School starts tomorrow!! I took Isaiah to meet his first grade teacher (who was changed at the last minute due to a new charter school opening in the area that has ruffled things district-wide) this afternoon. Miss Rolfe seems very nice, and very organized (thank heaven!). We found his classroom to and from the bathroom, to and from the office, to and from the bus drop-off, and checked everything from the familiar location of the awesome library.
He's still apprehensive, and with good cause. He was going to have four little buddies from our ward in his class, but now it's all been changed. He's riding the school bus for the first time. He'll be at school all day, and eat lunch at school. It's a big deal! But I think ultimately excitement will prevail. He can hardly wait to wear new clothes, make new friends, and have morning and afternoon recess!
And not to leave Katie out, she'll embark on her first year of preschool in a couple of weeks. She can hardly contain herself! But I'll post more about that as it comes.
I haven't done very much this year to prepare for school, but there is something about this time of year that fills me with excitement. If I could I would share this excitement with everyone and, to quote Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail, "I would send you bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils!" In the spirit of education, I want to share some things with you that help my kids learn.
Leap Frog Sing-Along Read-Along
My mom bought this for Katie a few weeks ago, and I thought it would be, you know, just okay. But I looooooove it. It is so great for teaching early reading skills: short vowel sounds, making 3-letter words, changing the consonants to make different or rhyming words. And it teaches these skills through silly short stories set to music. They characters and stories are just quirky enough to hit my kids' funny bones. And it comes with books of all the stories, so you can read them as you watch or independently. Right now reading the books alone is just above where Katie is developementally, but I think she'll be there within the next few months, and the shows are right on for her. (Don't tell, but I'm singing the stories all day after watching them, they are so funny and catchy.)
Leap Frog Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Word Whammer
I've probably talked about this before. But I cannot emphasize enough the greatness of the Letter Factory DVD. The Talking Words Factory is the logical next step, and it's really good, too. And whether or not your kids are fans of these DVDs, the Word Whammer is great for working on building words. Katie is just now growing into it, but she's been singing the Letter Factory songs for over a year now.
And here's a collection of my favorite educational iPhone apps. We've tried them, and not only do I like them, but the kids do, too. (And most of them are free!)
Pop Math Lite
This is great for memorizing math facts, no more, no less. The kids match the balloons that have a problem and its correct answer, and pop them. They can move up levels, etc.
Math Drills Lite
Also a great app for memorizing math facts. However, what I really love about it is that it shows you how to solve the problem several different ways (on a number line, on your fingers, geometrically, etc.). Really awesome for all different types of learners.
Awesome for practicing handwriting. You trace the words, and the letters fall down and bounce around the screen according to how you tilt the phone, then fall into a hole to move to the next word. I like to do it, and I'm an adult. Also plays the alphabet song as you tap the screen. So fun!
First Words Sampler
This is a good, not great (probably because it's the free version) game to teach building words. It's cute and Katie likes it. If I were to design it, I would use different words, but it's fun.
This is the only one I've spent money on, and it was a whopping 99 cents. It's a great preschool puzzle game that Katie has played and played and played.
Of course, there are so many educational things you can do without spending a dime on fancy toys or programs. Some of our favorites are spotting letters or words on signs while we drive in the car, playing I Spy with colors or shapes to build observational and description skills. Telling silly stories and making up silly songs--especially rhyming ones. We've tried making letters and words with our bodies, cookie dough, noodles, and cereal. I love our letter cookie cutters.
Yard sale-ing is one of our favorite summer activities, although we haven't done much of it this year. It's great for teaching money values, as well as money management. Our kids are very fond of shopping, so we're working on finding things within a certain price range, making shopping lists (Isaiah is fab at this, so adorable!), and staying within a budget. Katie is also great at finding packages of different colors or products that start with different letters.
While we are waiting for our food at a restaurant, Isaiah and I will change three-letter words and see what we can come up with (beg to bog to dog to dig, etc.). This is also where Katie loves to practice counting by doing dot-to-dots.
And there's nothing that beats good, old-fashioned reading. Read, read, read! Isaiah earns more video game time by reading independently, and this summer we've been reading Charlotte's Web together, and the kids are loving it. I only wish I'd been less sporadic at it, but we'll finish it eventually. And, wonder of wonders, Isaiah read a whole verse of scripture this morning during scripture study! I thought he would stumble at the word, "Jerusalem," but he didn't even hesitate! Goes to show that they can handle much harder material than we sometimes anticipate, so don't hold them back.
Anyway, happy back-to-school season, and I wish you all you other parents out there the best in teaching your children!