One of my great internal debates over the last year has been about whether or not to put Aaron into a real preschool. Since he will be in kindergarten next year (unless I hold him back...another internal debate...), I thought it would probably be good for him to be in a more structured setting with more kids. Preschool is definitely the norm around here, and I felt a lot of pressure from the other moms to sign him up. There are many good ones in our area, but most of them are completely out of our price range. I did put him on the waiting list at one of the high schools, and I probably would have had him go except that I didn't hear that he was in the class until last week, and by that time, we'd made other plans, and it seemed like it was going to be a hassle to have him go. And really, there are going to be enough hassles in the future as the boys grow older and get involved with more things, so why choose it right now? We were already involved in the little preschool co-op I mentioned a few days ago, and it was going great and offering just the right amount of learning, socialization, and fun. Plus, I didn't know it when we started, but I actually LOVE planning and teaching, so it's good for me, too.
Aaron's little group consists of four children: two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 3.5 to 4.5. We have been using the curriculum, Five in a Row as a basis.
First, we read the book. The story is about a boy named Lentil who has a dream of making music, but he cannot sing, and he cannot pucker his lips enough to whistle. So he buys a harmonica, and in no time at all, he is quite fluent. Meanwhile, the town of Alta, Ohio is gearing up for a big welcome for Colonel Carter, a wealthy former citizen who donated the money for most of the buildings. It's a big deal...there will be a band and a speech from the mayor. Everyone is excited except for Old Sneep, who has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. The morning of Colonel Carter's arrival, everyone gathers at the train station. Old Sneep sits above everyone sucking on a lemon. The slurping and the sucking makes everyone, including all of the band members, pucker up. The only one spared is Lentil because, remember?, he doesn't know how to pucker. So he saves the day by playing his harmonica.
(I will say that when I first read this story many months ago, the whole puckering thing seemed unrealistic, but now, I absolutely love it. Sometimes that happens with re-readings.)
After reading the story, we went into the kitchen for a taste test. The lemon/puckering in the story was the perfect lead-in to talking about the four (easily recognizable) tastes: sour, sweet, bitter and salty. Each child had four different things to taste at his/her seat: a lemon, sugar water, unsweetened chocolate, and salt water.
After each item was tasted, I asked the children which taste they thought it was and then recorded it on this chart:
The thing about this age group is that if one says one thing, everyone else goes along with it. I think they were all surprised that the chocolate did not taste good. And they all loved the lemons! No puckering from them; I had to cut more wedges so they could suck on them some more.
After tasting, we hand-squeezed the lemons (not the ones we'd been sucking on), and made lemonade. I think the kids were amazed with how difficult it is to squeeze out lemon juice. It was also a good lesson in how we can change the taste of something by adding sugar.
We then moved onto music. I had purchased harmonicas at the dollar store for everyone with the idea that we would learn the values of quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes and play them on the harmonicas. Unfortunately, the dollar store lived up to its cheapness, and the harmonicas hardly worked at all. Very disappointing.
Since the story takes place in a small fictional town in Ohio, it was the perfect opportunity to talk about the United States. I gave them a blank map of the United States and had them find and color both Utah and Ohio.
One thing that has been very difficult for Aaron to understand is how he can live in Salt Lake City and Utah and the United States. So we did this little activity to help conceptualize it:
On the smallest circle, they drew a picture of their house, then their city, state, country and world on each bigger circle. Each time we moved to the next thing, I would say something like, "Is your state bigger or smaller than your city," and they would shout, "Bigger!" So even if they still don't understand it perfectly, I think it definitely helped.
Then we had a snack, and they all declared their homemade lemonade to be the best lemonade they'd ever tasted.
The illustrations in the book are done with charcoal (I meant to take a picture of them, but you can go here for a few examples.) I thought it would be fun for the children to experience a new art medium, so I purchased some sticks of charcoal. They thought it was the greatest thing ever. I didn't see a whole lot of beautiful art produced, and I had no idea how messy it would be, but I think it was a good experience.
The idea of Five in a Row is that you read the book and do a correlating activity for five days in a row (hence, the name). Where we only do preschool one day a week, it makes it so that you don't get to cover a lot of material. For example, with this particular story, we didn't even get to learn about acoustics/sound waves, fractions, instruments, patriotism, or small-town America in the first half of the 20th century. That's what I mean...it's amazing all of the ideas that come from one story. I love it.
P.S. Besides the manual, there are many great resources online. My favorite is Delightful Learning.