I had to look through my photos and dig my memory to write about what we did for homeschooling so I hope the information is all correct. This is why I am writing this down in detail too – as the years pass, I am forgetting a lot of things. Mainly, the focus was on teaching reading. Lapbook featured greatly during the first year because I liked the concept of lapbooking.
The ‘spine’ I used was The Reading Lesson but I did not actually use the book during this year. The focus was on simply teaching the alphabets. The order of introduction was not according to the alphabet sequence but according to the sequence as set out in The Reading Lessons. In other words, instead of a, b, c…..it was c, o, s, a, t….. In my review of The Reading Lessons, I explained why I used this book and why the alphabets were not taught in sequence.
There were all kinds of activities we did for each alphabet but over time, it sort of settled down to the usual few. I created a lapbook for each alphabet. Basically it was like a folder for each alphabet and it contains all the activities that was done in the learning of that alphabet. There were a few standard websites that had alphabet materials for me to print, so I always turned to those websites to source for materials.
The standard stuff :
1. Cover sheet
There would be a cover sheet for the lapbook, which looked like this :
I would get #3 to fill the letter up, by sticking stuff, colouring, or drawing, stamping, etc. It all depended on the alphabet. So for the letter T, he pasted a bunch of Thomas the Tank Engine stickers in the alphabet because Thomas starts with the letter T. At the bottom of the cover sheet, there was a sentence “ … is for [blank]”. #3 would stick a picture of something that began with the letter.
I got this inspiration from a website (but now I just cannot remember which one!!!). I vaguely recall they only had minibooks for a few alphabets and I created the rest myself because I wanted it to be a permanent feature. So I am really hesitant to share the downloads because I cannot remember which was done by me and which ones I got off the internet. And because I was making them for my own use, I did not really bother about using only free cliparts.
The minibooks are also where I got my inspiration for my Chinese 部首 minibooks.
After we made all 26 of the alphabet ones, I made a mini-shelf to hold the books. I made it out of an empty tissue box. Actually, the making of the mini-shelf was a craft activity for the boy in itself.
3. Hidden Alphabets
Basically a bunch of alphabets and the kid has to circle out the correct one. I got the idea off homeschoolshare but they only had this for a few alphabets. I made the rest myself. You can download mine here but please get the missing ones from homeschoolshare.
4. Punching Alphabets
I printed the alphabets and got hold of a styrofoam board from some discarded packing material, a big nail, placed the paper on the board and #3 would punch holes with the nail alone the lines of the alphabets. Definitely fun for a little kid to play with nails. Sometimes, we did a bit of shadow play with the punched out sheet. The printouts were from confessionofahomeschooler.
5. Dot-a-Dot Alphabets
I bought my Dot-a-Dot from a shop that now no longer exist. I have no idea where you can get this Dot-a-Dot anymore. The printouts were also from confessionofahomeschooler. This website is an excellent source of material which you can download for free bit by bit, or pay a small fee to download all in one go. You can basically use the materials provided and don’t ever have to think up any ideas yourself! I relied heavily on this site.
6. Foam Alphabet
I found foam alphabets from SKP for cheap, so this became a standard thing to do also. Basically just sticking the alphabet on a card. These were only upper case, so that #3 had a tactile feel of the uppercase letter. For lower case, I had a box of sandpaper letters.
7. Glass beads and Alphabet cards
Another standard activity was simply to place flat glass beads on my alphabet cards.
8. Alphabet Train
To remind us of what we did and keep track of our progress, we had an alphabet train. Each time we completed one alphabet, #3 would stick one car on the train on our wall.
Non-standard stuff were the materials that I could find off the internet and printed for free. So this would be different for every alphabet. Basically, we explored all kinds of things about the alphabet. Like doing an Octopus craft for the letter O. I would use whatever material I had on hand too.
If I could find a book to go with the alphabet, I would do a mini-lapbook for the book! E.g. we did one for The Big Green Pocket Book when we did the letter g. We also went on an ‘excursion’ to re-enact the story! It was very fun. We also did an Angus Lost minibook when we did the letter d, because the book was about a lost dog. Printables for these books can be found on walkingbytheway and homeschoolshare.
Where do I begin for Maths? I did not have a very systematic approach to Maths during the first year. The key that I kept in mind was that a child MUST develop good maths sense, which includes recognising patterns, ability to associate numbers with quantities (which a lot of parents do not get, which means a lot of kids do not get, which is probably why they have problems in school), visual-spatial discrimination, recognising patterns, grouping and sorting and so on, in order to to do well in Maths. So I incorporated Maths in our daily life. For example, when we were at the the playground playing, I introduced games like forming pattern with leaves. While waiting for food at the restaurant, we did simple counting with packets of sugar so that the kid always associate 1, 2, 3…with quantity of something, and not just associate it with a number, like how he associates ‘buh’ with ‘B’.
I used a lot of mathematics manipulatives at this stage. Sometimes they were specially bought counters. I used them for counting, patterning and sorting. Sometimes, they could be things that we just had around us, like beans, or beads. I used pattern blocks activities for spatial visual development. To the kid, it was just like another puzzle game. Yes, jigsaw puzzles were essentials too.
Our famous Singapore Maths pedagogy is based on CPA : Concrete – Pictorial – Abstract. This is Concrete :
This is Pictorial :
This is Abstract :
It is important at the preschool stage to build foundation by using a lot of manipulatives, before moving on to pictorial representation, and finally abstract representation.
There were certain goals that I wanted to achieve during this first year, of course, e.g. counting up to 20 and recognising the numbers. Those were really simple goals that could be easily achieved by simply incorporating maths activities in our daily life.
For Chinese literacy, I used Siwukuaidu (四五快读) as the spine. You can read all about it in here. Besides learning how to read characters, the main focus was just to read him plenty of Chinese books.
The Other Stuff
The Other Stuff were things like art, music, craft and whatever else we think preschoolers should do. Those were done pretty much on an ad hoc basis during the first year. If I felt inspired, I would create some activities for it. He had a Music & Movement class that he attended since he was 2 year old and I was planning to start him on an instrument proper when he turned 4. We went to all sorts of ‘field trip’ and the favourite was the zoo. I signed up for an annual pass and sometimes we could go there every single week. I also incorporated activities involving fine and gross motor skills and I adopted a lot of Montessori Preschool Practical Life activities.