Saturday, October 29, 2016

Me, my girls, and our dolls

(a wee part of my dolls, and my hubby's monkey, collection)

As I noted in post 1 of this series, my kids would be lost without their Lego and their dolls.   They are so important to them and have played a large role in much of our play and education!  We wrapped up our posts about Lego. Today and next week, we are talking dolls.

Oh, the glory of dolls!  I have been a long time collector (as displayed in the picture at the top of this post).   I come from a long line of doll collectors.  My mom is one, my grandmothers did, and as far back as we know have also been.  My mother-in-law even loves dolls, so my girls get their love of them naturally and from both sides of the family.  My husband is always saying, "You know what we need around here?  Another doll."  LOL!  Of course, that is laced with sarcasm.   But, as with any toy, it comes with a tag.  Again, with some frugality, you can collect dolls, even more costly ones, without breaking the bank.

My girls got their first baby dolls their first Christmas.  I made sure of that.  And, we slowly added adorable baby dolls to it.  For their 5th birthday, they got Bitty Baby.  It was pretty simple to get baby items; they are everywhere in any big box store.  I did make a few things like diapers and blankets but for the most part that was their birthdays and Christmas for a while.  And, then.......

American girl!  Oh, how we love American girl!  But, I am sure you've seen the price tag for just one doll.  Not to mention all the accessories!  When my girls first got into them at 10 (which is when they get one as a gift from their grandmother), I knew we could not afford any more for them.  And, then I discovered the world of doll patterns (more on that next time).  On top of that, as the years passed and pinterest came on the scene, more and more people started DIY stuff for dolls.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I began making more items and collecting patterns and our accessories grew.

But, the dolls, well, our collection is eclectic when it comes to the 18" dolls.  My girls have other American girl dolls all of which they have spent their own money on.  Other dolls in their collection have come from Bass Pro Shops, Target, Michaels, off ebay, Life of Faith, Vision Forum, etc.  Almost everywhere you turn these days, a store has an 18" doll of some sort and most of affordable and cute.  Many of our collection have been gifts to the girls in one form or another.  Some we have bought for the sheer pleasure of it.  Ebay is a great way to cut costs for expensive dolls. And, goodwill!  I have gotten 3 of our collection from there with the biggest repair needing to be a new wig on a doll. It really is easy to build your collection without spending a fortune.

Right now, Target, Walmart, Michaels, and A.C. Moore have the best accessories that don't break the bank.  I love alot of American girl's stuff, but it is mostly more than I can afford.  We have found many similar items at the above listed stores for a fraction of the cost.  Goodwill, again, is a great place to keep an eye out for items.  A small decorating bench or chair can easily work for a doll.  I have seen doll beds there as well.

The girls also have other types of dolls in their collection that have been fun - porcelain, Madeline, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbies of all shapes and sizes, Ever After High, Disney princesses and fairies - these have all graced our lives from time to time.  I have enjoyed watching my girls play with and enjoy dolls as much as I did as a child.  We have also used them with school or even movies, but we will save that for next time.

Organizing all these dolls and their accessories have been a job all by itself.  But, we do use a similar system as we do with our Lego.  Plastic storage containers and drawers have been great for storing plastic dolls and accessories.  All the bigger dolls we have shelves or something similar for.  My girls have also been given wardrobes for their doll clothes which have added further storage.  

Dolls are such fun!  And I love the way it keeps them young and their imagination fresh.  Even though my big girls are older now, they still treasure and even use their dolls from time to time.  Many of the dolls in my collection were from my growing up years.  Dolls are truly timeless.

Goodness from around the 'net:

There are a number of great websites that help a girl to create things on their own for their dolls.  Here are a couple of my favorites: - she isn't as active any longer but she has kept her website up for use by girls all over.  She is the queen when it comes to diy doll stuff.  Just browse around.  There is something for all there. - here is my post on doll diaries website that shows you how we took an old computer desk and turned it into an 18" doll house.  you can see many of the DIY that we did to make this happen. - wow.  this spot is full of full DIY as well.  i just love her ideas. - if you need to know where to find the latest and other fun finds, hers in the place to be. - another wow.  if you need any ideas for any other dolls, she has crafts, houses, books, etc. for almost any doll out there.  plus she does wonderful reviews of dolls if you want a further peek.  she also has 2 youtube channels to keep your juices flowing. - she has compiled an awesome list of crafts from around the 'net.  

I also have a pinterest board full of ideas -

There are others out there both youtube and the internet if you take a look around.  

Come back next week and we will chat about how we have used these both in school and for just plain movie fun!  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Using Lego in education

Last week, we talked about building your Lego collection on the cheap and how to store and organize your collection and instruction booklets.  This week, we will talk about how we've used them in school and awesome websites to follow along with.

(Bethany Hamilton after watching Soul Surfer)

We have loved the added element of using Lego in school.  It has made movies, literature, science, history, reading, math all come to life and relatable to my kids.  Just the other day, my 9 year old made a blue whale based on pictures she had been studying in whale books (we are studying ocean creatures in science this year).  She noticed that with the pictures in this book that there was a person next to it show the size of the creature in comparison to a human.  So, this is what she came up with.  (isn't it awesome)

(blue whale)

When my littlest was learning his letters and numbers we made the alphabet and numbers all out of Lego Duplo together using the ideas found here - numbers and letters (she has upper and lower case).  DK has made some awesome early readers with Lego and we've used them in our reading.  History can come to life with fun recreations.  Here is a castle that my son made after we read about knights and castles.  He even added a damsel in distress.  :)


We have also done experiments using Lego.  After reading about dams, the boys wanted to see if they could use materials we had around the house to make an effective dam.  It took many tries but with the help of Lego and lots of homemade playdough, they did it!  It didn't last forever, but they saw the effects and were happy!

(Lego dam in progress, city on one side, water was placed on the other)

They have even gone so far as to make their own chess set using their own Lego minifigs and our chess board.

(chess with knights and pirate minifigs)

So, as you can see, they are very much a part of our every day life.  Not a day goes by where they are not played with, used for learning, or made into a stopmotion movie.  It has been money never wasted for our family.  

(stopmotion at work)

Not only have we used them for school, two of my children (and one more is learning currently) use them to make stopmotion movies.  My oldest son has an area all to himself for making Lego stopmotion.  My daughter mostly works with dolls, but has dabbled with Lego from time to time.  If you have a child who wants to take his Lego a step further into the world a stopmotion, it, too, can be set up quite cheaply.  Most of his storage is similar to what I showed you last week.  He has them divided by color, minifigure, special parts, etc.  He has a small area to work with so he has a few simple plastic bins with all his parts put into ziploc inside.  Plus, he has a smaller drawer system for his flats, flash lights, backgrounds, etc. (as seen in photo above)

(stopmotion storage area)

We used a card table for his work station and I hung up a black velvet cloth on the back wall for him to shoot his photos.  He also has a small white board for planning and his Lego store calendar hung up.  The whole set up is inexpensive and he has made many great stopmotions here.  

(we found velvet doesn't reflect light as well and makes a great backdrop)

Here is a music video he did recently with his stopmotion:

And, here is a video my two stopmotion kiddoes did recently in honor of the summer olympics.  They built all parts themselves, even the impressive stadium.  

I can't say enough about what all Lego has done for our family.  Books, too, have played a large role in jumpstarting ideas on how we can use them in school or play as well.  Here are some samples pics from some of our favorites from our collection.

I prefer how to books that use mostly what we already own.  These authors and builders are some of the best at showing you how to recreate things using what you already have.  Awesome Lego Creations is my current favorite and was just released a couple of weeks ago.  It was written by a fellow homeschool mommy (she has an awesome blog, too, btw).  The Brick Wonders, City, Vehicles, and History (which we don't have the last yet) are a bit more advanced but we have been able to tweak them and use them regularly in our schooling.  There are other awesome books out there.  A quick look at Amazon will show you that.

If you have a child who is interested in stopmotion, this is a great book for that!  

Another book on Lego stopmotion is about to be released at the end of the month.  You can find the link to that here.  I have read a couple of reviews on this new one and it is said to be superb!  

If you are looking for a great comprehensive guide to Lego learning, this one is absolutely excellent!  It was just released over the summer, and I have many plans to use this throughout our year this year. 

Lastly as far as great books, we absolutely love the "Brick......" collection.  We own 4 of them currently, but there more to the series, Fairy Tales, Greek Myths, and Dracula/Frankenstein.  We've read them all.  But, be warned, they stick to the stories as is.  No Disneyfying (is that a word) taken to the fairy tales, no treading lightly around the real facts of the Bible.  If you don't like that, you won't like these stories.  

I will wrap up this post with some great websites and my pinterest boards to give you lots more ideas. 

Goodness from around the 'net:

This is a comprehensive list of all the best Lego blogs around the 'net.  I couldn't do any better than this list.  I use all these websites constantly.  Proverbial Homemaker also has awesome Lego challenges.  We used her Easter one before and had a wonderful time with it.  I plan to use her Christmas one this year.  

I am also part of two Lego facebook groups that I get ideas all the time from.  One is from Proverbial Homemaker.  The other is from the ladies who made the Lego learning book I mentioned above.  Here are the links for those - Lego Challenge Club and Learning with Lego

Here are the links to my two pinterest boards - Lego and Lego learning.  My Lego board has build builds, how to's, organization, etc.  My Lego learning board is just that, all about using Lego in your learning.  There are also links to lists of great Lego reading and building books as well.   (I also have a Lego Christmas Village board if you are interested.  We set up a village each year and I am always looking for ways to add to it)

Last but not least, I just published a Lego book as well.  It is all about making no sew clothes Lego gear for your minifigs and horses. See the page at the top of my home page for more information and a link for you to purchase it.  Right now it is available on Kindle, but is in the works to be released in paperback just in time for Christmas gift giving.  Here is a link to the Kindle edition and stay tuned for the paperback book annoucement.  

I hope these last two posts have fostered many good ideas in your mind to the world of Lego and Lego learning.  Come back next week when we talk shop about our other love, dolls!  Until then, happy building and learning!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Building a Lego Collection, without breaking the bank

If you have followed me on instagram, pinterest, facebook, this blog or even know anything at all about my family, my kids have two toy passions, Lego and dolls.  I asked them one time, if they could only take one type of toy with them anywhere we move, what would it be?  No surprise their answers were their Lego and dolls.  However, both of these passions, while they foster wonderful imaginations, can be quite costly if you are not careful.  Both are very popular, which jacks up the costs more than necessary, in my opinion.  But, you can get around this if you know what you are doing.   Yes, we do splurge at times, but I have tried to keep it down as much as possible.  Over the course of the next few posts, I hope to help you with this, especially with Christmas coming very soon.  So, lets talk Lego first!  And, when we talk, we will talk about all aspects of it from collecting to organizing to playing and learning.  Its how I roll, so here goes...............

(fun recent creation based on the newest Lego movie short - you can watch part 1 movie here and just keep going through all six parts on youtube)

We have ALOT of Lego.  With 8 avid collectors (notice that includes the parents), it adds up to thousands of pieces in the house, which adds up to alot of money spent if you were to do it all out of pocket at your local Lego or big box store.  However, we have been able to build our collection mostly on the cheap.  We have inherited 3 lego collections over the years, a friend of ours, my mother-in-laws, and my brothers.  That has made a large dent in getting us started.  So, if you know you had some as a kid or know of another family or even friend who has outgrown them and is willing to pass them along, take them up on it!  Another place we have gotten a ton of Lego is Goodwill.  My husband and I regularly frequent them sometimes just looking for Lego.  And, we've gotten great bargains.  Allow me to share our most favorite find.  The kids call it my "baby."

Welcome to Miniopolis, our town that was from Goodwill (with the exception to Central Park, upper center of pic).  These building are regularly $150 dollars a piece.  On a random trip into Goodwill to look for Lego, I found 2 large bags of Lego pieces totally $25.  I raced out the door, grinning from ear to ear over my find.  Little did I know until I got back home what we really had.  My children starting browsing through them when they realized it was pieces from the Lego creator advanced building sets (yes, they know the catalog that well).  After a week or so, they knew what buildings we had, and, together, we went browsing the 'net for free building instruction manuals.  Over the course of several months, all were rebuilt and we found we had 5 buildings.   This has been our best find to date!  The kids love it and have been featured it in many stopmotion movies.   We have added a house and chapel so far.  The house we purchased from the Lego store, but the chapel was built by my daughter with our current bricks.

(lego chapel)

Another source of Lego at a discount is Craiglist or a yard sale.  We have bought a couple of buckets of Lego that way and its a great way to build up cheaply.   Amazon, Toys R Us, and Target run great deals on them as well.  Sometimes Toys R Us and Target have freebies that come along with their sales, so be on the lookout.  Getting a Lego VIP card is handy as well, though this is not the most inexpensive way to build up.  But, you do get points and sometimes double points for your purchases at their store and online and they do add up to additional savings.  Ebay is another source for great Lego, but be careful.  Do your homework.  Knock off bricks are all over, some good and some not at all.  (This goes for stuff sold on Amazon as well) So read the reviews and do your homework.  We have gotten a lot of great stuff there, though.   Last, but not least, every month, Lego has a free build.  We have been faithful attenders of these for several years now.  

If you want to get started with some good bricks, the Lego classic sets are a great way to start.  They have the basic colors and can get you started building anything quick.  If you want to add some great minifigures, the current Lego park (pictured above in Miniopolis) is the bomb!  It comes with many minifigures some that are very uinique like the baby and the handicapped boy.  It is by far my favorite set to date just for its unique figures.  

Now, you that you have your collection, let's talk how to keep them organized.  And, that took us a couple of years to figure out what works the best and to get it all together.

After looking all over the internet for ideas for how to organize, this is the best and least expensive way to store our family collection of Lego.  You can purchase these plastic organizers for a reasonable cost.  I made my own labels that I adhered with contact paper to the front of each drawer.   If you would like to use what I made, here is a link to a free word document that you can use!  You should be able to adjust it however works best for your drawers.   We've had them organized this way for about 5 years.  And, it has worked quite well.  I have seen similar ideas based on using the bins found at Ikea.  But I found these cheaper and it works just as well.

For each child's own personal collection, we have just used miniature plastic drawers and smaller plastic bins.  These have worked well while they are young since they are not overly concerned with organization.   My oldest son is a Lego stopmotion maker and needed his personal Lego organized even better which I will share in detail next post when we talk about taking Lego even further.

For the instruction manuals, we've used large notebooks and clear plastic page protectors.  In the pictures above, you see my oldest son's.  He has organized each type of Lego in a separate clear page protector.  If a certain collection doesn't all fit in one sleeve, he just adds another.  His collection is so large, he will be starting another notebook soon.  

(love this pic - shows the older they get the neater their area becomes - 
can you guess whose spot is whose)

Lastly for today, I want to share our play area for Lego.  It started as a train table that my husband built.  Once they outgrew that, I flipped over the table wood and repainted it to be a Lego town.  I don't know how well you can see in this picture, but it is painted 4 different colors.  The kids asked for me to add a pool, a pond, and a park which at the time I painted it worked out well for town play, but it stays mostly covered these days.  :)  There is also a road all the way around.  It has worked well for them and has held up well.  My oldest son has his own work place and I will share that next time.

I hope this will inspire you and give you some good ideas for building and organizing your lego collection.  Next week we will talk about how we use them in school, how to use them to do cool things, and share loads of fun Lego books.  Do you have anything further you would like to add to this?  I am always looking for new ideas.  So, please share.  Happy collecting!

Monday, October 10, 2016

How I homeschool - the preschool edition, part 2 (plus baby advice)

(my wee guy with our Brain Hat - you can find it here to make for yourself)

Welcome to the second part of the preschool edition of How I Homeschool.   Last time, I covered how I taught preschool with my little kids.  Today, I will share with you some fun "keep them busy" ideas for when you are teaching your older children (and they have given up naptime), and how I handled those sweet babes in arms.  

Let's first talk babes.  4 years of my schooling included a nursing baby.  Those are challenging days, no doubt about that.  I have been asked many times what I did and how I juggled it all.   My first piece of advice is to school while they are napping as much as possible.  Yes, that will break up your day a bit, but for sanity's sake, I found it the most helpful.  When they are super tiny, they nap a lot so that does help in getting a bigger chunk done.  I always tried to get my babies into a rhythm of sleep as soon as possible, so our school days went something like this.  Morning naptime - do math, reading, and any table work.  Lunch then read aloud (which can be done while nursing).  Afternoon nap - science, history, and any other mother intensive subjects.  Once they get a bit older and the morning nap flies the coop, I relied heavily on keeping them busy in their highchair, pack and play, or on a blanket.  All of these also can be distracting for the other children who want to talk to and coo at the baby, but I did not allow it.  I trained my older children from the start that when the baby is in or on one of the above items, they were not to touch or talk to them without permission.  Sounds strict, yes, but it worked for me and kept the peace well.  If the baby was in a particularly fussy mood, I wore them on my back in my Ergo.  Most of the time, that would lull them to sleep and I could keep moving.  

Let's move on to those toddler and preschool years when they no longer cooperate and take all naps or have given them up all together.   How did I school bigger ones while those active little people all around?  As I mentioned in my last post, I was sure to have plenty of things around at their level and would direct them to a particular toy, get something going with them (or assign an older child to do it) and then left them near me to finish playing.  But I did have other things on hand that were very helpful to me as well.  Here is a list with some ideas:

Homemade or storebought playdough with mats, cookie cutters, and rolling pins
Colored rice, corn,  or pasta in a large metal baking dish with little spoons, cups, and bowls
Homemade moon sand (best used outside, but a wonderfully fun item)
Sensory bins and bottles
Busy bags
Busy boxes
Stories and music on CD's
And, yes, I did rely on videos and apps, too

(colored lavendar rice - love those lips!)

If you are on pinterest or even google, you can search for lots of fun recipes for the homemade items.  There are so many ideas out there.  Pick a couple and go with it.  In my list as the end of this post, I will list some of my favorite websites for finding homemade preschool fun.    If you want to add some extra fun items to your homemade goodies for play, look no further than your local dollar tree.  Cookie cutters, rolling pins, little plastic items are all there and can be gotten for cheap.

I am a sincere lover of sensory bottles and bins.  Again, a quick search will yeild more ideas than you have a lifetime to do.  Sensory bottles are so colorful and just an absolute blast to watch.  My 9 year old loves them so much, she makes them herself still.  Sensory bins are also blast.  My kids were able to play for a very long time in them.  I would make them based on what season we were in or on something we were reading or learning about.  There are so many fun ideas I wish I still had littles to play with them!  :)  Also, making a themed bath for your little people are fun, too (though, of course, you will need to be there to supervise).  Again, I will post a couple favorite places for ideas.

(a winter sensory bin)

Busy bags?  Busy boxes?  What are they?  A busy bag is basically putting all things you need in a ziploc bag to work on a certain skill.  For example, if you are working on shapes, cut out shapes, punch holes in them, and provide string for lacing the shapes.  Another would be to punch holes in the top of an empty pringles can, color white reinforcement hole stickers and put a different color around each hole, and provide pipe cleaners to feed into the right colored hole.  There are many things you can do.  I have also done busy boxes.  Get 5 boxes - label them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Fill with whatever toy or treasure for that day.  These are great for bigger type of toys like Mr. Potato Head or Lincoln logs or whatever.  My only rule for busy bags and boxes were they were school time play only.  They were not pulled out any other time.  I loved these as well.  

If  you are looking for great things to listen to for them, there is Patch the Pirate, Jim Weiss, tons of books on CD or Audible.  We also loved Steve Green's Hide them in your Heart, Joni Erickson Tada's Hyms for a Kids Heart, and Songs for Saplings (the catechism put to music), and Classical Kids Music.  I am sure there are many other great things out there.  These are our personal favorites.

I am grateful that we live in the technology age. There are so many great educational shows out there now, more than I could ever list.  The same with apps.  And, yes, when all else fails, these are a great resource to turn to.  

I hope these get your juices flowing and plant a few ideas to try in your mind to work with your littles while teaching your olders.

Goodies from across the 'net:
(use these as springboards for ideas - none of them need to be exactly what you see)

For homemade goodies - Growing a Jewelled Rose (she also has some fun themed bath times)
                                        - Nuture Store (some of the best recipes on the 'net)
                                        -  The Imagination Tree
                                        - Mama Papa Bubba 

Sensory bins and bottles - 1plus1plus1
                                        - 3 Dinosaurs 
                                        - Little Bins for Little Hands (all about them with ideas)
                                        - a list of over 200 bin ideas :)
                                        -  Preschool Inspirations - Making a sensory bottle - she also has great ideas
                                        - a list of 25 different bottle ideas 

Busy bags and boxes - This Teaching Mama (what they are and how to)
                                  - Money Saving Mom 
                                  - a big list of ideas 
                                  - a post about busy boxes

I hope all the ideas in this post and my last will springboard some ideas for you, too.  If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments below.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

How I homeschool - the preschool edition, part 1

(my wee ones here at 3 and 5)

I have been asked many times how I homeschool, what I use, etc.  For some reason, I use to always find that awkward.  As I mentioned in my "I am a Charlotte Mason mama"post, I didn't know if people would understand the way we chose to homeschool.  I thought if I didn't mention a set curriculum or some other fancy thing, they would look like I had sprouted a set of wings.  I am well over that now, thankfully.   So, this is the first of a series of posts on how we homeschool, what curriculum we use, and any other gems that I find along the way.  I will be doing this twice a month.  After we go through that, I will show you we use each year for each grade, which does change from year to year based on what we are studying and need.  I have my core curriculum, but I always add to them.

(my 3 littlest with our Truffula trees after we read The Lorax)

Preschool.  At what age do I start "school" with them?  How do I do it?  How young should I start?  These are all questions I have been asked over the past 15 years.  I am a firm believer in letting babies be babies, letting toddlers be toddlers, letting them be little.  Let them discover the world around them, it is all so fascinating at this age.  Purposefully, put these in their path that they can explore and discover.  Keep things low and let them learn to be more independent.  Read, read, and read some more to them. Start gentle, talking about colors and shapes, noticing letters and numbers.  Talk about what clothes they are wearing and what color they are.  Observe the wonderful colors in the produce department.  Let them notice the basic shapes of pasta, the moon, or anything else around them.  Point out letters and numbers saying what they are.  Counting socks as you sort laundry.  Make it a part of every day life.  The skies the limit with gentle learning.  There are many fun things out there for gentle learning.   I made sure we had blocks of different shapes and sizes, letter and number magnets, duplo, lacing cards, sensory bins, kid size brooms and watering cans, a kid sized kitchen, etc. to encourage play and independence. 

By the time mine were 4 though, they were ready for more "meat" so to speak.  When we first started off, there was not much out there preschool wise as far as homeschool curriculum.  So, I spoke with my mom and how she worked with us.  And, having just left the kindergarten teacher life behind, pulled out some of my books that I had held to and made my own system up.  Mom gave me her set of color circles that she had made and some basic shapes that she had cut out of poster board.  I had my abeka letter cards and number cards from my teaching days.  And we just went with those.  I did a color of the week, shape of the week, letter of the week, and number of the week (yep, a bit like sesame street).  We did crafts and read and dressed the colors and had a lot of fun.  I only had 2 wee ones at this time, so it was easy to do.

Then, I had 2 more.  :)  And, these 2 didn't learn in the same style.  We did a bit of the above together, but my first son is extremely auditory, so we threw in some videos from the library and cds in the stereo.  My second son, by the time he was 4, had 3 older siblings all doing school (plus I had a baby to boot).  He wanted books like the big kids in addition to what I was already doing.  So, to keep to my gentle learning, I purchased Rod and Staff's preschool books, which were simply lovely.  Simple pictures in black and white and easy to understand and do.  He was happy and felt like a big kid.  

But, by the time my youngest 2 were ready, I had discovered Montessori. I started following Homeschool Creations and 1plus1plus1.  Both were huge fans of Montessori.  I loved the way it fit into my gentle learing style.  I also loved how she encouraged independence.  (I will also add there are things I didn't like as well, but overall, it was a good fit into my way of thinking).  I read all I could on it and did preschool that way with them.  It turned out to be a good fit for both.  They learned best that way.  And, as it turns out was a blessing I didn't realize till a few years later.  My youngest daughter has dyselxia and learning in a Montessori style with its constant repetition was a good fit for her.  I didn't know that at the time, but as I look back on it, God did and he directed my path in that way to help her.   They, too wanted little books like their siblings, so we just went to Dollar Tree for basic letter writing and number writing books.  They were happy as well.

To wrap up my thinking on preschool, keep it gentle. Figure out how your little one learns and what he/she likes and go with that.  Also, go with your heart.  Remember they have years of learning ahead of them.  No need to rush anything.  Let them explore and discover the wonders around them.  And, be sure to read, read, read with them.  

(snow paint)

Goodies from across the 'net:
(Each of my homeschool posts will end with a list of links that I have either tried or recommend.)

The first list contain some of that I have personally used either in full or bits and pieces of.  

God's Little Explorers, by Motherhood on a Dime - I have personally used this with my youngest.  Highly recommend.   
K4 Curriculum, by Confessions of a Homeschooler - I have used bits and pieces of her stuff over the years, very nice stuff
Be sure to also check out all the goodies at Homeschool Creations and 1plus1plus1 (mentioned previously) - they have lots of wonderful Montessori style stuff  
Spell Out Loud - if you like doing hands on nature stuff with your child, this is the place to go.  Her Nature Study for Preschoolers and Toddlers is wonderful!

This is a new one and, if I had still had preschoolers, I would use. It looks excellent and I have heard wonderful things about it.

The Peaceful Preschool, by two of the excellent ladies behind Wild and Free - check out this link for more about this wonderful looking program.  There is also a link to download letter A week to try out for free!

A couple of preschool books that I love and have used over the years are:

Making the Most of the Preschool Years by Valerie Bendt - lots of great hands on learning included in here
Before Five in a Row by Jane Claire Lambert - takes some of the best of children's literature and turns them into great fun - my kids still talk about some of the things we did based on this literature based book
Read aloud Revival - I would be remiss to not mention this fine lady and all her work, especially in the area of reading.  She has an excellent book list for reading for all levels.  Be sure to check it out.

Here are a couple of websites that share regularly free or frugal preschool things:

Teach Beside Me has another list of free preschool curriculum.  Also included is a link for a free planner (I find planners in my life make me flow so much more smoothly)

(painting degas after going to the art museum)

I hope you found some useful things in my first part on babies and preschool.  Next week in part 2, we will cover how I juggled babies and preschool while having older children that I needed to teach as well.   Know of any other great preschool curriculum?  Let a comment below.