ABC Jesus Loves Me (ABCJLM) Curriculum Review

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I’m terribly late with this curriculum review. But time has only heightened my appreciation for Heidi Franz’s “ABC Jesus Loves Me” (ABCJLM) curricula.

We’ve used all four of ABCJLM’s curricula: 2-year to 5-year. Here’s how we began:

During our first year of homeschooling (read here), I wasn’t sure if things would work out.  Hannah was then barely two.  All I knew was, I wanted a Bible-centered curriculum. And it has to be affordable.

So clueless me googled “homeschool curriculum for preschool”, and read many blogs and homeschool forums.  Then I cried.

Some curricula were terribly expensive (shipping fee not factored in)! Others were too overwhelming. How was I to do my laundry, cook, mop the floor…. I just wasn’t sure if I could complete all the things in the checklist within a week.

I prayed and prayed. There’s a tug in my heart to embark this journey.  But how Lord?

Finally, I landed on “ABC Jesus Loves Me” website.  It’s bible-centered. Check! The lessons seem doable. Check! It’s comprehensive. Check! It’s FREE!! Hallelujah!

Some friends whom I spoke to were skeptical about the quality of a free curriculum.  So I did more research. Having read many good reviews about the curriculum, I held my breath and took the plunge.

Four years on, I’m glad I took the first step.

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“ABC Jesus Loves Me” curriculum offers more than just academic development.  It teaches about gross and fine motor skills.

I especially like that it incorporates tips on basic manners, self-care and information a child ought to know. Being a first-time mom, I wasn’t sure what to teach and when without overwhelming my child. So having weekly objectives were definitely welcomed!

Following a weekly objective helped pace our learning.  I didn’t have to follow a daily lesson plan or checklist rigidly. The activities and crafts were adequate.

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Of course, I’m very, absolutely grateful that Heidi offers ALL lesson plans to homeschool families for free.

While you could have the lesson plans and workbooks printed for you,  I had several concerns.  Firstly, I wasn’t sure if homeschooling works out for us.  Secondly, the international shipping fee was is a BIG concern for me.  The currency exchange rate is another major factor.  USD$60 = nearly SGD$90 (excluding shipping fee).

Without a doubt, having everything printed allows me to have more sleep. 🙂  I might consider this option when teaching Elijah.

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Early this year, Heidi introduced the 1-year curriculum. We’re several weeks into the curriculum for Elijah.  So far so good!  Elijah has picked up basic sign-language.  His learning pace is vastly different from Hannah’s.  This new curriculum certainly provides me with much needed tips and ideas.

I find it difficult to teach Hannah and occupy Elijah at the same time.  I’ve tried setting up independent activities for Elijah but he doesn’t play on his own for long.  He’s more interested in his sister’s work!

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Having started on the 1-year curriculum, I find that I’m able to teach both children.  Hannah enjoys helping her brother in his work.  And she gets what she enjoys: more “school” time with me.

I still struggle to carve out time to prepare activities, borrow books and print activity sheets for both children.  Nowadays, I’m so drained by evening that I end up in bed with the kids. If you have any tips or suggestion on how to better manage time, please drop me a line.  Suggestions very welcomed!

Ok, I’ve digressed…

All in all, if you’re looking for a flexible, Bible-centered, quality preschool curricula, then check out ABC Jesus Loves Me.

Happy homeschooling!

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ABCJLM Week 1: Sun, Moon and Earth

Over the last two weeks, we studied the Sun, Moon and our “Blue Planet”. I admit I’m taking a week longer to finish what’s scheduled, but as long as we’re enjoying the process and continue to learn.  I’m good with the pace.

We learned that the gravity of the Sun holds its gases together; forming a consistent shape and size.  The Sun’s gravity also pulls on the planets so that they go around it.  It is also the perfect distance between the Sun and Earth that allows life to flourish.  How amazing is that?!

Earth orbits Sun activity

To demonstrate what “orbit” meant, I got Hannah to swirl a ball of blue play dough (Earth) around a piece of orange play dough (Sun) on a dish. It certainly takes practice to steady our hands and swirl the ball at a constant rate!

Rotation of Earth around Sun: Day and Night

We learned that the Earth rotates every day and takes a year to orbit around the Sun.  To understand how day and night occurs, we used a flashlight (Sun) to shine on a ball (Earth).  We mark a spot on the ball as Singapore, then rotate it slowly.

Next, Hannah became the Sun.  She had to hold still (which was difficult) with the flashlight while I go around her with the ball.  She couldn’t wait to be Earth!  As she walked around me, she sang the months of year in English and Mandarin.

Now the messy bit!

Form Moon Craters Activity

We read that the Moon’s craters are formed when meteorites hit its surface.  And because the Moon has no atmosphere, it has no weather or wind.  So once a crater is formed, there is no way to remove it.

Hannah had fun throwing peanuts (meteorites) onto a plate of flour (moon).  We had observed that the greater the force used to throw the peanut, the bigger/deeper the crater.  Eventually, she decided to put her hands on the “moon”!

Our finale…

Sun-Earth-Moon-Orbit Craft

I love this model because it summarises nicely what we’ve learned. You can download the Sun-Earth-Moon Orbiting Craft here.

Here’s the list books we’ve used:

  1. Sun: Energy for Our Solar System by Julie K. Lundgren
  2. The Sun: The Star of Our Solar System by Ellen Lawrence
  3. The Moon by Nuria Roca, Carol Isern, Rocio Bonilla (check out “The Sun” by the same authors too!)

One reason why I enjoy homeschooling? It’s because I’m always learning together with my child. And without fail, I walk away awe-struck by God’s greatness.

What have you been learning lately?

DIY Foam Letter Builders

DIY foam letter builders

I finally got about creating these foam letter builders!  If you have a child that’s learning to write, this will help make pre-writing instruction easy.

I learned this idea from Erica of “Confessions of a Homeschooler”.  And upon further research, I found that “Handwriting Without Tears” (a handwriting curriculum) uses a similar material as well.

How to create letter builders?

The builders comprise of:

  • long and short lines;
  • big and little curves and;
  • dots for lowercase letters.

You can refer to Erica’s magnetic alphabet builders for a template.  Otherwise, you could, like me, trace the curves with a circular object and cut them out.

There’s a slight variation to my letter builders, I’ve added an even shorter line to make three different lengths. While playing around with the builders, I’ve noticed that I needed an even shorter line to make the lowercase letters e.g. “m” (as shown above).

How many pieces do I need?

You can cut as many pieces as you like.  The number of pieces really depends on how you are using the builders.  I’ve cut 4 pieces for each size so that Hannah can form at least one capital letter and one lowercase letter.

How to use letter builders?

I’m no expert in this.  But here are some of the things we’ve done:

Pre-writing: I demonstrate how a letter is formed using the builders.  As I form each stroke, I say the letter formation “chants” (taken from “ABC Jesus Loves Me”).  It does help Hannah remember the writing strokes.  Then, Hannah imitates what I’ve done.

Numbers and Math symbols: This one was thought by Hannah herself!  You can learn how to write numbers, math symbols like: greater than, less than, equal, plus, minus, divide etc.  Then form equations as your child progresses.

Patterns: Again, Hannah came up with this. You can create patterns or simply have fun creating smiley faces.  🙂

For us, these letter builders come in handy when Hannah doesn’t want to pick up her pencil.  We still can get around to practice writing without the frustration.

4 Fantastic Stories on Noah’s Ark for Children

Four fantastic Noah's Ark books for children

Other than reading the stories from the Bible, I like to include other books relating to our main story.  For instance, I found four great books about Noah and his ark.  While, not all of these story are biblically based (e.g. “The Two-By-Two Band” by David Flavell) , I find that it adds different dimension to the story, even as we look to the Bible for scripture accuracy.

  1. The Two-By-Two Band by David Flavell and Alison Bartlett
    If you have a child who loves making music, this book will definitely appeal to him.  The story talks about Noah forming a band with his animals with whatever instruments they could find onboard. The marmosets played the castanets, the pangolins on the violins and the baboons with their bassoons.  Hannah enjoyed learning the names of the different animals and their instruments. And we searched the Internet for the sounds made by these instruments.
  2.  On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett
    Can you imagine how packed the ark might have been with all the animals? In Jan Brett’s story of Noah’s ark, she imagines Noah’s grand-daughter spending her days with animals great and small.  We love her beautiful illustrations against the papyrus background too!
  3. Noah’s Ark by Jerry Pinkney
    This Caldecott Honour book captures the courage and drama of the biblical parable beautifully.  We love the illustrations and how it was written. This picture book is our absolute favourite!
  4. I Can Read series: Noah’s Ark by Kelly Pulley
    Emergent readers will enjoy reading this story by Kelly Pulley.  The text is simple and easy to read, without compromising the gist of the parable.  At first, Hannah read bits of this story based on the words she was familiar with.  After several readings, she was able to read the entire story from memory.

These four books have been included our homeschool curriculum for the past three years.  Hannah still remembers the titles of the books and would request them from time to time.

If you would like to purchase any of these books, you may like to take advantage of the 15% discount at NoQ Online Bookstore using my discount code.  Enjoy reading!

Listen Buddy: Lessons on Being Attentive

Cover page of "Listen Buddy" by Helen Lester.

Following  Hubbard’s Cupboard and ABC Jesus Loves Me curricula, we’ve been focusing much on character traits.  Coincidentally,  the learning material for Hannah’s Sunday School also discusses on the qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit.

For the week, our character trait was of “Attentiveness“.  This is one trait we struggle with from time to time.  One of the books we remembered vividly from the lesson was, “Listen Buddy” by Helen Lester.

Synopsis

The theme revolves around a bunny named Buddy who was having a difficult time paying attention because his mind was always wandering.  Whenever Buddy’s parents asked him for one thing, he gave them something else.  Finally, Buddy learned his lesson the hard way.  He took the wrong path and wandered into the cave of Scruffy Varmint (whom I think was a wolf), who nearly had Buddy for his lunch.

What We Love

We love the silly rhymes that Buddy came up with.  Like bringing home a basketful of wash instead of squash, and slicing a bed instead of bread.  What’s more, the book shares the frustration of Buddy’s parents (and mine too). They’ve tried shouting, they’ve tried whispering.  Nothing works.

This book helped drive the point of listening actively: body still, mouth closed, eyes watching, ears listening and heart is calm; to be focused.  Listening carefully keeps one safe from danger, and helps us get things done correctly.  It doesn’t sound as if Mama’s the one telling Hannah to be more attentive, rather the story unfolds itself to the child.

Preschool activities for "Listen Buddy"

Accompanying Activities

  1. Create Buddy’s ears:  We made bunny ears out of construction paper.  At the back, I used a ribbon to form a crown so that it’s easy for Hannah to put on and take off.
  2. Identify the right requests: As we re-read the story, Hannah has to make right the requests.  E.g. It should squash instead of wash.
  3. Play “Simon Says” game: We played “Simon Says” game to reiterate the importance of hearing instructions carefully.
  4. Draw what I draw: This game was suggested from ABC Jesus Loves Me.  Hannah had to draw what I drew on paper.  It wasn’t easy for her as she’s one who liked to draw however and whatever she wants.  It didn’t take long for her to change the rules – for me to follow what she draws.

Share With Me

What activities do you come up with to get your kids to listen attentively?

Things May Not Be So Complicated After All…

It’s week 2 of homeschooling with our new curriculum; focusing on character education.  It’s summer all year round in Singapore so I thought we’d skipped the break, and head straight on.  I’m hoping to cover as much as I can before the baby arrives in October.  Then, I’m pretty sure Hannah will have ample time for free play.

For the first week, we covered the creation story while focusing on the character trait: orderliness. Hannah fondly remembers the mobile we did last year, and requested if we could make another one this time round.  And so we did.

As we moved on to number counting,  the little girl remembered counting apples on our apple tree posters, that I made early last year.  She was then 22 months.  I had kept extra copies of the apple tree (from ABC Jesus Loves Me’s 2-Year Curriculum) and decided to let her paste paper flowers on the trees.  You can get the punches at $2 from Daiso.

This was one impromptu go-along activity with the book “Chicka Chicka 1,2,3”.  (See our other Chicka Chicka activities here)

Counting 1-10 activities.

As I watched Hannah paste her flowers, I recalled reading posts by other homeschoolers on ABCJLM’s forum on whether certain activities would be too easy for their children since they already knew their numbers, shapes and colours.  And if they should be doing a more advanced exercise.

I’ve come to realise that sometimes we, as parents, overcomplicate things.  Through these two activities with Hannah, I’ve come to understand that it’s okay to let the children have activities that aren’t challenging.  The activities that they find joy and bring memories are the ones they’ll enjoy most (or is it the other way around?)

As a homeschool mom, I totally understand their concerns and the need for a child to be challenged to develop his skills.  In my opinion, however, instead of focusing solely on developmental progress, it’s alright to incorporate activities that they have no problems completing.  Just let them have some fun! Moreover, it serves as a good recap for them.

Don’t we enjoy doing things that are easy and fun too?

Letter of the Week: N is for….

The “Letter of the Week” theme is very popular among preschoolers (do a google and you’ll find out how many parents are doing this!)  I don’t blog every “Letter of the Week” activities, just those that we had a lot of fun (and mess) creating.

Letter N Crafts

Letter of the week - N theme

N is for Newspaper

We searched in the newspaper for words that begin with the letter “N” and we would stick them on our letter “N” poster.

N is for Nest

Our nest looks more like peas and spaghetti! LOL!  You try making your little nest using:

  1. Yarn
  2. Pom-poms
  3. Adhesive felt
  4. Colored glue pens
  5. White glue
  6. Ikea’s Mala paper or any thick paper

Hannah slopped glue all over the paper, and pasted the yarn.  This is the “nest”.  To make the chicks, I cut pom-poms in half and pasted them onto our nest.  I used adhesive felt to make their little beaks.  Then dot some colored glue for their eyes.  Leave them to dry.

Because the little girl used a whole LOT of glue, it took some time to dry.  While waiting, she decided to use water color to paint the background.  Final product? A red mama bird and her green chicks!

N is for Nativity

Instead of the manger, we made the angel who announced to the shepherds that Christ was born.  We used shapes to create the angel – 2 ovals, 1 circle and 1 triangle (a great way to review shapes).  Using florescent colored glue pens, I showed Hannah how to create stars.  We ended up with colored glue all over the table, hands, clothes and all…

N is for Nightingale

Hannah enjoyed reading “The Emperor and the Nightingale” (Usborne First Reading edition).  The story was simple for her to follow along and she was able to mimic the various animals mentioned in the story e.g. the frog, the cow and the golden mechanical nightingale.

We also learned about Florence Nightingale through the Popcorn: History Corner series.  Written by Kay Barnham, it’s an easy reading for little children to learn about the people in history.  There’s even a page that teaches children how to make a sling.

N is for Nightingale

The Story of Moses

We learned about the story of Moses during weeks 7 to 10 of 3-Year ABC Jesus Loves Me curriculum.  We begin where Moses was placed in a basket and into the river.

To help Hannah understand the story, we made baby Moses, basket and river out of play dough.  It wasn’t a work of art or anything spectacular but it served as a useful illustration for Hannah to remember for the week.

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The story continues to the time where God, through Moses, parted the Red Sea.  One of our craft activity was to re-create the entire scene using crepe paper, cardboard, play dough people and plastic farm animals.  We imagined how it would have felt for the Israelites – panic, awe-struck, tiredness, fear, excitement all rolled in one.

To let Hannah understand that these stories were not made-up, and that they really are actual events that took place long ago, I showed her the map where the Red Sea lies.

Throughout several weeks, we read stories like, “Let My People Go” by Tilda Balsley, “Miriam’s Cup: A Passover Story” by Fran Manushkin, and “Nachshon, who was  afraid to swim: A Passover Story” by Deborah Bodin Cohen.

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Finally, we end the story of Moses with the 10 commandments.  We learned the 10 commandments through the 10 Commandments Train, found on ABC Jesus Loves Me website. We learned that God gave us rules to keep us safe and happy.

We observed that the 10 commandments can be grouped into two main commandments (mentioned in Matthew 22 and Mark 12):

  1. to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul; and
  2. to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

The first three commandments focus on God, while the next seven commandments are about loving others and oneself.

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As a family activity, we watched snippets of “The Prince of Egypt” and focused on the main themes.  Hannah simply loves the song, “River Lullaby” and requested to hear it again and again!

Games to Teach Children their Name

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Hannah has been learning how to spell her name over the past weeks. Although it’s part of  3 Year ABC Jesus Loves Me curriculum, I follow the lesson plans loosely.

Besides learning to spell her name through a song (see my previous post), Hannah plays the following games:

  1. Put letters of her name in correct order
    I write letters of Hannah’s name on pieces of paper.  Then, have Hannah sort her name in the correct order.  I try not to interfere when she’s trying to piece her name together.  So even if she seems uncertain, I’ll ask her to try again.  If she still has trouble piecing them correctly, we’ll go through the name song to jog her memory.
  2. Pick the correct letters of her name and put them in correct order
    Once Hannah is able to put the letters of her name in correct order, I threw in extra letters, and she has to pick the correct letters and piece them together.  Again, we’ll recite the name song if she needs help.
  3. Arrange her name in correct order with the capital letter in front
    Now that Hannah is comfortable arranging the letters of her name in order, I introduced her name in lower case, and teaching her that the first letter of her name should be a capital.  There are still times, she’ll still get confused and put the capital letter “H” at the end.  I’ll correct her by  putting the capital letter in front.

It’s such an exciting period of learning to read and write!  If you have any other suggestions to help Hannah read and write, please share them with me.

Joseph and his colourful coat

A quick recap on what we did and learned for the story of Joseph.

(1) Life isn’t always fair. Your attitude and perspective are what matters.

We learned that life isn’t always a bed of roses. Life isn’t what we see in dramas and cartoons – no happily ever after.

We face decisions, challenges and trials all the time (whether we like or not). Rather than wallow in self-pity or blame whatever happened to us on someone else, wouldn’t it be better if we tell God our struggles and believe that we better ourselves through the tough times? It’s our attitude and perspective that matters. You determine whether you are going through a “tragedy” or challenge.

Joseph didn’t deserve to be sold and betrayed by his brothers, he didn’t deserve to be put behind bars, and clearly he didn’t deserve to be forgotten after helping the cupbearer. Still these awful things happened to him. Yet, he went through each episode, and made the best of circumstances. His attitude and perspective made a difference.

Eventually, he became the Pharaoh’s right-hand man, and saved his family and Egypt from famine.

(2) Be tactful with your words

In my honest opinion, Joseph telling his elder brothers that they’d bow to him wasn’t the cleverest thing to do. Some may say that he was just relaying his dreams. No wrong to that.

From where I was brought up, that’s completely disrespectful. They are after all, his elders, and one ought to consider how the other person would feel before one shoots his mouth off.

If Joseph needed to share with someone his dreams, he could have confided with his parents in private. There wasn’t a need to let his brothers know, especially with all that animosity.

(3) Be mindful of your feelings. Jealousy blinds vision; leading one to do silly things

It’s only human to feel jealous or angry but allowing it to manifest into an ugly monster, that’s not what we would want.

If we relate back to the 10 commandments, we recall that it tells us not to covet- become jealous of what others have.

Activity: A colorful coat to wear
My initial plan was to color a picture of Joseph and his coat. When I saw the remaining crepe paper in my drawer, I was inspired to create a “coat” for Hannah using just crepe paper, drawing paper and glue.

First, I cut a hole on a drawing paper. Then, we glued the crepe paper onto the paper and we’re done! It’s quick and easy.

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Try it! Your very own colourful coat, just like Joseph.