April 9, 2010

Homeschool-Circle Time (Preschool)

I know that you all have been asking me for these posts for some time, and I promise I am getting to them as quick as I can.  Be patient and I will answer all your questions.

I wanted to share with you all a little bit of a blessing I received last week.  It takes a long time to write up these sort of posts.  Which is why I don't get around to it very fast.  After writing one the week before last, I became a bit discouraged.  It took several hours in my attempt to answer questions from a number of readers.  It received very little response and I was wondering if it was a good use of my time.

It just so happened that I became very busy and didn't post for a few days after that.  Allen asked me why I hadn't posted and I explained that I just simply had not had time.  And then I said to my dear husband that I am not sure that it is worth all the effort anyway since I had done that long post and I didn't even think anyone actually read it.

Now, he is a rat to always pull God into things at the least convenient time.  So he says, "Oh, so you are just giving up?"  Lots of eye rolling after that.  He goes on to remind me how I was to help the younger ladies and how much the little bit of advice I could scrounge up when I was a young mom and home schooler meant so much.... blah, blah, blah.  Yeah, you got it, a lot of conviction on my part.  So I made a point of posting the next day just so he wouldn't think I was a quitter.

Then just another day or so later, I get a lovely email from Gaby at True Blessings.  In which she shared how just that day her husband had given her the blessing to begin homeschooling their children and could I answer some questions.  Allen was standing next to me and I almost had to cry after I admitted that I had had the wrong attitude and he was right, you get the point.  So, on I will go with answering questions and writing the posts that you all have requested on home school topics.  But it might still be a bit slow in coming☺  

I get a lot of questions from new home school moms, in person, through email and in blog comments about curriculum.  It seems it would be most efficient to put it down in one place for everyone to reference.  I could not possibly cover it all in one post... and who would want to read all that at once, anyway?  I have been back and forth about whether it would be better to write by grade or by subject.  Both seem to have their advantages.  If anyone has a preference, let me know, and I will take it into consideration for future posts.  For today though, I want to talk about preschool and kindergarten or what we in Wachter World call circle time.

Circle time started as a way to coral all my toddlers and babies into one place at one time when I was too tired to chase after them anymore.  I've mentioned before how Allen traveled a great deal when the three boys were all preschool age and younger.  On the nights he was due home from a trip, I would try to keep them up to say hello and goodnight.  Of course, by the end of those days I was plum worn out between school, nursing, diapering, washing, laundering, cooking.... all those things that go along with lots of little babies.  I had used all my creative ideas and the kids were probably getting rather sick of me by then, too.

On one such night, I told them all to sit in a circle and we would play a little game.  The first challenge was getting them all to sit in one spot.  I ended up grabbing a stack of tea towels from the kitchen and laying them in a circle.  I planted one child on each spot and the baby on my lap.  Then I got a stack of wooden puzzles, you know the ones with little pegs on each piece, and dumped them all in the middle.  Each person got a board and we raced to see who could find all their pieces and finish their puzzle first.

They sure thought that was fun.  For five minutes.  Next, I entertained them with a repertoire of Bible songs and nursery rhymes.  Finger plays and stories acted out with puppets came next.  I truly lack creativity of any sort, so this was a real stretch for me!  As long as I could keep thinking up new ideas they were delighted.  And more importantly, at that time of day, they were still and quiet.

They had so much fun they began to ask for circle time every day.  We played games like London Bridge and danced to Farmer in the Dell.  I read Bible stories and taught memory verses.  Eventually, it started taking a turn to the educational side.

My oldest son was having trouble with his speech.  Mom had found a program, Imitation Station,  set to music and games to help little ones overcome pronunciation issues like his.  I started putting the CD on during our circle time and taught everyone to play the little games that went along with the music.  In no time, all the children were singing the tunes and Nathaniel never even knew that he was having speech lessons.  Warning:  some of those tunes got rather annoying at times, and even now as I write, "Choo Choo" is going through my head!  The children loved it, though, and it became a regular part of circle time.

I decided that if they could learn that, then they could learn other things, also.  I started looking for activities to teach and play in the circle.  Abeka became my favorite source.  (I tried to link to the various products as I mention them so you wouldn't have to do a lot of searching.  Unfortunately, Abeka's sight is a little archaic and will not let you link past the home page.  However, I copied the names exactly from the catalogue so you should not have trouble finding them.)

Their Flash-A-Card series is an amazing tool for teaching Bible stories and basic truths.  The pictures are beautiful and really hold the children's attention.  They are written on different grade levels and each comes with a book that includes a teaching dialogue.  I wanted to teach the Bible in Chronological order so I skipped their recommended grade levels and started with Creation and worked my way up.

The dialogue is well written for those who prefer to read.  I would rather teach from my own heart and usually set the book aside.  Although, I did read through the book prior to teaching lessons.  I actually found many of the lessons quite interesting myself.  Unlike many Bible products for kids, they didn't dumb it down.  In fact, in almost every lesson, I found a little tidbit that I had never thought of myself before.

Some sets were written for Kindergarten all the way up to middle school, so teaching skipping the dialogue allowed me the opportunity to teach on a level that my youngers would not lose interest in.  Often at the end of the lesson they would be allowed to take the cards and teach me the lesson or we would play other sorts of games that would reinforce what I had taught.  Sometimes each child would get a card and we would go around the circle each telling their part of the story.  Sometimes I would ask questions and they would find the card that answered it and explain their answer.  Other times, I would mix the cards up and they would put them in order.  No matter what we did, they had a blast!  And I did, too.

But that is not all!  I was shocked at the Bible knowledge my little guys had.  At two years old Samuel could not just tell you that the Tower of Babel was when the people made a tower and so God confused their language.  He could tell you where each of the scattered tribes ended up and the country each settled eventually.  Could you do that?  I couldn't before. 

My older kids enjoyed the Flash-A-Cards just as much as my youngers and would often sit in.  We still do these today.  The girls like to take turns teaching them sometimes now.  Recently Emma taught the Esther series to the boys.

After our daily Bible lesson the boys still wanted more.  I started incorporating the Animal Alphabet Friends Flashcards and Letters and Sounds work book.  There is also a CD that goes along with this that sets the phonics sounds to music.  Especially, with Nathaniel's speech issues, I found this to be a wonderful addition to our program.   This program teaches the alphabet with phonics so that your child is not just learning to recognize the shape of a letter but also the sound that is associated with it.  Each letter is taught through a favorite animal.  A is Alexander Alligator.  B is Betsy B.  C is Connie Cow.  And so on.  On the back of each card is all the information you need to teach the lesson.  They learn to write each letter (small and capital) by associating a story with the animal that was used to teach that letter.  By the time you make it through all 26 cards your child has learned the letter, it's sound, how to write it and 26 animals.  Not long ago, my bigger boys (who are readers, mind you) asked if we could do those again.  Yes, it is that much fun! 

We love music and poetry so I eventually added the Poems and Finger Plays, My Favorite Kindergarten Poems, Fun Songs and Bible Songs.  Abeka has a wide variety of Poetry books and music CD's that my children have enjoyed over the years.  If this is an area of interest to you, I suggest getting a catalog and taking a look around.

Abeka materials can be on the pricey side but I knew that I would get my money worth with so many children coming through the Wachter School so I didn't mind much.  I did use our local home school networks and eBay to buy used whenever possible.  Sometimes, though, people charge as much as used by the time you figure shipping in so it doesn't always pay to go the used route.  Abeka charges 10% for shipping which I think is kind of steep.  However, if you order your materials at one of their displays, which set up all over the country a few times a year, they give you free shipping.  This is not always convenient for me and I must admit I will often shell over the extra to skip the trip to town.    I never bought the teacher manuals for these grades so I figure I saved a bundle there, anyway!

Other Abeka materials that we really enjoyed for circle time (For time sake, I am just going to list for you to check out if you are interested... email me or leave me a comment if you have questions about a specific product)

God's World K (This is a science reader which we read aloud over and over as if it were a picture book)

Social Studies K: We read this and often came up with our own little projects as we studied about our community and children of the world.  The America Our Great Country and Children of the World Visuals were fun to use along with this book.

Community Helpers Activity Book and Community Helpers Visuals 

Health and Safety Visuals:  Like the Alphabet cards, these have short lessons on the back of each card

Character Development Visuals:  Also, have lessons on the back of each card

We memorized verses using ABC Bible Memory Cards and Preschool Bible Memory Picture Cards

Another source that I go to time and time again for home school materials is Rod and Staff Publishers.  Rod and Staff does not have an online sight but you can get an extensive catalog by calling 606-522-4348.

I made many lessons using their Bible Stories for Young Readers Series and a felt board with Betty Lukens Bible Flannels.  We memorized 26 verses using The Bible In My Heart story book.

What I found out, was that circle time could never be long enough for my little guys.  They would eagerly sit for three hours at a time and were always disappointed when we couldn't do it.  I didn't do everything at once, of course.  Bible was a given each day.  If time allowed phonics would follow.  The other topics would come as the children requested.  Circle time wasn't always at a specific time each day, either.  Some days it was in the morning, some days after nap and some days after dinner.  For us, flexibility was important.

Because they had older siblings doing school, often my boys wanted to have "school books" before their motor skills were ready for school.  That's when I brought out the Rod and Staff workbooks developed for three and four year olds.

The About Three, Bigger Steps, Color Count and Cut and Doing My Best workbooks are very basic books to help develop fine motor skills.  Mostly they are just for the child who needs to say they have their own books.   

For the child who is able and ready for more focused work book time, all my children have started with the Preschool A-B-C Series.  This inexpensive set of workbooks, Bible story book and Bible coloring Book are the official start of school for Wachter children.  They enjoy them so much that each time Samuel pulls out his book someone still says, "I remember doing those books.  They were so much fun."  Rod and Staff is expanding this program with new books and plans to add G-H-I for the child who is not quite ready for first grade but has finished the first set.  Even though, they are far beyond these books, my first and second grade boys lament that they have not published the last two in this set yet and ask me about once a month to call and see if they are for sale yet.  The whole set is a whopping $20 so where can you really go wrong there?  This set of books are excellent for your preschool and Kindergarten students.

And speaking of kindergarten, I will cover that in more detail in my next home school curriculum post. 



  1. Just so you know someone is reading your blog and DOES appreciate the time and effort you put into keeping it up. I am about to have my fifth (my oldest is five and a half)and I live in semi-complete chaos of a semi renovated house in the mountains of Tasmania (that's in Australia just in case you don't watch Looney Tunes ;) I love reading snippits of your life and being inspired, encouraged and amused by you! There ya go, you are affecting the lives of five little Tassie Devils on the other side of the world! If that doesn't keep you blogging, I don't know what will :)

  2. Wow, I am so glad to find you! I loved the comment you left on my blog...we have a lot in common!! Your family is beautiful, gorgeous actually! I am blessed by you and your blog today!
    I will be back to see you lots and lots!

  3. I too make it a point to read your blog. I have been homeschooling for 10 years so I am definitely not new to the lifestyle, but you are an encouragement to me. Today's post was especially on track for me, because I have two little guys (ages 5 & 3) and have been struggling with where to start with them. My older ones are 15 and 11 and it can be hard to shift back into the kindergarten and preschool mode! We did use the 3&4 books and ABC series and my older children still have fond memories of those. Thank you for continuing on!

  4. thank you for taking time to share with us. you are a fountain of knowledge, and an amazing encouragement to me! I've been looking into Abeka curric., and have heard rave reviews about it!

  5. Thank you for all the work you put into that...

    My husband is not a fan of the idea of homeschooling, but regardless - who says all learning has to be at school anyway? These are great resources for just wanting to learn with my toddler.

    Thank you again.

  6. I am so impressed with your boys sitting still for so long! When my boys were little, unless I was reading to them, they would constantly be asking,"Can I be done now?" But my girls can't get enough of anything we do and always want more and can do activities all day long!

  7. I love your desire to help mentor younger women. I was just having a discussion with someone at our church about you just don't see enough of that these days! Thanks so much for your prayers for my mom; it is so touching that people I've never met in real life would care enough to pray, but that is the beauty of being sisters in Christ!

  8. Thank you for your blog. I appreciate the effort and time you wrote in reviewing your fave products.

    I'm always blessed when I come by!