but how do they know unless you teach them? So, we practice cutting, and then they can do whatever under supervision.
-Scrounging for others ideas. My favorite site is www.homeschoolingadventures.com. From there I print out coloring pages having to do with our letter of the week, they have songs and stories for the letters, and my favorite is they have some cute projects.
*Preschool age games. Noah loves to play games, plus they give you an opportunity to just sit down and enjoy time with them. So, I highly recommend:
-Luck Ducks (Helps reinforce a few colors and shapes.)
-Memory (I like the one with real items on it so you can talk about the different things as opposed to the Disney/Dora stuff.)
-Candy Land (A great opportunity to learn colors.)
-Chutes and Ladders (Counting, and learning up and down.)
*Music is a big part of our home. My kids love all kinds. Action songs are great. They love musicals and can often be heard singing a few selections of the Sound of Music, plus this is a great time to instill a love of classical music. Nathan and I like lots of different sounds, and as a result Noah regularly (at least once a day) favors us by humming some Mozart. I have to admit, I do feel pretty proud of the kid for picking up on these melodies. Both kids also randomly start singing I am a Child of God, My life has a purpose, The first article of faith, and other songs that speak of core religious principles. It reminds me all the time that what they hear the most, they will learn and make a part of themselves. It's because of this that I do my best to not keep them sheltered, but rather to keep the best things going into their minds.
They learn best by repetition so music is usually in the background of our house. We sing throughout the day, play piano, pat out melodies, shake homemade maraca's (beans in a plastic cup that's taped together), the possibilities are endless.
*Reading. There's a big line of books that has simple words. Noah loves trains, so Thomas the Train books are numerous here. He's into them, it helps hold his attention, and we're reading... so, so be it.
-The Book of Mormon reader is great. It helps kids visualize the stories and familiarize them with names in the BOM. Believe me, with the way kids have a handle on fairy princesses it IS possible to learn BOM heroes with ease if you consciously make an effort to introduce them and make them important.
-Zoo. Get a zoo pass... learn about an animal during the week and then go see it in real life and note the things you learned about them (habitat, food preference etc.)
-Museums. The Bean museum at BYU is fun and FREE. The Church Museum of History and Art is FREE. **we plan to go here soon. They have an exhibit until January that is interactive for families called "I am a child of God."
-Just walking around the neighborhood. Talk about nature, bring along some chalk, bubbles, drinks and a snack and see where that takes you. My kids don't know that I grab stuff to take, so they're pleasantly surprised when I pull them out.
We have a cat, Nigel. He's a little over a year old, really great with the kids, and mostly fun to have around. We've been asked for pictures, I could only find one so far, but here you go:
4 hours ago