11. PaperBackSwap — I know I’ve mentioned it over and over again here, but we love PaperBackSwap. We’ve basically built our entire children’s library through books from PBS and Grandparents. So we’ve ended up spending very little out of pocket to do so.
12. Magnet Boards — I don’t know that there’s an official name for these, but we call them “magnet boards” at our house. And they are one of the girl’s all-time favorite things to do! I got some cheap cookie sheets and these Power Magnets and we’ve used them for all sorts of educational activities.
I often give the girls the Magnet Boards and a the magnet sheet from the Letter of the Week Curriculum (see an example below) and let them fill all the magnet holes on their board while I’m reading aloud to them. When they are finished, they can create shapes, letters or whatever else they’d like.
13. Read Alouds — Speaking of read alouds, books make up the core of our homeschooling “curriculum.” I think that there is so much value in reading a wide variety of books to your children. We’ve learned so many new things, explored so many fascinating cultures and time periods and had so many excellent discussions as a result of books we’ve read. You can see some of our favorite picture books here. I’m hoping to do a series on our favorite chapter books in the not-too-distant future.
14. Do-a-Dot Art Markers — These markers are so fun. You can use them to create your own pictures, on the downloadable sheets in the Letter of the Week Curriculum or there are also Do-A-Dot Coloring Books available. Just make sure to supervise the 2-year-old with them, unless you want Do-A-Dot Artwork all over the walls (ask me how I know!). These wash off of hands and clothing quite well. Walls, not so much.
15. ABC Scripture Memory Book — I used this for Scripture Memory as a young girl, so I especially enjoyed using it with the girls. We just read through it every day at breakfast for a number of months and the girls memorized the verses by that daily repetition. Plus, Kaitlynn (then 2) picked up on quite a few letters, too.
A Few Words of Encouragement for Young Moms
For those of you who are young moms wanting to add in some educational activities to your day, please do not go buy all the things I’ve listed. These probably won’t all work for you and they certainly won’t work for you if you try to do them all at once. I offer these just as ideas of things which are available; please tailor what you do in your home to what works for you.
If you don’t currently have much structure in your day, I’d first suggest you focus on getting a consistent routine in place. Make your routine simple (maybe even just five or seven things you want to do in the same order every day), write it out and make yourself stick with it for three weeks. After that, you’ll probably find it’s become somewhat of a habit.
Don’t set your expectations too high. If you’ve never had a consistent routine, you’re not going to go from chaos to a regimented schedule in two days. Start small, take babysteps and — most of all — enjoy your children.
In my opinion, it’s much better to spend quality time laughing, talking and playing with your children every day, than to stick to a strict schedule. That’s why I think a flexible routine is more doable when you have young children. You need some breathing room for interruptions, fussy babies, diaper blowouts, kissing owies and seizing teaching opportunities.
If there was one thing I’d say to start with, it would be teaching your children obedience, character and God’s Word. When your children have learned the basics of obedience, not only will you enjoy them more and your life will operate much more smoothly, but you’ll also have a much easier time of being able to teach them academically.
Read aloud from a plethora of good books. Look at the pictures together. Talk about the stories. Stop and listen and answer your children’s questions. It’s not about finishing the book; it’s about investing in your children’s lives.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I try to ask myself “what will matter in 25 years from now?”and then live my life accordingly.
Take advantage of teaching opportunities. It’s amazing the things you can learn and explore together when you’re willing to stop what you’re doing and seize a teachable moment.
Praise your children liberally. Have you ever stopped to consider how much you praise your child versus how often you correct or criticize? Of course, as parents, it’s our role to guide and nurture our children, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also be their biggest cheerleader!
If your child is taking initiative, putting forth effort, or showing any signs of positive behavior, praise them. One thing I try to do often is to praise the girls in front of Jesse. You can just see them beam with such joy when I say, “Jesse, I have a good report to tell you about so-and-so.”
Realize that no mom — however put together she might look — is anywhere near perfect. Stop comparing. Stop feeling guilty. Focus on what works for your family and be okay with the fact that you aren’t gifted in all areas.
I wish I could sew and decorate and scrapbook and cook gourmet dinners. I used to feel really guilty when I’d read about these incredible crafts and hands-on activities other moms were doing with their youngsters.
But you know what? I’ve had to accept that I’m just not gifted when it comes to arts and crafts. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I love my children any less if we’re not making these elaborate paper mache castles. They just love spending time with me — even if we’re just coloring and cutting, making silly faces or mixing up pancakes.
Finally, don’t give up. Being a mom is hard, hard work. If you’re anything like me, you have days when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore. And I’ve come to learn that I can’t, in and of my own strength. But “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
If you’re a Christian, I strongly encourage you to make your relationship with the Lord your number one priority. For me, I’ve found that getting up early and reading my Bible and a good devotional, writing in my journal and praying is extremely beneficial in laying the foundation for the day. That time in God’s Word and prayer fills up my heart and gives me strength and courage to face whatever the day holds.
If you’re too busy for God, you’re just plain too busy. Make time for the most important things. You won’t regret it.
What are some of your family’s favorite preschool and kindergarten resources? I’d love to hear!