Saturday, November 5, 2011

Useful homeschool resources

Eversince I have homeschooled for a while, I have had some good and some bad buys. However, I have been very blessed to have been gifted with some good and useful homeschool resources too.

Here's a quick sharing of items which came in useful for me.

1) My cannot-live-without Whiteboard / Chalkboard

Gifted by a dear GF, this is especially useful ever since Dumpling has been able to trace letters and such and for me to elaborate the formation of Chinese words as well as using it for illustration / explanation of anything from Science (examples on how we record our journals) to Math readiness (introduction to number line etc.) This board is also magnetic and its good for magnetic letter / number titles and even any magnetic pieces from books we have which I can then use as manipulatives.

2) More is great when it comes to craft!

Tub of markers / crayons, etc.
Gifted with this tub of colouring pens from ELC recently. As a box of 100, there is no way I can miss them or lose them as we only take out what we need and once its done, it goes right back into the tub. With such a big container, it cannot be easily misplaced.

Of course, other colouring and craft resources from Crayola (finger paint, water colour, etc.) are great and safe resources for craft too.

3) Reading readiness
Phonics - Letterland Living ABC
I did not HS Dumpling with a said target of the achievements of certain milestones. While I am certainly thankful that Dumpling really liked books when we first started HS, I wanted to show her the basics of phonics so that she is able to sound out any new words on her own and the skill will aid her in spelling I believe. And that was all I did for phonics. With this CDROM.
For each of the letters, there are 2 songs: one for the sound of the letter and the other, a song which teaches you how to write out the letter. 1+ years on, when Dumpling gets stuck at writing, I will sing out the song and it helps her recall how the strokes should be "drawn" out.

To familiar the child with the letter sounds and the letter shapes, there are games and activities for each letter.
We will use this as and when Dumpling wants it though initially I started off with a more structured plan but it did not work for us as her attention span would differ daily and there are days when she prefers not to do phonics.
Whole words

I will publicly announce that I dislike flashcards. I use flashcards to stick on walls and boards but that's about it. I am sure I am flaunting every rule that whole word gurus advocate but it is not something which I am personally keen on because I find it boring to be flashing cards in front of my tot day in and day out.
Instead, we read. A LOT. With a whole mix of books. There are good readers out there which I do have some sets but I do not rely on them. In fact, Dumpling and I read a variety of stories, fairy tales and non fictional titles from the library.
Through the vast amount of words she is exposed to daily, she taught herself how to read. To be frank, it took us by surprise because she did not indicate that she was retaining the words. She was about to read some words here and there but before she turned 2.5, one fine day, she opened up a book, put it in her lap and sat next to me and she pointed to each word and slowly started reading. She finished the page of 3 sentences.
From there, she went through a language explosion where Dumpling is now able to read for e.g. fun stories such as Elmer and Curious George independently.

But if you are keen to encourage your child to start off with some sight words, here's a link which is both useful and fun. The key is really to read a lot with your child. If attention span is a concern, then start with short simple stories and bright pictures. You do not even need to finish the whole book but perhaps 2 pages to start off.
Dumpling likes word tracing and colouring and I downloaded a set of printables from here. Dumpling really likes colouring by number and the creater of this pack provides a simple reader in each of her unit along with activities such as "Read it, Paste it, Trace it pages", Picture/Word match and my favourites - "Word Sort that works with the new word families and CVC box printables" for word blending exercises.
Additionally, you may wish to use good readers such as these box sets from Now I'm Reading which provides rewards stickers for the child too. The sentences are kept short and through ryhmes and simple repetition, the child should catch on in time. I personally find that readers can be a tad boring but children usually do very well with repetition. And it is with this repetition that helps them gain confidence as they are able to "read" thereafter.
A lot of time, I hear my friends sharing that their kids are memorising and do not really "read". But that to me, is one of the first steps to "reading". The next step is then to help the child associate the word (by sight and placing finger under the words) to the sound of it (according to what he / she recalls.) You can look at these readers here

4) Sid and The Frizz

I am sure many of you are going "what science? Our kids are so young?" And that's the fun of homelearning as I am very sure that if Dumpling were to be in a bilingual preschool, she would not have been able to dabble as much as she can in early exposure to Science.

We use mainly 2 "series" at home: Magic School Bus and Sid the Science Kid.

While The Magic School Bus is more "serious" in tone, it is nonetheless digestible for children with its exciting field trips with their teacher, Ms. Frizzle as they fly their way from the Artic (and learn about heat / insulation) to rivers (where Dumpling learn about migration).

As for Sid, its more contemporary with 3D animation. What I like about it is that it shows real life examples / clips and encourages children to conduct the same experiments and shows charting / recording in journals which I feel is a great way for children to detail down / doodle / draw the observations.

The show also has catchy songs and funny jokes so Dumpling enjoys these tremendously too.

Both series have books and DVDs and we use a mixture of each. :)

So are preschoolers too young to know more about Science? Of course not? Dumpling understood "Reversible Change" and can explain to me in simple terms the process of photosynthesis.
How do I bring these concepts alive besides books? These very same two resources :)
Enjoy! Please do share any of your resources too!

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