Max keeps begging me for his own school time. He gets so very sad when he finds out that, while he was napping, Alex got school time with Mama. I’ve been trying to do a preschool pack with him once a week, but I will admit that it only happens about 3 times/month. We read lots of books, play games, do puzzles, count silly things, etc…so he’s learning! But he WANTS his own school time.
In addition to that, I’ve also been feeling really compelled to help my children stay grounded in God’s Word. It’s been on my heart lately that we need to keep that as our main focus in all we do with our children.
With that in mind, I decided to start Max on Little Hands To Heaven preschool program by Heart of Dakota. It’s meant to be open & go, and it’s very adjustable for ages 2 – 5. (You would definitely need to add extra for the typical 5 year old, though.) Jensyn, at just-turned 2, wouldn’t get much out of it. I think it’s perfect for 3 and young 4 year olds, though!
I’d purchased a used copy several months ago, and I’d intended to wait until fall to begin. My sweet little Max wore me down with his cute, “When is it MY turn for school, Mama?”
So we started last week. So far, it has taken us between 20 – 30 minutes each day to do “Max’s School”. He is so happy about this!
The first week focuses on the recognizing the letter A and the /a/ sound. The Bible stories are about Adam, animals, and God’s creation. (Four days covered creation/Adam & Eve. The last day covered Cain & Abel.)
I think that ANY post you see on ANY blog documenting the start of Little Hands To Heaven is going to include a picture something like THIS:
It’s part of the fingerplay/rhyme for the first week. “A-A-Adam, can you believe? God made animals and you and me!”
Only Max hated it. He refused. He did THIS instead.
Alex & I did the fingerplay together. Max watched. He resisted for FOUR days while Alex & I did it together. I was thinking that perhaps it was a mistake to do Little Hands To Heaven if he wasn’t going to enjoy it. Finally, on day 5, his eyes LIT UP when Alex and I started doing the fingerplay. Suddenly, he was ready to do it!
Our first day painting project was a bit of a flop, too. Honestly, I was really starting to wonder if this was the program for us after two activities didn’t go according to plan. Before we started our lesson, I pressed REALLY hard with white crayon to make a picture of God’s creation on the paper. Then, while the boys watched, I painted over it with watery black tempera paint. It worked for me.
When it was the boys’ turn, they just couldn’t press hard enough. They snapped several white crayons. Then they painted with SO MUCH PAINT that it covered right over their crayon lines.
They liked it, though! They were proud of it, and somehow they understood the concept of God making the world out of nothing. A friend (thanks Stefanie!) recommended using watercolors if we do this again, and I think that’s what we’ll do
We had better luck with our activities throughout the rest of the week, and both boys enjoyed Max’s school time.
Max made a letter A out of cheerios. (I drew a glue A; he added the cereal.)
Alex (5) wanted to do it, too. He is allowed to participate, but he MUST let Max answer questions and take the lead. That’s hard for my firstborn! :D
We made a big masking tape A on the floor, and then we walked it, drove cars on it, etc.
We drew As on construction paper with ice cubes. (Alex could do this easily; Max had trouble controlling an ice cube!)
We “slithered” a belt on the floor and took turns jumping over it to stay away from the sneaky snake that tempted Adam and Eve. (Just TRY getting a clear picture of wiggling kids with an inexpensive camera, ha!) This was repeated multiple times during the week!
Max traced the number one, and he drew one tree (for the tree in the Garden of Eden).
So…since I bought my manual used, some of the “worksheets” (which you have to reproduce; they don’t sell a student page set) had already been used. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll find it not the least bit surprising to learn that I made my own sets of many of the practice pages.
He had to find & circle the As in the rhyme for the week, and then he had to practice ‘prewriting’ by tracing the lines at the bottom of the page to connect the uppercase A to the lowercase A. (I redesigned these pages, too, as the ones in the manual were already used, but this is pretty close to how it looks in the manual.)
He drew one caterpillar (made by God) in each box, and then we counted & Mama wrote 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in the boxes. (I was writing upside down since I was sitting across from him, so if the numbers look a little ‘off’, that’s why!)
We explored emotions, talked about controlling our anger, and learned the story of Cain & Abel. Here are few “emotional” faces from both boys. (They LOVED seeing their faces on the camera screen after each emotion face!)
We talked about how to treat a stuffed animal with anger or gentleness.
Max also REALLY wants more workbook page learning. I don’t know why, but he is all over this! I purchased the Rod & Staff About Threes workbooks for him, and I also bought the Never Bored Kid 4 –5 book.
The Rod & Staff pages remind me of black & white versions of some of the pages in my preschool packs – prewriting, circling what’s different, etc. They are very basic pages from a Mennonite publisher, so they are rather old-fashioned and farm-life oriented. It’s kind of neat!
The Never Bored Kid pages are full color pages with cutting, gluing, coloring, etc. This book is divided into themes, and the first theme is all bear puzzles, bear coloring, bear rhymes, etc.
So that’s what is keeping Max happy these days. It probably takes about 30 minutes total with the addition of the 2 activity books. (Well, it was longer on the day they painted…but that’s because they wouldn’t quit, even though the project flopped!) It just gives me a framework to teach him the Bible stories in a fun, hands-on way & also introduces letters and their sounds, counting, and a few other simple skills.
We will still be doing preschool packs a few times each month because we love them! But I love that this takes no advance prep; we can just sit down together, have fun learning, and hide God’s Word in our hearts together!
A few notes:
I want to point out that you’ll need a children’s Bible, one of the recommended devotional books, and you may want The Singing Bible CD that they recommend. (We’ve listened to it, but I find it hard to get my boys to sit and listen to the song for the week. We just played it for background music while we worked. I may use it in their room as one of their bedtime CDs. I think this is a very optional part of the program, but that’s just my opinion.) You can view Heart of Dakota’s suggested resources HERE.
A Child’s First Bible is VERY light text. Max (3.5 yrs) can handle a lot more detail than what is offered in that Bible. Jensyn will listen to A Child’s First Bible, and she just turned 2. I think The New Bible In Pictures is a great option for Max’s age. We’ve been using one we already own, as I didn’t want to buy any more Bibles. (We already own 7 children’s Bibles!) I am finding it a teensy bit tricky, though, to match up some of the Bible stories. In fact, Cain & Abel (a murder story) is absent from many children’s Bibles. I found New Bible In Pictures on Alibris.com, and we bought a used copy for $3.99 *total – including shipping* using coupon code HOLLY.) I think $3.99 is well worth it to avoid matching or hunting for a story that is not included in our children’s Bible from time to time.
We are kind of playing around with different devotional options right now. Max isn’t really ready for the ABC Bible verses book (which we already owned…I think that’s best-suited for a 5 year old), so I bought a used copy of both Small Talks About God (out of print, but recommended in the first edition of LHTH) and a used copy of Big Thoughts For Little People. I think we’re going to stick with Big Thoughts For Little People, as Max really liked it. (Yes, I’m huge fan of buying used children’s books…it’s so much cheaper, and they are almost always in great condition! Alibris.com and Betterworldbooks.com are my favorites.)
Our choices line up exactly with what is recommended as the 3-4 yr old package (scroll down to view package options) on HOD’s website. Carrie, the author, really does understand what kids can handle at each age. I really admire her wisdom & thoughtfulness in product selection! I think that, by searching out lots of different options and landing on exactly what the author recommended, I’ve learned that it’s best to just trust the author when it comes to HOD!