Monday, February 28, 2011

Preschool: Interactive Calendar

Today while Trevor napped, I assembled an interactive calendar on the wall above our kitchen table.  Those of you who know me well, know that I often would rather create my own ___________ (fill in the blank) than purchase the same thing ready made.  I get a picture of how I want something in my head, and when the store bought item doesn't match that, I would just rather take the time to create exactly what I want.  This is what happened with the calendar.  They sell many varieties of calendars at teacher's stores, but nothing was quite right.

This is what I put together...
  • A wipe-off calendar (store bought) that I can fill out each month, and I printed and laminated pictures/symbols of things that might happen in a given month to stick on the day they will happen (garbage day, grandma and grandpa, Easter, etc.).  My desire is to help Trevor get the concept of "in two days we will...." or "on Friday we are going...." so he can start to understand the big concept of how time passes. 
  • A list of ways we talk about the day.  I want him to start understanding that each day has a name, a number, and is part of a certain month/season/year.  My desire is that each morning (perhaps during breakfast) we will look at that list and say what the current day is, changing the ones that need to be changed.
  • To-Do Lists for Trevor and me.  I don't think I will start this with him yet, but eventually I want to write down (or find pictures to represent) the things he does in his day (eat breakfast, get dressed, do a chore, etc.)  Also, I thought it would be a good way to show him that I have things to do each day too.

Each of the pieces on my wall are able to be stuck and re-stuck over and over using Scotch Reusable Tabs.  This is necessary since we will be changing some of the pieces daily!  I've never used these before, but they look promising!  Has anyone tried these out? 

Really, I wasn't planning on introducing the calendar concept until next year, but I got too impatient to wait, so here it is!

If you would like to create something like this on your own, here are some printables your can use!

Happy Learning!

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Picture of the Week

We snagged a fantastic bike off of craigslist  for $7.00!  Trevor is very excited for the weather to warm up so he can get outside and ride!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Preschool: Week 11

Day 1 - Theme: Moon

  • Color the moon coloring page
  • Talk about vocabulary word "full-moon"
  • Make a moon cake and talk about "full-moon" and "crescent-moon"
  • Recite "Hey Diddle Diddle"
  • Sing "Hey Diddle Diddle" while jumping over the moon

Day 2 - Letter: "K"
  • Color letter "K" coloring page
  • Talk about the sound the letter "K" makes
  • Talk about words that start with the letter "K" (Trevor came up with Kate, kite, and kitten)
  • Scrabble spelling: "go" "no" and "so"   (we reviewed this the rest of the week)

Day 3 - Number "11"
        ***I was excited to notice a great improvement in Trevor's "numbers" ability these past two weeks.  Just a few weeks ago he was really struggling to get all the numbers in the right order when counting.  He now zips right through them (up to about 15) without a thought.  Also, a couple of weeks ago he was frustrating me to no end when I wanted him to put together his number puzzle.  He just wouldn't put it together even though it is well within his abilities.  He would stack the numbers, push them off the table, ignore them, or whatever, but he wouldn't put them in the puzzle.  This week it took him a minute and a half to complete the whole puzzle.  I was happy to see a greater ability to focus and follow directions.

Day 4 - Shape: Crescent
  • Look at the crescent coloring page
  • Talk about the shape "crescent"
  • Practice tracing a curved line

Day 5 - Review
  • Review concepts from this week while putting the pages into the school binder

Happy Learning!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Herbal Salve

Before Trevor was born, I bought a tin of herbal salve to use as diaper ointment.  I liked how it worked, but I when it ran out, I didn't feel like shelling out the money to buy more.  So, when I stumbled across a recipe to make it yourself at Homemaker's Cottage I was so excited to try it!  If this interests you, I encourage you to go to that site to get more details and much prettier pictures =)

I was anxious to start my salve, so I only made enough for one tin (because that's all the olive oil I had on hand!), so I'll walk you through the measurements that I used.

1/4 c    olive oil
1/2 c    plantain leaf
1/4 oz  beeswax (use less if you want a softer salve)
            jar with lid
            crock pot
            tea tree oil (optional)
            Vitamin E (optional)

Combine the olive oil and plantain leaf in a small jar.  Make sure all of the plantain is under the oil.  Seal the jar.

Put a small towel on the bottom of your crock pot, place the jar on the towel, and fill the crock pot with water until the water level covers the mixture in the jar.  Leave the lid off of your crock pot.  Turn it on low and let is sit for three days, replacing water as needed.

When the three days are up, take the jar out of the water and strain the plantain out of the oil.  I used a t-shirt and a mini strainer to strain the herbs out and a Pyrex measuring cup to strain the olive oil into.  When all the oil is squeezed from the herbs, place the Pyrex into a pan that has an inch of water simmering in it.  Add the beeswax and stir until everything is completely melted.  This is when you can add the tea tree oil (for its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties) and the vitamin E (for preservation).

When your mixture is completely liquefied, carefully (it will be hot!) pour it into a tin and let it sit until it hardens. This will only take a few minutes.

I was so pleased with how easily and nicely my herbal salve turned out!  Mackenzie has been suffering with a bit of nasty diaper rash for the past few weeks and even though it didn't seem to bother her, it hurt me to look at it, so I was excited to see how this would do.  I put it on her last night and was so happy with the results this morning!  Even in just that short amount of time there was great improvement.  I love it because I don't have to worry about putting this natural salve on my baby's skin.  I love how God gave us all the resources that we need to heal our bodies.  Both plantain and tea tree oil have an incredible effect on infections, cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, etc.  

Are there any herbal remedies that you use on your babies (or yourself!)? I'd love to hear them!

Happy Healing!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Preschool: A Closer Look - Spelling With Scrabble Tiles

I was going to wait a while until I started any kind of spelling with Trevor, but he knows what sound each of the letters make, so I thought we'd give it a shot!  Tim had the idea of putting the letters of a word scrambled up in front of him and see if he could put them in the right order by sounding it out.  I liked the idea, so we got out the Scrabble tiles and this is what we did...

I went to the spelling list in Writing Road to Reading and picked out three words that are similar and very simple.  I chose "Go," "No," and "So."  I got out the appropriate tiles and laid them out in front of Trevor.

I asked him to try to spell the word "Go" by putting each sound together.  He did a good job. It was by no means simple for him and he needed some coaching along the way, but I thought it was a great first try at spelling!  I had to teach him the "rule" that when a vowel is at the end of a word you use the its long sound.  I am not so great at spelling or the rules that go with it, so forgive me if I don't have this rule quite right, I'll have to read up on them before I get to teaching him too much!

He went through and spelled out each word.  Then I would say one of the words and have him point to it and other times I would point to a word and have him say what it was.  This was definitely difficult for him, but I think he was up for the challenge!

When we were finished we read the book Go, Dog. Go! and I had him read the word "Go" each time we came to it.  I think he really enjoyed being able to participate in the reading process.

Do you have any fun ways to teach early reading?

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Belt Can Do Wonders!

Trevor loves to help with the laundry. He loves to put the clothes in the washing machine, take them out of the dryer, etc.  The only problem is that it seems like he is never quite tall enough, or his arms aren't quite long enough, or he just isn't quite strong enough to be super helpful.  Well, today I want to share a trick we found that lets Trevor be more helpful and it works for more than just laundry too!

One day Trevor wanted a ride in the laundry basket.  Tim was sick of the strain of bending over to push him, so he decided to fix a belt onto the handle of the basket so he could pull him instead of push him.  Now he could stand straight instead of having to hunch over.  Genius!  We soon realized that this simple contraption would come in handy for a few things.

After we do laundry and the basket needs to be moved from the dryer to wherever I'm going to fold it, Trevor would always try to pick up the basket and carry it.  Obviously this didn't ever work, but now with the belt on basket he can pull it!  He feels so special being able to actually help.

We often gather up stray toys in a laundry basket and move them from the bedroom to the family room.  This used to be work for mommy and daddy, but now Trevor can do it!  He can pull even the fullest basket down the hall.  I really like it because it gives Trevor actual responsibilities, but even if the job gets left for mom again, it's much easier for me to pull a basket than it is to carry a heavy one from one room to the next.

Do you have any other practical ideas for a laundry basket?  Have you thought of any other ways to let a preschooler be more helpful with everyday tasks?  I'd love to learn from your ideas!

Happy Living!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cleaning Out Your Sink Drain Without Nasty Chemicals

The other day I posted about how I have come to terms with doing a load of dishes each night and how it's worth it because you get the wake up to clean kitchen counter.  Now, I believe that I acknowledged I am not perfect or consistent with this, but just in case I was thinking that I had it all together, we had a little kitchen mishap that next day.  When we were done, it seriously looked like our kitchen had exploded.  I should have taken a picture.

We do not have top of the line appliances by any means, but they are fairly new so I expect them to work.  My problem is that I treat them they way I believe they should work instead of how I know they work.  (I guess I should add that to the list of things I still need to come to terms with!)  This is definitely the case with our garbage disposal.  Is it really too much to ask that it actually disposes of food scraps without getting plugged up?  Ok, so maybe I push it a little too far, but still!  So this time around I knew the sink was plugged up, but it was also filled with dishes so I wanted to get the dishes in the dish washer so that the sink would be clear to plunge the clog out.  This is how it always works, but not this time.  To make a long story short, I ended up with both sides of my sink filled to the brim with nasty water and not enough room to use the plunger without spraying water everywhere.  Poor Tim emptied out all of the water and plunged and plunged to no avail.  We ended up having to unscrew the pipes under the sink and clear out the gunk (as Trevor would call it) that way.

So the problem was pretty much solved.  The disposal was working, but the sink was still backing up a little when I was just running water.  Running the disposal would clear the water, but then it would back up again.  So I knew it was time to actually clean the drain.  I'm sure many of you know this trick, but I want to share it for those of you who may not.  I love finding ways to clean effectively without hazardous chemicals, and this did just the trick!

Drain Cleaner

1/2c baking soda
1 c   white vingar
2c    water

- pour baking soda directly down the drain
- pour white vinegar down over the baking soda
- let the combination sit and fizz for a minute
- while you are waiting, microwave the water until it is boiling
- pour the boiling water down the drain
- run the disposal

This did the trick for me!  My sink is no longer backing up.  I don't know if the quantities I used are ideal for all situations, but it worked fine in mine.  I believe you can do this periodically just to freshen your sink as well.  Give it a try!

I'd love to hear any healthy cleaning tips that you might have.

Happy Cleaning!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Preschool - All about the Moon

This week in school our theme is the moon.  I asked Trevor what he knew about the moon and he said something like this..."When it's in the sky, and it's time to go to bed, and it's dark out and it get's light!"  I thought that was a pretty all-encompassing definition =)  While he colored his moon coloring page I explained to him that the moon is round, but sometimes it doesn't look round.  Sometimes there is a shadow on the moon and it makes it look like a crescent.  We looked at the shadows that our hands were casting on the table and took turns making our hand-shadows cover up part of the moon.  We talked about the terms "full-moon" and "crescent-moon."  The best part came next, we turned it into an object lesson.  I think the best object lessons are the ones that you can eat.  Today we ate the moon.

Our full-moon cake lighting up the night sky!

 We cut the moon into a crescent and got to enjoy some cake!
(I even hid spinach in the cake and you would never know!)

Next we recited the nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle."  I told Trevor that we would listen to the rhyme as a song and he could pretend to be the cow.  We got out our big exercise ball (the moon) and listened for the part about the cow jumping over the moon.  Each time he heard it, I jumped him over the ball.  It's really neat how something so simple can bring a preschooler so much joy!

Trevor pretending to jump over the moon.
(Never mind that he's still in his PJ's!)

Happy Learning!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Trevor has been in love with Valentine's Day ever sense he watched a Valentine's Day episode of Caillou a few months ago.  I'm not sure what caught this attention, but he will now randomly hand us an object (it doesn't have to be a heart) and say "Happy Valentine's Day!"  It really is very sweet.

This has been a really fun year in our household, because for the  first time Trevor is understanding things like holidays and it's fun to see his excitement.  Getting excited for holidays is something new for us.  Tim and I have never been a very traditional couple.  We didn't really date before we were engaged, we still don't go out on actual dates, and we don't make any sort of deal out of "commercial" holidays.  I acknowledge there are positives and negatives to this, but that is just how we are.  So, like you may have guessed, we don't do anything for Valentine's least we haven't until now!

Ok, so I definitely didn't go all out for today, but I have been hyping Valentine's Day up for the past couple of weeks.  A few weeks ago, during our cookie theme for preschool, we made cookies.  I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone, so we made heart shaped cookies.  I promptly put them in the freezer so we could save them for today (don't ask why there was only ONE cookie left for Trevor today =) He thoroughly enjoyed eating his large heart cookie today after lunch!

Last week we took some time one day to make valentines.  I cut hearts and Trevor decorated them with stickers and drew on them with crayons.  Here is our finished product...

It's been fun seeing the holiday through a child's eyes.  So, from my home to yours, we wish you a very happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Preschool - Ideas and Wish List for Next Year

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I think I love the planning part of school more than the actual teaching part =) So, of course my mind is always thinking ahead to what kind of things I want to formally include in school next year. Here are my ideas as of now and the things that I'm wishing for!

3 Year Old Preschool Wish List

Writing Road to Reading 5th Rev Ed: The Spalding Method for Teaching Speech, Spelling, Writing, and Reading (Harperresource Book)

3 Year Old Preschool Ideas

Reading/Writing - Text: The Writing Road to Reading

  • Prewriting Skills
    • Teach the positions on the clock
    • Teach the concept of "midpoint"

  •  Letter of the Day
    • Capital and Lowercase Recognition
    • Reinforce the sounds each letter can make
      • Flashcards
      • Visually identifying objects that begin with each sound
    • Early Writing Skills

  • Story Time

Early Math
  • Addition/Subtraction (Introduce the concept using manipulatives)
  • Counting by 2's and 5's 
  • Money (identifying coins and bills)

The Arts

  • Fine Motor Skills
    • Cutting lines
    • Coloring in the lines
    • Drawing lines
    • Gluing

  • MusicHohner 6 Piece Rhythm Instrument Set
    • Singing songs
    • Using instruments 

  • Memorization
    • Poems
    • Acting

  • Clock
  • Calander
  • Order of events in the day

Sample Schedule

  • Calendar (5 minutes)
    • Change pieces on the calendar
    • Talk about the order of events for the day

  • The Arts (10 minutes)
    • Music (singing and instruments)
    • Poem of the week

  • Reading Writing (10 minutes)
    • Recite sounds of letters using flashcards
    • Letter of the day
      • Sounds
      • Tracing
      • Building

  • Math (10 minutes)
  • Extra (15 minutes)
    • Craft project
    • Independent work
      • Puzzles
      • Fine motor skill work
      • Reading

  • Story Time (10 minutes)

So that's what I have come up with so far!  Just like I learned in my mid-year review, I'm sure I have aimed too high or two low in many of these categories, but this at least gives me some place to start.  I know I will have to adjust my expectations as he approaches 3 years old and then again later in the year.  I've probably also completely missed some important category of learning all together!  I'd love any input you might have to help steer me in a good direction!  If you have any favorite books, puzzles, toys, music, etc. for a 3 year old, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear your ideas or learn from your experience!


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Preschool - Week 10

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Day 1 - Theme: Train


Day 2 - Letter: "J"
  • Color letter "J" coloring page
  • Talk about the sound the letter "J" makes
  • Talk about words that start with the letter "J" (Trevor came up with jack, Jeep, and juice)
  • Trace the letter "J" with your finger
  • Practice writing the letter "J"

Day 3 - Number "10"

Day 4 - Color: Black
  • Color last week's circle page black
  • Talk about things that are black 
  • Practice tracing circles

Day 5 - Review
  • Review concepts from this week while putting the pages into the school binder
  • Quickly review past weeks concepts while putting this week's pages in the binder
  • Activity: Create a train by gluing pre-cut circles and squares onto a paper

Trevor singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad."  He couldn't get enough of it this week!  He never shows his real skills when the camera is rolling, but here's a little taste =)


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Things I Have Had to Come to Terms With

I’ve been married for six years.  There are some things that it has taken me those six years and two children to come to terms with.  Let me start at the beginning.  Growing up, my mother took care of our home. The house was always clean, there was always food in the cupboards and meals on the table, my clothes were always in my closet.  I guess I knew that my mother did these things, and as I got older of course I did my share of cleaning, cooking, and laundry, but I never really felt the weight of the responsibility of it all.  I never really had to sacrifice what I wanted to do in order to help out around the house.  

When I got married I knew that I wanted to do what my mother did.  I wanted to be the keeper of my home.   I wanted to be a blessing to my husband.  I guess I just never realized exactly what the job entailed.  It took me a while to realize that I don’t leave my work a 5pm and relax for the rest of the evening.  I don’t get the weekends off.  Now that we have children I have had to come to terms with the fact that I may not get to have a full night of sleep.  I don’t get to enjoy a nice shower or run out to the grocery store on a whim. 

Some things I came to terms with quite early on, but others have taken me a while, and yet others I’m still holding on to!  One thing is that I need to do a load of laundry every day.  This is probably the easiest thing for me. I’ve always enjoyed laundry.  Before we had children, I had a laundry day, and I always really looked forward to that day!  Now I just know that in order to keep on top of it all I have to throw a load in each morning.

A while back I finally came to terms with the fact that I need to run a load of dishes each night.  Dishes are not something I enjoy, so I would often let the dirty pile get a little too high!  I am also cheap, so I hated the idea of running a load unless it was filled to the brim.  In the past year or so I have come to terms with the fact that each night I have to run a load of dishes, whether it is full or not.  I need to do it or else I will quickly fall behind!   Also, there is nothing like waking up in the morning to a clean kitchen!

Only very recently have I come to terms with the fact that I need to vacuum the main area in our home each day.  We do not have an eat-in kitchen, so our kids make lots of messes on our carpet.  Sometimes I hate that I need to re-do what I just did the day before, but I’m working on it =)

Like probably everything else in life, I’m realizing that this is a heart issue.  I need to quit grumbling about these things and find JOY in what God has set before me to do.  I need to do the dishes with JOY because I know that I have fed my family a nutritious meal.  I need to do the laundry with JOY because I know that I’m sending my husband to work confident and adequately prepared to do a good day’s worth of work.  I need to give up time during my evenings and weekends with JOY because I love my children and because I am showing them Christ’s servant heart.  And even if none of those things mattered, I need to do it all with JOY because doing the tasks that God has given me to do brings him glory.

I am still far from keeping a good house or having a great attitude about it, and I know that there are things that I am still holding onto, but I’m working on it!  What things have you had to come to terms with when it comes to keeping your home or raising your children?  I’m sure I could benefit from your lessons learned!

Happy Homemaking!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fun Wheat Bread Uses

Last week I posted the recipe for my new favorite whole wheat bread recipe.  One thing I love about the recipe is how versatile it is.  It makes a fantastic loaf of bread, but it can be formed differently for so many other uses! Here are some of my favorites.

Pizza Dough

After you let the dough sit for 10 minutes, you can roll the dough flat to be used for pizza dough. Make sure that you still score the dough with a knife so that it will not puff up.  If you’re making pizza, roll the dough flat and when you are ready to bake it, just put your toppings on it first and then put it in the oven. Reduce baking time to about 15 minutes.

Other uses for dough that has been rolled flat would be garlic bread sticks, cheese sticks, and cold veggie pizza.  For these variations, bake your dough first (again reduce baking time to 15 minutes), then top with the appropriate toppings and cut to whatever size and shape you want!

Pita Pockets

I discovered this use on accident. The first time I rolled the dough flat to use for garlic bread sticks I didn’t think to score the bread and when I took it out of the oven it had puffed up into a dome!  So if you want to stuff the bread to be used as a pita sandwich, just use small amounts of dough flattened into small rounds.  This time, do not score the bread and make it for 15 minutes.  When the bread comes out, let it cool for a few minutes and then cut in half with a large bread knife.  I have stuffed these with lunch meat and toppings, and also chicken salad.  

Cinnamon rolls/bread

If you want to enjoy cinnamon bread or rolls, roll the dough out flat into a rectangle, similar to like you would for a pizza. Spread butter on the dough if you desire and sprinkle with cinnamon (and/or sugar, raisins, chopped nuts).  Press the toppings down into the dough so everything stays where you want it.  Next, starting with one of the long sides, gently and tightly roll the dough up into a log.  If you want cinnamon bread, just tuck the ends underneath and bake seam side down for about 25 minutes.  If you want cinnamon rolls, cut the log into about 1½ inch segments. Lay flat on the parchment lines baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.  Top with frosting if you desire!


Of course you can also make rolls with this dough.  Just follow the original recipe but only use a handful of dough.  Form as many small rolls as you want and bake for about 20 minutes.

Fruit/Nut/Herb Bread

I have never done this last option, but you can always add ingredients to the dough when you originally make it.  You can add your favorite herbs for herb bread.  If you want raisin bread, first soak you raisins (or any dried fruit of your choice) in water for an hour or so.  Then add then to the ingredients as you are mixing it all up.

I hope you enjoy some of these variations to my favorite bread dough.  I’d love to hear if you have any other favorite ways or ideas how to use bread dough.  As I was typing this up, I got a few new ideas of my own that I might just have to try out!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Preschool: Mid-year review

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Part of why I originally started this blog was to be held accountable for what I am teaching Trevor (another is to have good reference for when I start teaching Mackenzie).  I thought that even if no one read this, the thought that someone might be is great motivation!

When we started the year, I had a plan that would take us through the end of the year, but being that I’ve never had a two year old before, I didn’t quite realize how quickly he would grow and learn.  He is two and a half now, and I took some time to reevaluate the goals I had set for him at the beginning of the year.  I honestly didn’t know what a “normal” two year old should know, so I just guessed based on what he knew when he turned two.

I would love to hear what you are doing with your 2 year old, too!  Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom.

Goals I set when Trevor turned two to be achieved by his third birthday:

  • Be able to count to ten
  • Be able to count items up to ten
  • Be able to sing the alphabet song
  • Be able to recognize some letters
  • Be able to recognize more colors
  • Be able to recognize more shapes

Two and a half year check-up:

  • Can count to 20 (as long as he is focusing)
  • Can count items up to 10
  • Can sing the alphabet song great, he can even jumble through the Spanish version! (Thanks LeapFrog Learning Table!)
  • Recognizes all of the capital letters, most of the lowercase letters, and knows the sounds for all but a couple of them.  When he looks at a word, he is starting to say the sounds of the letters instead of just reading the name of the letter, like he is trying to sound it out.
  • We haven't pushed any funny colors, but he knows all the basic ones
  • He knows the standard shapes, plus octogon

Modified goals for the rest of the year:

  • Be able to count to 25
  • Be able to count items up to 25
  • Be able to recognize and say the sound(s) of all uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Continue learning new colors and shapes
  • I may start having him trace lines for early writing work
  • I may start having him "build" letters out of cut out lines and curves

Our current "curriculum" should make it possible for him to learn all of this by his third birthday, as long as I stay faithful in teaching him!

I am already getting excited about what we are going to learn next year, but because I don’t want to push too hard or fast (and because I really have a hard time changing my plans!) I’m not planning on adding anything additional to our school schedule for the rest of the year.  Next week I plan on writing some of my ideas for next year and some items on my wish list for three year old preschool!

Do you have any favorite school related things that you do or did with your preschooler?  I’d love to get some tried and true suggestions!

Happy Learning!


Looking for more preschool information?  Click on the picture below to find a list of all the preschool posts here at Living and Learning at Home, plus some of my favorite preschool resources!