January 28, 2011

alphabet doodles

Kindergarten is coming in September and we are leaning towards the road of homeschooling. With this comes some nervousness and excitement, but I am glad to have a friend who is hooked up with a pretty good charter school system that we might try out too! The girls have never gone to official preschool, but we do preschool activities at home, so I figure that is enough (at least I hope!).

I must admit Kindergarten is not my ideal grade to teach, during my short stint teaching, I taught fourth and that was my dream grade. They, well most of them, came to me already reading, so I am not too familiar with teaching the basics and nitty and gritty of reading. I have been going back and forth with my BFF via email, she has taught kinder, and she has been giving a plethora of tips and direction on things to do (thanks Lin!).

We do a lot of doodling in the house, but now every afternoon we are gonna give it some direction. We will pick a letter and just start doodling things that start with that letter. I am sure this little activity will evolve as we go, but I hope it will keep learning the alphabet and sounds a lot more interesting and fun!
{click on images to enlarge}

We each had our own sketchbooks (I gave her mine since she likes to steal it so often and I got myself a brand new one from my stash), then we just started drawing. Actually, she wanted to draw a bird so we started drawing a tree first. I drew my tree and she would draw her own version. I drew my branches, them she would draw her own, thus I think you get the idea of how this little session went. We started brainstorming things that started with a B and we came up with: bird, branches, butterfly, bear, bow tie, ball, bag, and Brave. After we drew, she wrote all the words on the left as she copied what I wrote on my left. Little kid writing is so cute!

It was really fun for her and kept her engaged, which is a good thing! I think you are going to start hearing more about learning activities for little ones on this blog because we are switching to school mode so very soon!

Linda also suggested Zoo Phonics as a good program to teach reading and Star Fall as a good site to teach kids letters and sound. I remember Star Fall well because I used it in my classroom and I remember lots of good things from it. Anyone have any other sites or programs to recommend and make this task of teaching reading not seem so daunting?

I loved all your recommendations regarding reading chapter books to the girls at this age. I picked Pippi Longstocking to start with because they have seen the movie so they are somewhat familiar with the storyline. I figure they are a bit young to stay engaged the whole time, but hopefully knowing the plot will help them while listening. I think after we are done with Pippi, I may try some of the chapter books that have a different story every chapter and see how that goes! The wonderful thing about reading, is you can experiment with different stories until you find the right one to keep their attention! Thank God for variety, right?

Do share tips and stories of what you do to teach little children to read. I am all ears to learning how to make this task seem not so scary. I am already gonna say, "Thanks!" because I know you all are going to give such good advice!


  1. What a cute idea! I'm totally doing this someday...

  2. hey ruby!

    i actually just blogged today about our reading curriculum. (i'll paste the link below in case you are interested.) this is our first year homeschooling and it has been so good. better than i expected. but also harder. the beauty of your child's learning unfold in front of your eyes is amazing. but it truly does take sacrifice and i am figuring out how to balance this new role with the rest of life. your thoughts on previous posts about the sometimes overwhelming feeling of being a mama to 3 little ones have resonated with me. and to be honest they have been amplified through homeschooling. but it is still where i want to be.

    your alphabet doodles are so great. that is one of the best parts - letting creativity infuse the education.

    sorry i hijacked your comments a bit :)


  3. Oh, you will be such a great teacher! Lia is enrolled in a virtual academy up here and we are having so much fun. As far as reading goes, I am no expert, but we are using funnix right now and I like it. You can go to funnix.com and check it out and download for free this month only. It's not like starfall where they can work independently, you have to sit there and make sure they give the right answers. We were using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and I would not recommend that. Funnix is a lot better. I have had so much fun teaching Lia, it is so exciting to see the whole world opening up to her.

  4. annalea- yes, that what scares me about homeschooling cause it is already crazy with three! but i know when i look back later i will really miss those times and glad that we decided to homeschool even if it does get crazy! i look forward to reading your post.

  5. jill- funnix, sounds fun! will check that out now! thank you for your tip and encouraging words! xoxo

  6. I'll be starting to homeschool my two oldest this coming Fall using Charlotte Mason's methods, which totally appeal to my love of great literature, music, and art. You should check her out. A great place to start is Simply Charlotte Mason (http://simplycharlottemason.com/). They just introduced their own reading program, based on Miss Mason's very simple, intuitive methods, and it looks like a great resource. There are plenty of freebies on that site; one of the nice things about the Charlotte Mason method is that it doesn't rely on expensive workbooks, textbooks, or curriculum helps. Just great books, habit formation, works of art, good music, math manipulatives...all wonderful stuff!

    My two oldest are both 4yo: my daughter is already reading fluently with very little instruction from me, but my son will need some lessons with Mommy. I'll be using my own version of this method over the coming year (actually, I've already started a little with him, and he loves it).

    Here are some links about reading instructions from the Simply Charlotte Mason site:

  7. I really liked reading this post :) I really look foward to reading more about your homeschooling experience. Im a third grade teacher and I love it so far :) I was actually talking to my husband a few days ago about how I think I'll homeschool our (future) kids through first grade.

    I use www.brainpopjr.com ALOT in my classroom, but its not free :/ Luckily, we have a subscription through the school. You can check out the "Lesson Plans" or "ideas for grownups" section. Those have a lot of fun, creative game ideas to incorporate in teaching.

    Hope that was helpful :)

  8. Beatrice will be 2 in April. She kinda knows her letters. Kinda meaning when she sees a D she says a word that starts with D. She can do that with a lot of them.

    I've read to her just about every day of her life. She loves the Arnold Lobel books like Frog and Toad and Owl at Home. Also Dr. Seuss.

    My 7 siblings and I were all homeschooled and I taught some of them to read. It's not hard if the child is obedient enough to sit through each lesson. Bea isn't quite there yet...

    Reading is easier to teach than obedience.

  9. Before I started homeschooling (my oldest is in 1st grade and my next will start kindergarten next year) the thing I was most nervous about was teaching my kids to read. But, it turns out that kids naturally progress to learn to reading. We use Sing, Spell, Read, and Write and I'm really happy with it. It uses lots of songs and games and colorful pages to engage kids and it's worked for us. I have lots of friends that have used 100 Lessons to Read or something like that. It's worked from them, but it's definitely not as vibrant and colorful. :)

    I definitely think the preschool activities will more than prepare her for school. We do the exact same things- just casual preschool learning and I think they've learned more than what they would have learned being in a structured preschool classroom.

  10. Hi! I have 3 boys and am pregnant with baby #4. I also started homeschooling my oldest this year in K. I was nervous and stressed about it at first, wondering how it would work out with 3 little kids, being pregnant, etc. But I love it and am so glad I went with it!!

    My boys love learning together and we are all having so much fun learning together. K I think was a great way for me to get my feet wet in homeschooling. It doesn't take as much time as other graded and it allows so much room to explore, experiment, and be flexible with learnin and figuring out what works. Looking at her writing and drawing in that journal, she is already steps ahead!!

    Anyways, I was nervous to teach reading too. But the curriculum I have, my fathers world, lays out all the lessons for me and the start it off so simple and easy. My son has just taken off with it and I'm amazed!! I've been using the BOB book sets too that get them reading really simple books on their own. We love them and my son feels so accomplished after finishing one. My other sons also join in and are picking it up cause they want to be like big brother ;) when kids are ready to learn reading, they will! It's like potty training, maybe ;)

    Sorry for the lOng comment ;) I'm just going through all this too and I've been overwhelming surprised, encouraged, and happy with my choice!!

    Good luck!!

  11. Ps... I love starfall too! My boys love it and don't realize it's school. It also keeps my 4 year old busy when I focus on my 5 year old!! Plus...it's mostly free!!!

  12. Your tree is amazeballs! Seriously! You are so talented!
    <3 you bff

  13. i just read some of "Petunia the Silly Goose Stories" by roger duvoisin. adorable illustrations (very vintage-ish) and its longer, so like a chapter book but still a picture book. and patricia polacco has wonderful *wonderful* picture books that are longer & so rich with culture and good stories. just 2 recommendations i've enjoyed recently!!

  14. Ruby....you will be great! I'd love to help in anyway as well...(statfall has lots Of materials to download too)..if You go the Media center link on the Richman site, there is kinder site that has all the games I teach in the computer lab each week. I try to keep it up to date...you are welcome tocometo my classroom anytime! Lakeshore is great too!

  15. I love your doodle books!! When my son was at that age, it never occurred to me to make our own books (and now I totally wish I had, because what a cute memento to keep!), but we had an alphabet book series that my husband bought that were the same idea. We read all sorts of other books too and our son learned really fast and is an avid reader (he'll be 14 -!!- in a few days) to this day and it's his chosen method of learning. He went to public school until 4th grade (the school was awful) and we started homeschooling him at the end of that year. I wouldn't give up the time we've had together as homeschoolers for *anything*! Yes, days get long and yes, sometimes not every lesson gets accomplished..or housework for that matter! ;) Our son is very close with us and confident in himself and we have a great relationship. I don't know if it'd be that way if he had the influence of mainly teachers and peers for the last 5/6 years.
    Obviously you'll choose the schooling method right for your family, but in the meantime keep up the super cute books and your girls will be reading to you before you know it!! :)

  16. I don't normally comment, but I just wanted to poke my head in and say that I was homeschooled up until high school and honestly it was the best experience my parents ever gave me. My mom taught us at our own pace, used creative learning techniques, and incorporated God's Word in a way that can only be found through homeschooling. Though it can be slightly overwhelming at times, it is definitely worth it. Oh, and check out if there are any other homeschoolers in your area that "team-teach" or teach classes on the side. It was a great way to make friends and still have some of the school-like experiences that my public school friends had (i.e. picture day, field trips, plays) without giving up the benefits of homeschool.

    OK, I'll step off my soapbox now! Good luck with this new chapter in your life!

    - corrie mae.

  17. Have you read The First Year of Homeschooling? It is a wonderful book with tons of incredible ideas!

    I like Tag Readers. Other than that we normally just read TO the kids. My husband is finishing up reading the Chronicles of Narnia to them. (Our kids are five & almost four).

  18. Love the Alphadoodles notebook idea... I may have to borrow it. My oldest will officially start Kinder this next year, but I wanted to get a headstart on school this year because (like you) most of the kids I taught came to me already reading and I decided if I seriously messed up this year we could try again next without being behind. We're using My Father's World curriculum this year and I love it a lot. I love how well it integrates the Bible and spiritual concepts into each week's lesson and how much my little ones are catching on to them. It is pretty relaxed, has lots of hands on, music, art and science and my kids enjoy it.

    I am able to bring my middle child (2, almost 3) into a lot of the lessons so she doesn' feel left out. My youngest is two months old, and he has created some challenges in the school day (which really usually only takes 2 hours at the most) but I think even your youngest would enjoy it quite a bit by the time September rolls around.

    I should say that I was homeschooled from third grade through high school and I feel that it was one of the best things that my parents did for me. I loved the closeness it created for my family and I loved the freedom it gave my siblings and I to explore the things that interested us most. Most of all, I'm thankful for the spiritual training it gave me.

    I don't believe that homeschooling is for everyone, but if you're are even thinking about it, I would encourage you to give it a shot for a year and see if it's for you. It definitely has been a blessing for us! In the meantime, you should look to see if there's a homeschool conference in your area sometime in the near future. It would give you the opportunity to look at many different types of curriculum and see which you think would work best for your family. I'll pray for God's guidance as you explore what to do for next year!

  19. Hello Ruby!
    Look at all of the wonderful tips you have already!
    Being a homeschool graduate, I wanted to encourage you to do LOTS of reading aloud. My three sisters and I were homeschooled growing up (we loved it) and looking back, I see that as one of the best things my Mom did to encourage and teach us. It nurtured our love for reading and reading good books; and don't be anxious, there WILL be a time when they read (no matter how difficult is may seem!).
    Bon Voyage on this new adventure!

  20. Hi Ruby,

    Although I am no teacher, and don't homeschool, I successfully have taught 3 kids to learn how to read at home before entering elementary school. My last little one will also start K in the fall as well, and she just started reading a few months ago. I am a huge fan of Starfall. And also, we love to play alphabet bingo which you can pick up at any Lakeshore Learning Center. They have wonderful pre reading workbooks and games that are really fun for kids. Learning to spell their name is great since right there they learn a few letters and the sounds they make.

    The old school Dick and Jane books are wonderful for learning to read as well. I spend about 20 minutes a day with her and we write and draw and read, sometimes letters, sometimes numbers. My daughter also loves to trace and do mazes so we do a lot of tracing of letters too. And we picked up fun little books at Lakeshore where to get through the maze they have to go through all the items that start with the same letter. I bet you could even make them yourself by drawing pictures of birds, buttons, babies, etc. mixed in with some other letter pictures and she will have to find her way through all the B items.

    Enjoy this time with her! It goes so fast. If I weren't completely thrilled with our local elementary school, or if I thought I could do a better job, then I would be right there homeschooling myself.

  21. what an exciting adventure for both of you! i think you already have a home that is chock full of emergent literacy...the details are in the letters, words and sound. having words printed on garlands, the girls' name printed about, reading aloud, reading silently, singing, making songs and doodling are all a part of emergent literacy.

    if you can, take soem time to figure out what kind of learners yer girls are and find fun ways to teach them through their styles. an auditory learner will benefit most from being read to and taught verbally about words and sounds while a tactile/kinesthetic learner will learn more through DOING. a great rick is to use write each letter of the alphabet on its very own sandpaper square and have your girls trace the letters with their fingers. the memory of touch can help in recall and recovery when they are learning. i have oodles of ideas as emergent literacy is one of my specialties and i do love a good book! email me any time if you like, i would be happy to help!


  22. i've taught kindergarten and now 1st grade and loooove teaching reading. i think a great way is to get some books that are very repetitive (ie: Brown Bear by Eric Carle) and follow a pattern. read those types of books often and over and over with you and your kiddos pointing to the words. it builds confidence because they can pick up the pattern and read the book. and before you know it, they are picking up words and reading some things on their own. i'm happy to give you book recommendations if you need them for books like that.

  23. I work at amazing private preschool (if i do say so myself) with a kinder class in Fullerton CA and we use Handwriting Without Tears as a writing curriculum and it comes with music to teach kids the sound of each letter as well as the right way to write it. It really is great.

  24. I teach Kindergarten in a small private school. The Living Wisdom School. I love this book "The Write Start". It is filled with multi sensory activities that help with shaping the letters. The author is an OT and explains developmental steps really well. It is a fun read. The children in my class have loved every activity and I found them very helpful.

    Good luck! ;)
    It is such a great age!

  25. Hi! I my name is Dannielle and I am an avid CAKIES follower... actually I am a closet cakies follower because I am always reading blogs (but your is my favorite and the first one and the last one I check (last just in case you post something else while I was out "gallabanting" and reading other blogs). But anyways, every time my husband catches me I am always on your blog, so I try to hide it because he is beginning to get jealous! Hahaha!

    Anyways, I am a credentialed teacher and currently I teach at a private Christian School. But if you ever need pointers with reading... teaching reading it my nitch! So shoot me an email at mcskinder.mrs.rivera@gmail.com. (I might get star struck if you email me..heehee!)

  26. homeschooling, how exciting! we have a ds who is 11 and has been in and is now out of school, and a dd 7 who has always homeschooled. a great starting point is to read any and all of john holt's books. there are so many homeschooling options, it can be overwhelming. your kids are young so don't stress so much about getting your curriculum nailed down right now. only YOU know what will work best for your family. all the best!

  27. oooh1 very quickly...Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is a book that my girls adore! It's a cute story with different manners in each chapter and how she deals with the neighborhood children, super cute!

    I have to say that True's writing is amazing when I look at Bella's. Great job mama!

  28. Ruby i'm obsessed with the drawings and writings! you are sooo talented and I can't get over true's writing and drawings! the mind of a little child is sooo booottiful...

  29. I don't homeschool but my son is currently in 1st and learning to read. I'm not even sure how the teacher teaches the kids but I believe parents need to play a huge part of their learning at home. He brings home weekly lists of spelling words that he's tested on and needs to know a group of 'sight' words for each quarter. Parents get a list of these words and I made flash cards out of them. We go over them often and then I will take out the ones he knows, concentrate on the ones he doesn't know, etc. We have a huge amount of children books so I recently pulled (thinking he has a good amount of words he knows now) books that I think he'd be able to read. The common book I pulled were mostly P.D. Eastman books. LOVE these books. He loves Go Dog, Go, Snow, Ten Apples on Top, Bears on Wheels, Big Dog Little Dog, Are You My Mother? and on and on. I'm so happy and lucky I had these books on hand. He can read most on his own and he loves to do it and is proud.
    I love seeing parents taking education in their own hands. I recently discovered my son's school is really lacking in the art department due to lack of funds. I asked if there was anything I could do to help and have not heard a response back. So I'm taking it into my own hands and will start my own little Art School and teach my kids things that I think they should be learning (concepts, different materials, techniques, etc).
    good luck, I know you would be a great teacher to your little girls (didn't know you had a teaching background).

  30. your illustrations are always so lovely! this is a fun & creative way to teach the alphabet. good luck on making your decision on whether to homeschool or not!

  31. HI Ruby
    I've been homeschooling for seven years. My daughter is about to graduate from high school through homeschooling. It's been a real blessing. I am excited that you are considering it. You are doing such a wonderful job. The book I use to teach reading now I wish I had years ago...it's The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. It's excellent and affordable. I also like starfall.com.. A couple of good reads are The Well Trained Mind, any Ruth Beechick book--they are excellent and amblesideonline.com is free curriculum ala Charlotte Mason. Most importantly, relax and enjoy every moment. My youngest is 3, 4 in August, he is already excited about homeschooling and wants his own work. : ) I already started using the Ordinary Parents Guide with him. I love your doodle books. They are awesome. Also another book my 7 year old loves is First Language Lessons. I love this book too. He always wants to do more than one lesson a day. It's a grammar book by the same author as the reading book. Five in a Row is also a great book. Honey for a Child's Heart is a book of books and reviews. You can find wonderful books using this book to read to your girls. Blessings to you!!! : ) Also as a believer I know homeschooling is a calling. Pray, pray, pray and He will lead and guide you. : )

  32. Hi Ruby.
    I hope you read this in time b/c I just found a great giveaway that I thought you would like to enter.It's for a reading program,but she's picking a winner Monday so I hope you can enter:

    It could be really helpful,although I never used it since it's new,but it can't hurt,right. :)


  33. My mom worked for waterford Institute ( as mentioned in Renee's comment #32) and helped develop a lot of it. It is wonderful. I highly recommend it.

  34. Hello,
    I am using the ambleside online curriculum, as I really like the charlotte mason "method", and it is free! Before officially teaching my girls to read (5 and 6 years old), I made sure to teach the alphabet by sounds rather than by name of the letter, this helped tremendously. We are actually using the teach your child to read in 100 lessons, and they do great with it. I actually thought it would be dull for them, but they liked it from the start, so I am sticking with it.
    I do have them read portions of their books, as well as make up my own stories for them to read. Basically I am always adding something new so things do not turn dull. Something tells me you will be just fine, with your creative intellect :)
    Homeschooling is a whole challenge of its own, but I would not change a thing.

  35. Awwwhhh...this is fantastic! Don't have children nor have I ever home schooled anyone, but I think it's a fantastic idea and like everything else you do - I'm sure you'll be terrific.

    The girls are so incredibly blessed to have a mother that is invested in them and their creative well-being!

    You go get 'em!

  36. hey ruby,
    you've already gotten alot of fantastic feedback here, i see.

    we are doing kindergarten this year using a curriculum called Sonlight, which i absolutely love. it is Christian based, but it is really a well culled collection of literature from all over the world, secular and non...

    my son has begun reading without me ever feeling like we "tried" to learn to read. we learn a new letter of the alphabet a week, we look at the letter in a picture dictionary and then do what you are already doing... make a letter page and draw pictures of things that start with that letter. then every once in a while, we have started these very simple books that really boost his confidence. the first one said, "Pam. Bat. Pam bats. Bam!" and that was it, but he read his first book and was so proud!

    maybe check out sonlight's "27 reasons NOT to buy sonlight." its very insightful.

  37. Hi Ruby!
    I was homeschooled k-12 (apart from two years when my parents had to be in language school - then we were in Jordanian preschool/first grade and did English homeschooling in the evenings!) and am so, so thankful for it!
    I'm scared and excited but Joel and I definitely plan on homeschooling any children God blesses us with. I crave that privilege to be with and raise them in a way that I can only do if living with them all the time. It's also hard to imagine living out Deuteronomy 6:7.

    All the best with whatever you decide, and I think you'd be an incredible homeschool mommy!


  38. What a great list of recommendations! I will add that I love anything that introduces the classics to kids. When I homeschooled, K12 was the curriculum that the charter school we were part of used. My kids read wonderful literature and loved history (but that was slightly older grades) compared to the public school curriculum. In public school they did have nightly reading, so they were reading all the time. Kid writing was the big thing in Kindergarten here. Students had a journal that they would do every day... they'd draw a picture and then try to sound out as many words as they could, leaving lines where they couldn't, and write the rest. Then an adult would let them read it to them and they could help them with words they didn't know...no pressure, just a sharing time. I saw tremendous progress through First Grade when I volunteered to help with this program. Montessori at home is wonderful too for introducing letters and math and sensory lessons. PLEASE remember this... you intuitively know where your child's strengths and weaknesses are and any path you choose will be fine (public, private, home). Someone told me this years ago and I have now seen that it is true!

  39. I was homeschooled all through high school and struggled quite a bit with reading until my mom found this reading program


    it really is the best! It's so fun and creative! I will always look back on learning how to read with fondness because of this curriculum.

  40. Check out "Reading Magic" by Mem Fox. (http://www.memfox.com/welcome.html)

    With my youngest son, we did exactly what Mem Fox talkes about...no "teaching" academics...only read to him lots and followed his lead. His own desire to read caused him to play with letters and words. That desire truly came solely from being read to A LOT! Now, he's reading well and LOVES it!

    Big brother likes it, but it's sort of a chore to him...I think because of the pressure we put on him to learn to read when he was littler. He's an excellent reader. When he was preschool age, we used a book called "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". I modified the book to make it less dry...LOTS more fun when you ad humor, color, and money! He usually enjoyed the lessons, but viewed them as "work" (something I believe should not be associated with learning in children's minds).

    I have a couple of blog entries on learning on my own website at http://bloombend.com/

    Enjoy watching her little mind grow!


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