Wednesday, August 8, 2012

preschool--our first attempt (part 2)

so!  last time i talked about my decision to make an attempt at preschool (or "play school") with the boys.

here's how it actually went down.

after naps/diaper changes, i called the boys over to the table with an "everybody sit in your chairs" song.  we then went over today's date ("Today is Tuesday...say Tuesday!  Good.  August...can you say August?  Good job.  The 7th!  See, the number 7?  Let's count to seven."  you know how it goes.) and sang the "days of the week" and "months of the year" songs.  twice.  (the boys love songs.)

(last night i made construction paper cards with the days of the week, months of the year, and numbers on them so we could change the date every day.)

construction paper and markers.  that's about as crafty as i usually get.  try not to be too envious.

after finishing the date, we talked about the shape of the day (circle).  we identified some circles and then practiced drawing them.



obviously desmond had some assistance with his circles.  ;)


i don't have a picture of this, but i also made some shape cards (construction paper again) with different shapes on them (square, triangle, diamond, star, and of course, circle).  we went through the cards and identified the shapes ("Is this a circle?'s a star!  Is this a circle?")

the boys shocked me by being really involved.  they usually will only draw/color for about a minute, but they enjoyed making circles (and tesla also worked on drawing lines).  they loved identifying the shapes on the cards and desmond surprised me by joining in to answer some of my questions.

i think next we did music time (i ended up modifying my lesson plan as we went so i can't remember the order right now).

music time is pretty self-explanatory, but we basically just danced in circles and sang a bunch of songs. i'd made a list of about 10 or so action songs beforehand, and it really helped that i could just go down the list without having to think of another song off the top of my head.  

music time was a HUGE hit.  i've done a few half-hearted attempts at it before, but i didn't get nearly the response i did today. there was a lot of grinning, jumping, and choruses of "again?  again?" 

we sang most of the songs at least twice (some of them five or six times), and the boys loved dancing around and singing.  sometime i'd like to get a cd with a bunch of our favorites on it (we were just doing it a cappella) and maybe incorporate some rhythm instruments.

after music time we did starfall time.  i should do a separate post on starfall sometime, but basically it's free and awesome.  it was a big help in teaching tesla his letters and sounds.  (i've been slacking on teaching the alphabet with desmond though, which is why i decided to include starfall time in our day.)

for starfall time, i set a timer for 15 minutes and tesla sat on the couch and played starfall on the ipad.  (i explained to him that he would be playing for 15 minutes, and once the timer went off, he would be done.  i was hoping giving him fair warning might help avoid the usually inevitable meltdown when time was up.)

by the way, the starfall app is not free, but it is worth it.  tesla LOVES it.  desmond's still too young to really use it, so i brought him into our room to use the computer.  he sat on my lap and we went through A-G a couple times (with me walking him through the letters and sounds, narrating, asking him questions, etc.)  he knows probably a third of the alphabet but i haven't really worked on it consistently with him.

after the timer went off (tesla turned off the ipad and put it away without whining or freaking out!  it was like i'd stepped into a parallel universe), we went back to the kitchen table for our "activity".

we did this toddler science activity from play create explore.  i was a little apprehensive (i have a bit of "mess anxiety" that i'm trying to get coloring definitely worries me) ;) but it went great!  and it actually held the boys' attention for quite a while (meaning probably 10 or 15 minutes...which is longer than i expected).

i poured water and oil into a glass bowl and then let the boys help put drops of food coloring in.  at first they were like, "so...?" but then the colors started dropping and they got excited.

tesla (left), desmond (right)

tesla kept saying, "it's going down!  IT'S GOING DOWN!" and "fish!  a fish, mommy!"

it was really, really cute to see them so interested.  especially because i didn't have very high expectations for this activity.  

after activity time, we did independent play/focus time with mommy.  i set a timer for 15 minutes and put desmond in his room with a toy (car/ramp thing).  tesla joined me for a montessori-style focus activity that i found here.  

i loosely followed the activity cycle, so i had him get a blanket and lay it on the ground.  then we brought over the activity (ice cube tray and pom poms) and sat down.  i tried to demonstrate it for him (he kept wanting to jump in), and then he worked on it.  i gave him quiet verbal guidance ("nope, it goes here", "good job") but tried to let him do it on his own as much as possible.  he started to get the pattern after a while but i had to guide him quite a bit.  after a few minutes i just started saying, "left side!" "right side!", and that seemed to help it make more sense to him.


i think this was the biggest surprise of the day.  tesla absolutely loved this.  i really thought he would want to do it his own way and get upset if i tried to correct him, but he seemed to enjoy trying to do it the "right way".  sometimes he'd ask, "right here?" before placing a pom pom, and when he got it right, he seemed so pleased.  i could tell he felt accomplished.


and you know what?  it was really fun for me.  i haven't really done one-on-one activities with the boys (shame shame) before, and it was great.  i got to focus on tesla, and he loved having my attention.

he kept saying "again?" as soon as he finished *, which was really gratifying for me for some reason...i guess i was just proud of him for doing it and proud of myself for actually trying something new.

i'm a really bad multitasker during the day...i clean while the boys are playing, do dishes while they're eating, prep dinner while they're fighting (just kidding) it was good for me to take some time to focus just on my boys.


towards the end of our fifteen minutes, tesla wanted to change the format.  he'd already completed the activity several times so i let him do what he wanted for the last bit.  we did some sorting and then some "freestyle".


when the timer went off, we cleaned up our activity and he helped me fold the blanket and put it away. then we switched.  tesla went into the room for independent play (puzzles), while desmond came out for focus time with me.

for desmond, we did shape sorting.  he wasn't as interested in taking direction.  i tried and then gave up and let him do it his way. 


desmond also loved having my full attention.  (note to self:  HINT HINT)  once, when i got up to get something, he let out this impatient whine and gave me this "why are you leaving?!" look.

he kept asking to do the stars again, so for a while he repeatedly put in and dumped out the same three stars.   


it was fun to spend time with my other little buddy.  like i said, i tend to get caught up in getting things done and just pushing through to the next part of the day, so it was a good lesson for me in just being with my kiddos.

(during desmond's focus time, though, tesla quickly lost interest in his puzzles and sat next to the door calling, "out?  out?  out?" for the remainder of the time. we were able to tune him out though.)   :) 

focus time/independent play was our last activity, because it was past dinner time.  overall, our first preschool attempt went SO. MUCH. BETTER. than i was expecting.  i think i needed the encouragement in order to even consider trying again.  i know that we may never have another day that goes as well as today went, but it was hugely motivating for me.  

even though i don't get paid, being a mother is my job.  and i've found that when i put actual effort and thought into my job, it's immensely more satisfying and enjoyable.  it's okay to coast sometimes, too, but too much coasting leads to boredom (which was the plague that inspired this experiment).

the boys lasted a lot longer than i thought they would.  maybe it was because i had a plan and was really involved with them, but their attention spans seemed to have tripled yesterday.  the whole thing took us a little over an hour and a half i think, and i left out a few things.  i wasn't sure how much time it would take up so i was pleased we filled the whole nap to dinner time slot.  as i told silas later, having a plan turned the worst part of the day into the best part of the day.

i'd like to keep trying to have preschool, so i guess we'll see how it evolves.  i would love to hear your ideas!

*after i ended the "school" part of our day so we could eat dinner, tesla saw the pom poms and ice cube tray on the counter and asked to play again.  he burst into tears when i said that it was time to eat right now.   i'm glad he liked it so much.   ;)


  1. you are amazing. can you adapt this for an infant who doesn't nap anymore? : )

  2. I love that you're doing this! I think my idea of motherhood is making sure kids don't seriously injure themselves and that's about it. But hopefully when I actually have children I can be like you!

  3. you are so awesome!!!!!!!! Love all this!

  4. elyssa--no napping?! tell that boy to give you a break. he is pretty dang cute though, so... :)

    melissa--now don't go thinking I'm cooler than I actually am. up until recently my parenting strategy has basically been "damage control".... ;). but I'm trying to be more proactive.


    nikki--aw, thank you! I hope I can stick with it without getting burnt out.

  5. Maybe alternate Field trips
    and preschool days?