Archive for February 2013

Unit Studies: Trains, Week One

The first unit study we've been doing is about trains. My boys love trains. We have some train stuff here, but if they go to my parents house, Sam will do pretty much nothing except play with their Brio train stuff for hours. It seemed like a good place to start.

As I said before, one of my goals was to keep spending to a minimum. Since we're not spending a ton of time on schoolwork each day, I didn't feel like I needed to get an organized curriculum. Initially, I just wanted to read some books and do a few activities. I've since expanded that to include YouTube videos and shows and music. I'll go through what we do and then list all the materials we've used or plan to use.

In the morning, we read the books through at least once. Sometimes the boys will request them later in the day and we'll read them again. I leave some out for them to look at on their own. Sometime in mid-morning or early afternoon we work on an activity-- right now, we've just been doing coloring but I'd like to build up to some activities with scissors, glue, paint, and play dough. Today, we listened to two of the songs over lunch. We've watched a few YouTube clips here and there throughout the week and they've watched the "Train" episode of their favorite show twice this week.

And we talk. We talk while we're reading, while we're coloring, while they're playing. I ask them to try new words, to identify or repeat numbers or letters that we see, colors that we use, or talk about things we're listening to. I have in my notes that I wanted to focus on recognizing numbers 1-3 and the first letters of their own names, but we ended up doing all the way through eight or so because there happened to be some numbers on the train pictures they colored. At least once every coloring session, I help them hold a crayon and write their own names once and then the first letters several times, so they've started requesting "T" and "S" when I help them draw other things.

If you have questions about how school is going for us, ask in the comments or email me! I might write occasional updates about that, but for now and probably even more in future posts, I'm just going to focus on what materials we've used because every kid is going to interact with stuff on different level dependent on age, personality, and previous exposure to concepts.

So, materials!


The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
My Little Train by Satomi Ichikawa
John Henry by Ezra Jack Keats
Freight Train by Donald Crews
The Busy Little Train by Anna Claybourne and Jo Moon
That’s Not My Train by Usborne Books

John Henry, Harry Belafonte
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry, Bob Dylan

Swiss Steam Trains
"Train" Yo Gabba Gabba! episode

Alphabet Train

Three Train Coloring Pages-- Starry Engine, Train Car, and Caboose

We still haven't read the John Henry book because I need to pick it up from the library. The coloring pages we did one page a day until we'd done all of them, and then we put them all together:

That's been week one of our train unit. Week two will probably be pretty similar, except I'm planning on adding some hands-on projects with Duplos-- we have lots of the train car pieces and I'd like to see if I can get them to build trains with the three components we've been talking about (engine, car, caboose). We'll also do another coloring activity or craft, possibly something with John Henry or a similar historic/classic bent. Do you feel like we've missed any books or opportunities? (I'll note here that I'd like to eventually get the Little Golden Books "Tootle" and "The Little Red Caboose" but neither are at our library.)

Unit Studies

After months of talking about working on a preschool curriculum and toying around with the idea of getting started, I've finally just started making my own and doing it with the boys. They're only two right now, so it's super-easy PreK stuff. We're just going to be working on things they're interested in for about one to two week stretches, so I guess they're like little units. The first unit we're doing is Trains, and I'm planning on also doing Space and Rockets, Baby Animals, Weather, Family, Construction, and anything else they end up expressing interest in. Just those should keep us going until about the end of April.

I'm making it up as we go, mostly, because right now I'm not too worried about missing crucial learning goals. We're incorporating shapes, colors, numbers, and letters into each unit and just sort of talking about them casually-- no workbooks here unless they seem interested in it (I guess I'm a bit of an unschooler when it comes to PreK?). They're already really familiar with all four of those categories and know most shapes, most colors, numbers up to thirteen, and the whole alphabet, so we're really just working on consistent recognition now. And keeping it fun. Right now, a big goal is keeping things fun-- they need a schedule and some productive activities to give order to their day, but this is by no means You Must Be The Smartest Toddlers Ever drill work.

In fact, a lot of this is really training grounds for other things-- they pay attention really well to books at home if we're sitting on the couch, or coloring if they're in high chairs at the table, but we need some practice with those things out of the familiar context. They need practice sitting in chairs they aren't strapped into or sitting on a rug to listen to a story and not wandering off. It also helps me to be more intentional about how I interact with them during the day instead of just telling them to "go play."

That said, I'm probably going to be sharing some of what we're doing for each unit on this blog and you're welcome to use any of the stuff I've put together. Even if you aren't planning on homeschooling, if you're having a hard time managing time and toddlers it might help to just have a focus for your day. I'm actually just deciding now to post what we've been doing this week as a separate post, since my explanation is already long enough to stand on its own.

I'll always welcome comments and suggestions for materials relevant to our unit topics that you feel like we've missed-- I'm just scouring the internets and my own shelves to try to avoid buying very much right now. We're making a lot of use of the library and might even hit up Goodwill for books and craft supplies soon. God's already blessed us by providing some stuff for free this week!

Next post, Trains, week one!

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