Plan-Ahead Parent

where playful learning happens because it's planned

Starting with September

Kinetic Sand and Geometric shapes.

Kinetic Sand and Geometric shapes.

Fall is in the air and apples are on the trees (and in pies, apple sauce, baskets, lunch boxes and everywhere else!) here in Washington state. I love this time of year and all the fun exploration that goes along with it. This year our oldest is technically “Kindergarten” age, but we have elected to keep him home for at least another year. So I am doing my very best to be even more contentious about creating a rich learning environment at home. We are following a Montessori progression with art and play influences from the Reggio Emilia approach in our combined preschool and kindergarten homeschooling environment. I haven’t been blogging much because my professional writing has really taken up most of my “free time” lately. (You know, the hours before 7am and after 9pm.) But several friends have asked to see what we are doing for school at home, and writing it down is always the easiest way for me to communicate a large amount of information.

The process: On Sundays I plan out the activities for the week. I start with the skills I want to develop in each of my children in the different subject areas and then try to apply them to our current theme. I’ll be using some parts of the Apple Pack from including this calendar. I won’t list everything we do everyday, there is just too much, but this is the lesson plan I started with. Of course, while following the children, I find many other things to occupy our time and attention.

  • Art: Concept: cutting lines, diagonal, zig zag, wavy lines, circles.
    Project: cutting strips and cutting sheets added to cutting basket
    Source: Apple linesLine cutting
  • Music: Concept: Learning the names and values of notes.
    Project: Felt notes on large felt board staff. Counting with rhythm instruments and clapping while singing apple songs. Source: How to make a musical staff felt board Apple songs
  • Movement: Concept: Move our bodies.
    Project: Dance with scarves and music. Once upon a mat yoga video. Playground/Park visit. Ride bikes. Nature walk. Source: Video Once Upon a Mat 
  • Geography: Concept: Understanding Low, lower; high, higher; behind, in front; left and right.
    Project: Use Attribute Apples in a game to show directions (Move your apple behind you, in front, etc.) Source: Attribute Apples (we just have these, but you could use any apple picture or toy, or even real apples.)
  • History: Concept: Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Name the days of the week, months of the year. Project: Sing time-based songs at circle time. Discuss the calendar.
    Source: Songs
  • Language: Concept: Answer questions about pictures shown, describes pictures when asked “Tell me about this picture.” Can answer the question “what do you think they are doing/is happening here?” Learning about story telling.
    Project: Show pictures of children interacting with an orchard environment. Ask questions above. Write down the children’s answers to create their story along with the pictures.
    Source: I just googled “children picking apples” and printed a few small photos.
  • Math: Concepts: Understanding numerical value. Understanding ordinal numbers–order vs quantity. Sorting small to large. Geometric shape familiarity.
    Project: Game-draw a number from a hat and do an action that many times. Game-draw a number from a hat and acquire that many objects. Use Montessori cards and counters (preschool) to practice numerical value. Use Montessori cards and counters to explain odd/even (Kinder). Have children set out the numbers 1-10. Explain first-tenth. Order vs how many. Use Attribute Apples game and apple packing from box of apples with labels SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE. Use Kinetic Sand to fill shapes. Source: CountingOdd and evenAttribute Apples, Geometric shapes, kinetic sand
  • Practical Life: Concepts: How to use a chair. How to carry a chair. How to walk slowly and carefully in the work space. How to open and shut a door properly. How to use a book with care.
    Project: Demonstrate these slowly and carefully each day during morning circle.
  • Science: Concepts: Air fills space.
    Project: Using a beaker and a bowl of water, ask the children if the beaker is full or empty. Then have them turn it upside down and press the top of the beaker to the base of the bowl (underwater). Lift the corner of the beaker and watch the air bubbles escape. The beaker wasn’t empty after all, it was full of air.
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Wednesday: Reading

On Wednesdays we focus on reading and writing. To make it a little more exciting, we read outside in a “tent” I made from sheets and a clothesline. The boys LOVED this and have asked me to remake it every day this week. We also ate snack outside in the tent (messy, because my kids are used to a table). For writing, we did a little sidewalk chalk. 


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Tuesday: Science



We used this plant life cycle from



After talking about the life cycle of a plant, we planted basil and mint on the deck.

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Monday Music


I drew notes onto glass stones and had them say the type of note: Extensions: 1. Say how many beats. 2. Clap them out. We did this on our light table because we love it.

I drew notes onto glass stones and had them say the type of note:
Extensions: 1. Say how many beats. 2. Clap them out.
We did this on our light table because we love it.

Liam teaches Jude

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Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


We affectionately refer to our oldest as the “Jack-in-the-box kid” at bed and nap time. I’m sure some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. He pops out of his room every few minutes with a new excuse. “I’m thirsty.” or “I’m starving.” or “I need more books.” or “I have a question…um, um….” 

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world. I feel powerless. I feel disrespected. I feel….TIRED. I want a break, he is SUPPOSED to be sleep. WHY WON’T HE SLEEP?! 

The truth is, he isn’t trying to be disrespectful, powerful, mean-spirited, or disobedient. He’s just four. And he wants to be with people. He’s a sanguine extrovert, and it’s killing him that there are people who are awake and he can’t be with them. Keeping this in perspective has helped me to keep my cool. But another thing has helped with the Jack-in-the-boxing. 

I have taken power back by Jack-in-the-boxing HIM. It’s so simple I don’t know why it never occurred to me before. I was probably too furious about being interrupted. So in case you have a kid like mine, I’m sharing my new secret. 

I put him to bed, and I sit with him for a few minutes after prayers and stories and songs. Then I get up and say, “I need to turn the light off downstairs, I’ll be right back. You can stay awake until I return.” I come back a few minutes later and sit for a few minutes longer, then I leave again, this time for a little longer errand, I promise to return and remind him that he can stay awake until I get back. I do this three to six times, leaving for longer periods each time, always telling him what I’m doing (it helps him understand how long I’ll be gone) and using the same phrases, until he’s asleep. 

The idea behind this is that it provides the security he needs, knowing I’m still there, and that I am checking on him. It’s relaxing to him to know that I’ll be back and he doesn’t have to seek me out to get the attention he needs. And I feel less frustrated because I’ve regained control of the situation. I have a plan to follow, and that always makes me feel better. What can I say? I’m a planner. 

Hope this is helpful to some of you. Sweet dreams to all! 

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Sensory play: salt drawing

Add a little salt to cake pans, provide paint brushes and let them draw. I also provided playdoh letter stamps.




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The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

Newsflash: try as  you might, you are not perfect. That doesn’t mean that you are a failure or that you are not a good parent. Really.
I read a TON of parenting books, self-help books, improve your life books, theories for education books….a lot of how to make your life more meaningful, special, connected. Typically, I find some things about each book helpful and others obvious or unhelpful. But every once in a while a book comes along that is life changing. This year, Daring Greatly by, Dr. Brene Brown was that book. It’s changed so much about our family and how we see the world, including how we parent.

Here is her Parenting Manifesto from the chapter on what she calls “Wholehearted Parenting.” Read it, then get your hands on a copy of the book.

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto- Brene Brown

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable.
You will learn this from my words and actions–the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.
I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.
You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.
We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.
We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values as well as family practices.
You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.
I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is part of our everyday life.
Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.
We will laugh and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what you will always belong here.
As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

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Kiddie pool pond

We enjoy water in the summer, but the kiddie pool can lose its appeal after the 15th day of use. To make it exciting, I added some of our pond theme into the mix.
Two plastic frogs
Three squirting fish
A plastic turtle
A few green plastic, paper plate holders
And ice cube sail boats

They had a blast!





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Patterning and adding with Unifix cubes

Some ways we use the Unifix cubes.






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Ice cube bugs

I froze plastic bugs in an ice cube tray, then gave the kids screwdrivers, a small hammer, a bowl of water and two cups. They had to free the bugs and feed the frog.




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