Monday, February 29, 2016

Zonderkidz: Faith Builders Bible {TOS Review}

It's very well known that my kids are huge fans of LEGO and other similar building blocks, and they love building and creating.  In fact, I can hear someone digging through a bin of blocks right now.  Zonderkidz, the children's division of Zondervan, has harnessed the popularity of brick building, and created the Faith Builders Bible.  My boys were over the moon excited when this children's Bible arrived in the mail for review.

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

The Faith Builders Bible has taken the brick-building theme and inserted it throughout the Bible with colorful pages of brick creations that represent Biblical events.  The Bible begins with four of these pages.  The first has a a picture of a cross and some loose bricks on the presentation page, and the Building Block Verse--Romans 14:19 "Let us do all we can to live in peace.  And let us work hard to build up one another."  (NiRV)  Then there is a full page spread that discusses how the books of the Bible are like layers, and shows how the Bible is divided into books of Law, History, Poetry, etc.  It suggests a color pattern for each of the nine groups to practice building them in order to aid memory.  I love hands-on learning, and that's a great way to aid in memorization of the books of the Bible.  The fourth page is is a Can You Build . . . page with three simple pictures and corresponding verses.

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

Throughout the Bible are more colorful pages with brick scenes to represent major Biblical events and passages.  I found the placement of these sort of random, though.  For instance, David Defeats Goliath shows a minifigure battle.  In the description it tells us we can read the story in 1 Samuel 17, but instead of the picture being in 1 Samuel, it's in Psalm 23.  Most of the pictures are scattered throughout like this, but I found this one particularly odd because on the back of the page is a scene with trees and flowers built with bricks that is titled Psalm 23: A Psalm of David.  I'm not sure why these two pictures weren't flipped, so that the picture representing Psalm 23 was facing the verses, especially since the picture of David and Goliath was out of context.

The pictures and scenes depicted are cute though, and my kids don't particularly care that the stories represented are not depicted in context.  I do like how each picture includes a relevant Building Block Verse (which could easily be used as a memory verse) at the bottom of the page.  Other features include a simple dictionary, and a list of "Great Bible Stories" which is a list of 92 prominent stories/passages and their reference.
Zonderkidz Faith Builders Review

This is a New International Reader's Version (NiRV), so I would suggest that if you use a different version, you could use this one alongside of your preferred version.  The NiRV has a reading level that is appropriate for elementary ages and is simpler to understand.  It reads more like a devotional to me.  We usually read this after our preferred version, which helps simplify things for the youngest listeners.

If you are wondering, this Bible is not sponsored, endorsed or promoted by LEGO, Mega Bloks or any other company.  You will not find any specific toy brands mentioned in the Bible.

The boys enjoyed browsing through it, and since we have tons of sets and a variety of unique pieces, they could make just about everything in it with little tweaks here and there.  The 6 year old built the red cross, and added some embellishments of his own.  I think a few pages with more memory verses and ideas for building would have been fun.  Even if just the reference was included without the full verse and the picture was only thumbnail size, it would have given more depth to the concept behind the Bible.  The concept is great, but I felt like it fell short in some areas as a children's Bible.  Aside from the first four pages, there are only 20 colored pages (10 front/back) with the large scenes.  When I think of a children's Bible, I think of larger print, perhaps some color sprinkled throughout the text (even if it was just in the headings), or even text overlays for vocabulary words would have been a unique touch.  It's just not as kid-friendly as I had expected.  The boys like it well enough, and I guess that's what matters!  My 6 year old has shown it to everyone who will pay attention, and I still think it would be a unique little gift for your brick lover.  Zonderkidz has a lot of other interesting looking children's materials (including other themed Bibles) so if you're looking for appropriate reading material, this might just be the place to start.

You can find out more about Zonderkidz on their websiteFacebook and Twitter!  Also be sure to check out the remaining crew reviews!

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

52 Lists: Week 8 ~ Favorite Albums

This week's list for Favorite Albums was kind of difficult for me.  The truth is, I don't listen to a lot of music.  When I was a teenager, I lived with the radio on.  I had it on doing homework, I fell asleep to music, and I listened to it blaring outside while I went swimming.

Now?  I think it has to do with having four young {noisy} children at home, but music puts me into sensory overload.  My husband can listen to music all day, the way I used to, but I can't do it anymore.  So no, I don't listen to a lot of music.  I don't buy albums, and I rarely even stream music, so I don't really have any favorites.  I decided that I'll just list a few favorite artists that come to mind.

Reba McEntyre
Tim McGraw
Trisha Yearwood
Michael W Smith
John Mayer
Johnny Cash
The Temptations
Michael Bublé

The next list is the places you want to go.  I already have a list in my head so it shouldn't be as difficult!

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Questions about Homeschooling

I get all kinds of questions about homeschooling.  Some are genuine, and I don't mind to answer questions for people who are just curious, or who are interested in homeschooling their own kids.  It's being able to distinguish when they're asking because they are misinformed and think homeschooling is a bad choice that I must be able to curb that snarky remark running through my mind in order to politely change the direction of the conversation.

Why do you do it?
We homeschool because it's the best decision for our family right now.  It's not just about one thing in particular, but it works for us right now.  This answer is truth, even for those that don't like our decision.

Is it legal?
In all 50 states.

Do you need a degree or anything?
The actual requirements vary by state.  My state requires you have at least a high school diploma or GED.  I might not have a teaching certificate, but between us, my husband and I have four degrees and two professional licenses.  I think we can handle third grade math.

What about high school?
We'll tackle that when we get there.  The truth is, there are a lot of options out there for homeschooling high school, if we go that route.  Right now, it's one year at a time.

Well have you thought about private school?
Yes.  It's not the right choice for us.

What about college?
Well, we're still working on that third grade math, but when we get to high school age, then we'll begin looking into colleges.  Seriously though, it's not an issue.  I was a homeschool graduate and had no issues getting into college in state or out of state.  My professors had positive comments about their homeschooled students.  I don't worry about it.

It must be hard to teach different ages.  How does that work?
One day at a time!  

Here is what works for us right now.  I work with each of the boys individually doing their grade/skill level subjects--math and language arts (reading/phonics, spelling, etc.) in the morning.  After lunch we do other subjects together.  Art, Music, Bible, Literature, Science and Social Studies are all subjects that can be taught to different ages, with different expectations for each child.

I don't know what curriculum to use!  What do you use?
Well, I can tell you what curriculum I am using, but I can't tell you, is if that curriculum is right for you.  I don't even know if it will be right for us next year.  Curriculum choices should be based on your educational philosophy, your teaching preferences, and your child's learning style.  I have noticed that as my children have grown and matured, and our family dynamic has changed, our homeschooling style has evolved.  The type of curriculum I like to use is slowly evolving with that.

I don't have the patience to homeschool.  How do you do it?
I really hope when people are asking me this, they're not envisioning my little cherubs sitting quietly around the kitchen table, with workbooks opened and pencils poised, as they listen intently to my every word.  Cause it's not always rainbows and sunshine up in here.  Some days are great.  Some days are crazy.

How do you sit at home all day?  I would go crazy!
Well.  I'm too busy to feel like I just sit around doing nothing.  Being home more means more dishes, more cooking, more messes.  My house was a lot cleaner when I worked full time and the kids went to a babysitter, that's for sure.  Then there's church, co-op, field trips, nature study walks, running errands, doctor's appointments, sports, and everything else that gets us out of the house.  There are some weeks we have to just say no to the abundance of homeschool opportunities out there, so that we can actually stay home and homeschool!

Well . . . what about, you know . . . Socialization?
What about it?

Seriously, it's hard to believe that with homeschooling becoming more mainstream, that people ask this . . . and they're serious about it.  Sometimes they ask directly, and I think that's more of a way to make conversation, because they don't know anything about homeschooling and they're just grasping for something they've heard about before.  Other times, they think I'm crazy or homeschooling is "bad" and they make indirect comments, like the ones about staying home all the time.  I think we can all agree that socialization is not just about being around same-age peers all day for 180 days a year.  My kids get to be around other kids their age when they participate in co-op, in church activities, in homeschool classes (yes, the community is catching on and there are art classes, gymnastics classes and more dedicated to just homeschoolers), in sports, at birthday parties, or on field trips and play dates.  They've learned what behaviors are appropriate in public and in group settings, and how to take instruction from different teachers and coaches.  They are around people all day every day--friends, neighbors, family, other homeschoolers, strangers.  They know how to read body language and tone of voice and take cues from people around them.  The opportunities to learn social rules and mores are not confined to a traditional classroom.

What kind of questions are you asked as a homeschooler?  Do you find people are just asking to make conversation, or that they're actually curious about how homeschooling works?

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

52 Lists: Week 7 ~ Feeling Healthy

The Things That Make Me Feel Healthy
Mind, Body and Soul

* * * *

Healthy Meals
Enough Sleep
Hot Showers
New Knowledge
Quiet Time
Long Walks
Fresh Air

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Homeschooling Preschool

Homeschooling Preschool

What do you do for preschool?  How do you homeschool with your preschooler around?

What curriculum should I use for preschool?  I'm thinking about combining ABC curriculum with XYZ and then supplementing with LMNOP.  Is that enough?

I get these and similar questions frequently.

Preschool at home, homeschooling preschool, whatever you want to call it . . . it's really very simple.  Preschoolers don't need expensive curriculum or elaborate lesson plans to learn and prepare for formal education that is still a few years away.

Here is what our Preschool years look like:
  • reading classic children's books together
  • reading poetry
  • reading Bible stories
  • working puzzles
  • playing board games
  • drawing and coloring
  • painting and observing art
  • playing play-doh and stringing beads and other beginner handicrafts
  • cooking together
  • counting random objects
  • pointing out letters in books, on signs, or when writing
  • learning household chores
  • doing crafts
  • playing outside in nature
  • singing and dancing to music
  • watching educational videos
  • playing educational apps
  • building block towers and LEGO creations 
  • playing make believe

None of this is done in a very formal way.  We read a stack of books before bed, and listen to audio books in the car.  I play fun  music and we dance and sing during chores.  She helps me cook all the time.  We play games as a family.  Occasionally I plan some educational" and "structured" activities, so when she comes to me and wants school like her brothers, I have something ready.  That means, occasionally I will pull activities from Before Five in a Row, which is a relaxed, gentle and informal preschool guide that utilizes quality literature as a springboard for discussion and exploration.  We can do an engaging activity in only a few minutes while I'm between subjects with the boys, or while they are working independently, and everything is very age and developmentally appropriate.

Homeschooling the big kids with a preschooler and toddler around is not that difficult.  I fill their love tanks first thing in the morning with lots of loving, reading a book or two and setting out a toy or game they haven't seen in awhile.  Sometimes I put them at a special table with a snack.  We do quite a bit of our schooling during the toddler's nap, and my preschooler is often willing to play quietly or "do school" nearby if she has something engaging.  Sometimes she draws on the chalkboard side of the art easel while I use the dry erase side for our GrapeVine studies.  Sometimes she colors in a coloring book, or "writes" in her special school notebook--which is a spiral notebook with a cat cover.  Sometimes she paints or plays with preschool toys or puts stickers on paper, or I pull out a preschool toy that's been put away for awhile.  Sometimes she wanders off to play with a sibling or on her own.  There's no need to "distract" her with trivial busy work when simple activities and real-life experiences will engage her mind and keep her happily occupied.

Homeschooling Preschool

It's really that simple.

This week is letter P in the Blogging through the Alphabet series, and I'm sharing about Homeschooling Preschool, but be sure to check out the variety of topics others have thought up this week!
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

52 Lists: Week 6 - Ways to Love Others

♥ The Ways in Which You Can Love Others ♥

I found this week's list very fitting.  It was similar to the topic we covered last Sunday with the junior church kids, and which we continued on Valentine's Day.

♥ Give more hugs

♥ Smile more

♥ Show compassion and understanding

♥ Forgive

♥ Pray for them

♥ Listen intently and do not interrupt

♥ Play more often {with the kids}

♥ Say "I love you"

♥ Call just to say hello

♥ Cook their favorite meals

♥ Surprise them with a treat or gift or a special gesture

♥ Be patient

♥ Be present

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

FIAR: Owl Moon

I'm a little behind on sharing our Five in a Row activities, as we actually rowed Owl Moon a couple of weeks ago.  This was a FUN row, and probably one of Emory's favorites.

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Owl Moon

Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, is quite a poetic tale of the excitement and anticipation of being allowed to do something for the first time--a rite of passage.  A little girl eagerly accompanies her father on a late night trip into the woods to go owling.  Her brothers have done it before, and it's finally her turn!  Can she be quiet the whole time?  Can she withstand the cold?  Will they find the owl?

Social Studies
We talked about the geographical setting of the story.  We used the guidance of the manual to choose a (random) location for this story disc.

Family Relationships; Maturity/Bravery; Special Moments; First Time Experiences; ETC.
We discussed most of this, but I asked the boys to think about the "first time" that they did something special/memorable with a family member.  One drew a picture of helping to drive a golf cart for the first time with my aunt and some cousins (in aunt's backyard), while other son drew a picture of fishing on a boat with his daddy and grandpa.

Language Arts
To go along with the row, we started reading Poppy by Avi.

There were several language topics to choose from, but this week we focused on Hyperbole and exaggeration to make a point, using the example from the book:

"For one minute, three minutes, maybe even a hundred minutes, we stared at each other."  

This tied into the math lesson as well . . .

Units of Time; When Time is Altered
Elliott immediately wanted to know how long a hundred minutes was, so I told him to calculate it on his own.  He did it quickly, and I had him write it out for his FIAR journal.

Then I asked the boys to hold their arm up for what they thought was one minute while I would time it.

Emory said "I'm done!" after 37 seconds.  Elliott made it 54 seconds.

Did they really think the girl stood still and silent in the cold for 100 minutes?

Telling Time
I just happened to find these Owl Time Cards.  It was easy for Elliott, but a good review for Emory.

Winter Trees
I tried combining the Trees and Shadows lesson with this Winter Wonderland.  The kids enjoyed it, but we'll continue to work on noticing details.  I gave the option to use an old toothbrush to splatter white paint for snow, or to use q-tips.  I personally liked the effect of the toothbrush splatter.

Obviously we focused on owls for this row.  There are so many concepts that are easily covered when learning about owls--nocturnal animals, food chains, birds/raptors!

We read about owls, looked up pictures, and listened to calls on All About Birds.  This is one of favorite go-to references for birds!  Then we filled out a simple Owls Are/Have/Can fact sheet together, which is a little different from our standard animal worksheet we do.

We watched a couple videos about owls.  One was just a short segment from The Fascinating World of Birds and the other was a nature documentary called Owl Power (also on Netflix at the time of posting) which was longer, but very interesting and informative.  Movies are great for auditory learners, and this was a fascinating addition.

Parts of an Owl - simple, but good for early elementary.

We also did this Owl Pellet Sequencing one afternoon.  "Owls have two stomachs!?"

Then we dissected an owl pellet with Daddy's help when we were all snowed in over the weekend.  Elliott said it was disgusting and wanted no part of it.  Emory, on the other hand, is my outdoors/nature loving kid, so of course he loved this activity.

We think we ended up having a few different animals, because some bones looked like mole, but we were also pretty sure we found the claws of a shrew. {Here is a virtual owl pellet dissection, if you don't want to dissect a real one.}

Overall, it was a really fun row!  Eleanor did an O is for Owl theme that week, so I'll be sharing that soon.  We followed up Owl Moon with Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (and The Snowy Day for Eleanor) since we were hit by the big snowstorm at the end of this row.  I'll be sharing those soon enough!

I'm sharing Owl Pellets for Owl Moon for "O" week, but be sure to check out what other bloggers are sharing this week.
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Monday, February 8, 2016

52 Lists: Week 5 ~ I'm Grateful

Last week was busy and stressful.  I knew I was a little behind on getting my weekly list posted, but when I sat down and remembered that this past week's prompt was "what you are grateful for," it was a moment of peace.  I didn't want to skip the list.  I want to always give thanks and remember the multitude of blessings I have.  The appointments and runny noses and intense moments from the week get to be set aside to think about all the fantastic, wonderful, meaningful things.

My Husband - Faithfully and forever my rock, my friend, my provider, my heart
Two Sons
Two Daughters
Our Family
Special Moments that turn into Memories
Prayer Warriors
Church Family
His Provision
A House to call Home
Two nice vehicles
Sweet Tea
Electric Pressure Cooker
Being able to stay home with my children
Hearing the laughter of my kids
Listening to a child learn to read
Family Picture Albums
The Schoolhouse Review Crew
Afternoon Naps
Pretty Weather

This list was easy to start, and hard to stop.  I could go on, but I will stop there.  There are things on that list that I need to attend to right now!

List 6 will be "The ways in which you can love others" which just so happens to go along with my junior church lesson from yesterday!

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Using Netflix (and Hulu) in Homeschooling

One of our favorite ways to enhance our homeschool curriculum is to add videos.  I believe it is valuable to present information and lessons through a variety of formats, including text, discussions, pictures, charts and graphs, music and audio-visual presentations.  Most children learn best when all of their senses are engaged, and videos can especially help engage the auditory and visual learners.

That's why programs like Netflix and Hulu have been fabulous for us.  After we do a lesson, read a book or have a discussion and we want to explore a topic more, I like to find a video or movie to round out their learning experience.  We don't watch movies every week, but I do like to use them as an optional tool.  Here are some of the ways we've utilized streaming services in our homeschool:

Search by topic
Sometimes if I just want a general overview/review, I will put in a topic like "china" or "birds" or "ocean" and see what comes up.  {We watched an episode of Wild China when studying China and the Yangtze River.}

Search by category
If I have more time to browse, I'll just search through science and nature documentaries, the geography titles, or any educational category, and add things to our queue that fit an upcoming study, or that just look interesting.

I've also googled "movies about XYZ for kids..." or something along those lines to get specific suggestions.

Check with Other Homeschoolers
Other homeschoolers with children approximately the same age, or who are covering the same general topics, or who use the same curriculum--they are valuable troves of useful information!  When it comes to educational movies, ask for recommendations.  There's a Homeschooling with Netflix group on Facebook which offers info on all major streaming services, and I specifically browse the Five in a Row forums/Facebook group, for ideas to go along with our curriculum.

Search a Series
Netflix has many educational series that cover a variety of topics.  You can usually find an episode/topical list for a series on Wikepedia, which is a quick way to get an overview to see if a favorite series has a relevant episode.  An educational series is also a great option for "screen time" when we're taking a break between morning and afternoon subjects, because they get to learn about unique animals (Wild Kratts) or varied science topics (The Magic School Bus) or math (Odd Squad) or the list goes on.  It's kind of like when we were in public school and our teachers would pop in a short video at the end of the day when work was finished so she could grade papers.  It may or may not have been relevant to our current studies, but it's interesting and educational nonetheless, especially for the auditory learner to listen to in the background while he's drawing or building LEGO or something.

So many books--children's literature and novels--have been turned into movies, or even into television series.  It's a great exercise to allow children to compare and contrast the characters, dialogue and overall plot of the original book with the movie.

Once I find a single episode, documentary or movie that fits our needs, I just choose a time to show it!  If it's a short video, only a few minutes, (like a YouTube clip of a cultural dance) we might just watch it quickly on the computer or iPad right there during the lesson.  Anything else, I will usually cast it to the Chromecast so we can all watch it comfortably on our break between morning and afternoon subjects.  If it's a longer movie, we might watch as a "movie night" in the evening or over the weekend to wrap up our studies.

Do you use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or other services to enhance your homeschool?  What are your favorite educational movies or series for elementary ages?  I'm always looking for family-friendly suggestions.

This post is part of the Blogging through the Alphabet series.  I blogged about Netflix, but check out the Nature Study, Notes, Nachos and many other "N" posts!
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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

B4FIAR: Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

My girly was asking for some "school like the boys" so I pulled Before Five in a Row back out, and we rowed Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom.

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? is a fun rhyming book.  We follow Jesse bear through his day, full of play and through his meals and bedtime routines.  It's very cute and she adored the book!  By the end of the week she was reciting it with me.

{Eleanor was a few weeks shy of 3 when we rowed this book.}

We started by making our own Jesse Bear that we colored together.

I'd intended to just use the shirt and pants, but the printout came with shoes and sunglasses, and she said he needed them!  We used him as the cover of the lapbook.

We worked on different printables through the week to put into the lapbook.  She loves dot painting, and this B was perfect for that. She knows her letters and sounds, but tying reinforcement activities into her Before Five in a Row activities is perfect.  We colored /b/ words with "her" markers (pip squeaks) and practiced her cutting skills.

I wasn't sure about these tracing sheets, but she enjoyed them.  She wouldn't leave the table (no matter how much her brother begged her to come look at something) until she finished two full pages!

She also really enjoyed playing with the counting bears and practicing patterns. She insisted on matching every bear before finishing the patterns.

We gave bear hugs and three kisses and played peek-a-boo with a blue blanket!

We've had the Bear Family Puzzle for years, and it's obviously a perfect fit for this book.  She enjoyed dressing the baby bear like Jesse.  I didn't do the fabric swatches activity in the manual, but it was certainly entertaining to see some of the other clothing matches she made with this puzzle!  Sometimes she dressed Daddy Bear in the suit to go to work like Daddy Bear in the book (our Daddy dresses in business casual), but he generally got the most unique outfits.  Mommy usually matched in purple!

She played a little with the dressing boards one morning.  I have a set similar to this (it might be the same set, but I didn't buy mine here or pay anywhere near that price) but this Melissa & Doug Basic Skills Board is also very cute!

I adjusted the Shapes lesson from the manual slightly.  I gave her some cookie cutter shapes, and she lined them all up while she waited for me to get her paint, then she got to business.

We did something similar with brown paint and our bear shaped cookie cutters.  It eventually turned into a fully brown painting.

As you may be able to tell, she likes to start earlier than me.  She often asks for school in the morning, again in the afternoon, and usually begs for something every night.  A piece of paper and some watercolors used to tide her over, but now she wants something with a purpose.

I laminated the cards, she pointed out pieces while and I read, and she made some matches before she decided she really just needed to dress Jesse Bear.

She found a piece of Rummikub that fell out of the box and wanted "the number game" so we worked on recognizing numbers from 1-10, and then she just kept adding pieces and insisted I take a picture!

Later in the week she wanted another bear printed out so she could paint him.  She picked all the colors and painted him, then we cut him out to glue on the back of her lapbook.

We ended up gluing him to the back of the lapbook along with a bear we cut out from her brown-bear stamping.

She wanted to save her shape stamping, so I asked her to pick which strip she wanted and I cut a strip from it.  We made a "blanket" to put over this bear so we could play peek-a-boo just like Jesse!

This is the inside of her lapbook.  As you can tell, she likes to paint.  That size sequencing family of bears is apparently our family--Daddy, Mommy, Elliott, Emory, Eleanor and Eloise.  The little pocket with the 'b' sticker has her word cards ~ also good for a memory game.

For fun, we had a Jesse Bear lunch!  Carrots and Peas, and celery crunch, but not rice in our hair, because that's messy!  The first time we read the book she looked at me with wide eyes and giggled "We don't put rice in our hair!!"  I did apple slices for her, instead of a whole apple, and I made a bear shaped sandwich.

Additional Books
Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear
Guess Who's Coming, Jesse Bear
Let's Count it Out, Jesse Bear

There are several more Jesse Bear books, but these are the ones we own.

Weather Bear Paper Doll from Danielle's Place
Jesse Bear Lapbook from Homeschool Share
Jesse Bear Printables from Homeschool Creations
Free Counting Bear Patterns from The Measured Mom
Teddy Bear Sorting from Activity Village

I think next time I row this, it will be in the summer.  Jesse Bear runs in the sun chasing butterflies, and wears the sand on his hand.  It would be fun to act out these scenes!

This row was several weeks ago.  I'm behind in updating our Before and FIAR adventures.  Next up is O is for Owls--which went with the boys' row of Owl Moon, The Snowy Day, and she's currently doing D is for Ducks while the boys row Ping.

What is your preschooler up to lately?

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