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    The Preschool Report

    January 27, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    A more creative title for this post might be “Teaching Letters to a Girlie Girl” or “Learning to Use My Zizzers”. But such titles focus on one activity instead of the whole, so I’ll need to stick with The Preschool Report even though it lacks a certain something.

    “Preschool” is here defined as twenty to thirty minutes per day that I spend alone with my almost-four-year-old. For a while, I tried to add preschool time, especially age-appropriate picture books, into our Circle Time, but I found that it didn’t work well for us. So, I began to search for a space to be alone with A.

    Our day is such that three of the children do Circle Time with me, and then E. does Ambleside Time, quite early on. There is more “school” activity throughout the day, but the majority of our studying is concentrated in those early morning hours. And then, when it is time for Baby O.’s mid-morning feeding, they all go out to play. They gets lots of physical exercise during this time, running, jumping on the trampoline, and so on.

    And it was here that I found my time. I like to spend time alone with Baby O. after this feeding. This is the only feeding of the day that is regularly just the two of us. So it is he and I for about an hour. I fold laundry next to him sometimes.

    And then I put him to bed, and I call in A. from playing. I instruct E. to help occupy Q. {which he does, lately they have been digging holes in the side-yard}, and then A. and I have our time.

    Since we do Circle Time together, this time can be focused on the few areas where I think she requires my special assistance.

    Learning to Use My Zizzers

    My oldest child learned to use scissors very organically. I sat him down with a sheet of colored paper, showed him how to hold the scissors, and then supervised only enough to make sure that he cut paper, and paper only. But times are different. Our home is busy. And, frankly, because I used this organic method without any coaching, he still isn’t very good at cutting along a line.

    And kids the age of three like workbooks. I try to be careful about using workbooks because I think that learning should take place primarily through good literature and other rich sources, and a workbook definitely doesn’t fall into this category. However, never say never, right?

    When I saw Kumon Workbooks for the first time, I knew they would be a good fit for A. They offer slow and steady progress in fine motor skills through daily practice. They are brightly colored and friendly-looking, appealing to someone almost-four. Most importantly, Mom doesn’t have to organize cutting lessons. I prefer to plan my own curriculum, but not for basic skills. I have no qualms about buying a cutting book {actually, this was a Christmas gift she received} and being done with it.

    A. is doing so well! She requires lots of repetition to promote retention, and this is just the ticket. I am amazed at how she cuts now. I know it is a little thing, but to compare her shaky, uncertain hands from two weeks ago with her confident slices now, is to witness a profound improvement.

    We do two pages a day, because she begs for the second one every time.

    Teaching Letters to a Girlie Girl

    I must admit that, as far as teaching reading goes, I feel most insecure about my ability to teach letter recognition. My experience as a reading tutor for many years dealt with children who were struggling, but they always knew their letters. Also, E. was super easy to teach. In fact, he already knew all of his letters, shapes, colors, and so on at Q.’s current age {just turned two}. He just had that sort of mind, a steel trap, so to speak.

    A., like I already said, requires repetition. I also try not to push too hard. My general rule for teaching early reading {even with E.} was no-more-than-ten-minutes. The goal is to finish the lesson before the brain is overwhelmed. A. requested that I teach her her letters one other time. We tried for a while, but her retention was terrible. When her interest tapered off, I didn’t press her for more. My hunch was that her mind was not ready for symbols.

    Now that she has asked again, we are back at it, and with greater success than before. It helps that we have the girliest letter book ever. A is for Annabelle is a beautiful book by Tasha Tudor. My daughter loves the frills and lace, making letter-learning a delight. She has now learned about half of her letters, as well as the words to decribe vintage fashions like veil, tippet, cloak, muff, and so on.

    We also own this book’s fine companion, 1 is One, which I plan to use to teach symbol recognition for the numbers 1 through 20 after we get farther along with the alphabet. This book, too, is a joy for a little girl who loves all things beautiful.

    Preschool Story Time

    A. has already sat through The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-PoohThe Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter,  and lots of children’s poetry. But I rarely get a chance to read alone with her. So I decided to add in some short, pretty books. Here is a sampling:

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