Tara's Toyland Home Daycare

Where Learning is Fun and Friendships Flourish


How to Plan a Curriculum

Posted by tarastoyland on December 17, 2019 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (2)

I love planning curriculum.  I think in college I should have gone into that as a field of study but I had no idea it was even an option. I did an independent study on why thematic teaching is the best method and developed my own theme as a college Senior. Coming up with creative ways to make all the spokes of learning connect together makes me so excited.  Often I think of a theme I want to do and start collecting items to go with it so that when I have enough I can dive into a new set of ideas.  In home daycare I will have the same kids from birth till kindergarten and I don't like to repeat themes for those kids so that means that I usually do about 10 themes a year for 3 or 4 different years before I repeat.  Sometimes I combine themes like Pirates and Under the Sea went together and Outer Space can go with Star Wars and sometimes it's a small part of a bigger theme that I concentrate on like Pets instead of just Animals. And with some groups the ages just don't work out to do a lot with a theme, right now I have 3 very young kids in the group who don't take a morning nap anymore so actual teaching is haphazard and it's more one on one with the older three as they need it.

Because I love doing curriculum plans I often will do them for other people that ask. My curriculum uses stuff almost all of us already have in our daycares and take very little prep really.  I hear of people spending hours getting things ready or printing stuff out and it just perplexes me as I never considered those things as a need for preschoolers. I might print out a dot to dot or an emergent reader but that is about it. Art is what I prep the most for really and that is only to make sure I have figured out the way to keep mess to a minimum and clean up the easiest (so having soapy washclothes ready if we are doing feet painting type of thing.) I end up retyping the same thing over and over and figured I could just make a blog post instead.

Step 1 - Decide on a theme, there are literally thousands of options. Any object can become a theme, there was a podcast on a preschool that did a whole theme on balls that lasted many months and was quite amazing with the kids analyzing the materials that the balls were made of and doing comparisons. They also did one on boxes that was very involved.

Step 2 - List the subjects you want to teach.  There are a lot of different ways people approach teaching in their own minds.  If you have infants you may want to do Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, Smell.  There's the traditional Math, Science, Social Awareness, Large Motor, Small Motor, Reading Readiness, Writing, Music, Art.  So here are some other options:**Illinois Early Learning Standards ** Benchmarks – Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Physical Development and Health, Fine Arts, Foreign Language, Social/Emotional Development **Early Childhood Centers** sensory table, art, songs/music, math, science, large motor, fine motor, hands on center, dramatic play center, block center, self help, getting along with others and self (social/emotional), books/language/literacy **Early Learning Accomplishments Profile (ELAP test)** Fine motor, Gross motor, Cognition, Language, Self-help, Social-emotional **Areas of learning ** Personal, social and emotional development; Communication, language and literacy; Mathematical development; Physical development; Creative development; Knowledge and understanding of the world ** Dispositions to Learning ** Self-regulation of attention and behavior; Effective social skills to develop a positive relationship with others; Positive attitude toward learning; Self-motivation for learning; Listening skills; Ability to set goals and develop and follow through on plans; Understanding, accepting, and following rules and routines; Finding more than one solution to a question.

Step 3 - Make a chart where you write the subjects down one side and days of week across top or a spider graph where you put the theme title/goal in the middle and spokes out to boxes for each subject.  Now it's time to fill in the boxes.

Step 4 - Look for things to teach, or come up with them on your own, that cover that theme and those things. Do not search for workbook type pages. Do not search for cookie cutter art projects. Search for open ended art things and toy/game related activities. Put those in the boxes for each subject. Some themes will be heavy on one subject more than another. That's ok, just do the next theme as one that is heavier on a different subject and by the end of the year it will even out. Pinterest is a treasure trove of neat ideas as long as you are thinking of hands on and not worksheets or heavy prep things. In these blogs I have lots of different themes as examples. If you aren't sure what preschoolers need to learn search for that.  There are lots of free trainings on that type of thing and it is literally a deep enough subject that you can spend decades learning it, but it is preschool, not rocket science, just break down any skill to the smallest bits.  Writing their name?  Well first they need to know what a line or circle is, then be able to draw those, then to recognize those as letters, than have the fine motor skills to combine them into something recognizable.  Adding and Subtracting?  Well first they need to learn what numbers are, what order they come in, what "2" looks like when you have different objects (not the written number but the quantity), how to count out objects saying one number per object, to understand that you take away and go down in numbers, or put in more you count up. It is lots of different steps for each thing but it's intuitive if you think about it.  

Step 5 - teach! I like to start each lesson with a book (or two or five) that is on a certain subject within the theme.  So if I want to work on numbers I would read books that have numbers in them.  Want to do a lesson on dogs, read books with dogs in them.  Just so the lesson relates to the books in some way.  Then do an activity from your chart.  You can do a few of them - you just read dog books, talk about the /d/ sound or how to sound out d-o-g, find the word dog in the book and keep track of how many times you see it, count out all the stuffed dogs you have, sort them by type, or color, or size, do a running game where you put a dachsund over here and another across the room in a pile and they have to run down and find the match - all that combined would take less than 20 minutes.  Then I like to finish off with an art project.  Read my blog on art for what to do with that.  With our dog example I may use plastic dogs to walk in paint and make tracks on paper.  I may use dog toys to paint with or paw print cookie cutters.  I may have them glue fur down onto a dog shape.  And there you are, a quick lesson that covers all you need, with supplies you probably already own, in a way that will make sense to the kids and they can tell their parent when they give them the dog art project that they counted dogs that day and that dog starts with the d sound and are brown or black or white.  It will all tie together in their mind and not just be random.


Using Memory Game to scaffold learning

Posted by tarastoyland on August 22, 2019 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

This past spring I had a set of 4 girls that were going off to kindergarten in the next school year.  They did their kindergarten screening test and one parent said that their daughter knew the letter sounds but not the names.  So when she was shown an S she made the s sound instead of saying it was an S.  Obviously she knew the letter by sight and the sound it made but she needed to know the name too.

It just so happened that this girl really loved playing Memory.  But she wanted nothing to do with learning her letter names.  So, I made a memory game that was matching upper case to lower case letters.  Worked like a charm! By the end of that week she knew all her letter names, and so did the newly turned 3 year old and the not yet 3 year old.  Since all the kids caught on so quick I added to the game, I put pictures in the mix so they could match apple to apple, or apple to A or apple to a or A to a.  This twist kept the kids interested.  I searched GoodWill for enough versions of the game so that every child had a copy of ABC Memory to have at home.

Now two of the girls really were way past just letter sounds, they were ready to be blending.  So I made those two girls a set of phonetic word cards and pictures.  There was pen and hen, pig and peg and leg - all were very similar and tricky but they also were experts in no time.  It was really great to see the fun the kdis had with this.  BUT I must admit by the 50th game of Memory in a week, I was kinda over the whole thing!  

The value of Mean Based Standardized testing in Early Child Education

Posted by tarastoyland on March 23, 2015 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

originally written in December 2012

Recently on a forum a mother asked how to improve her child's fine motor skills. All sorts of good (and a few not so good) suggestions were given. The mother was saying the child could do everything that we suggested. This didn't seem right. From what she reported as the teacher's comments I thought perhaps the mom had blinders on. I offered to evaluate the child to see where he really was skill wise and give the mom some sense of what to do. *note to self, stop being so spontaneously generous*



Last night I had the child over to my house. He and I spent about an hour going over what he knew. I started with the test for fine motor since that is what the teacher said he needed to work on. I like using the LAP-3 test. It's great at telling you exactly what age, to the month, a child should be able to do something. For instance by 24 months they should be able to put one inch blocks into a jar with a 1 1/2 inch opening. Standardized. FACT, not opinion.



In talking with the mother I found out that this child missed kindergarten cut off date by a few weeks. The brick and mortar chain preschool he went to said that he was "way behind" and should not go to kindergarten next year but rather have another year of preschool. (which would mean in the first month of his kindergarten year he would turn seven!) Then I found out the worse part of the story. Last year, the boy who had just turned FOUR was in the two year old room. This is TWO years below his age level. Due to his birthdate he should have been in the older three year old room. I explained to the mom how horrible this was, If you took a two year old and put them in the infant room would you expect them to be taught age appropriate things? Would you expect that two year old to start drinking out of a normal cup when he was the only one in the room not on a bottle? That is what that school did to this kid. Because I do home daycare and have multiple ages every day I separate my daycare room so that there is a big kid area where the older kids can do age appropriate things without worry. There's nothing worse then building a nice big block tower only to have a two year old that doesn't understand come over and knock it down. But in a room of only two year olds you would not have the protection of a safe building zone. So how could you learn to build towers from blocks like a four year old should?



It gets worse. They had a conference and told the mom that the child was basically dumb. Oh, they didn't use those words but they may as well have. She was told he needed INTENSIVE help. I expected this child to not even be able to hold the pencil the right way from what I had already read honestly. Before she arrived at my house I was worried that I was going to have to break it to the mom that her child was not the sharpest tack in the box.



I started on fine motor. After a bit I had to tell the mom to go to the other room, she didn't understand there was a reason I was explaining what to do the way I was. He soared through the skills. Soon we were at 36 months and he was not blinking an eye at what I asked him to do. In no time we were at 48 months. Yes he is a young five which would put him at just over 60 months, but he has another year before kindergarten so schooling wise he is at about 51 months as the target. I told his mom he was not behind long before I stopped the testing at 65 months. This kid was not behind at all in fine motor.



Maybe the teacher didn't identify the skill set properly. So I told the mom I would go over some other things in the test to make sure he wasn't behind in any other area. In every test he was at least 50 months old skill set, and in all but three things he was above 60 month skill set.



He was behind in writing his name. CHRONICLE AGE wise. School age wise he was exactly on target for this time in the school year. His only skill that he was behind at all was writing letters. I am sure that is because he was in the wrong class setting last year. The other skill he needed to work on was putting on his shirt and socks. This obviously is not a skill that kindergarten teachers care about. He can zip his coat even. The mom left here with concrete suggestions to improve those skills - 1.) give the kid 20 minutes before bedtime, hand him his clothes and tell him to put them on, he'll figure it out, 2) buy the Kumon handwriting books for upper and lower case, no other brand approaches the METHODOLOGY of handwriting like they do, and do a few pages a night, 3) buy Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD and have him watch it 3 times a night for 2 weeks straight to learn all letter sounds and lastly 4) practice writing his name one time each night with the laminated sheet I sent home. (see method below)



That is all this boy needs. The teacher he had now, and it turns out the director also, did not use an accurate test to decide where this boy was. Maybe the kid didn't have his glasses yet, or was sick on the day of the testing, perhaps the day of testing that they did he was being difficult, or shy. Maybe the school isn't to blame for the test, I will admit that. But they should have seen once he was there for any length of time that he was in the wrong class and moved him back to the proper age group. If the test failed the child the teachers should have stepped up. The teachers failed him too. I was mad that this school was hurting children in such a way. I was sad that this bright, awesome little boy was almost subjected to another year of people thinking he was dumb.



Last night the test showed his skill levels. Not Miss Nora, not my opinion, not what I had seen from knowing other kids in the 4K age level. A test that any teacher in any state can use and we could compare kids objectively was given and that test showed that this boy would have done just fine in kindergarten THIS year if he had gone.



My final recommendation to the mom was to find him a new school cause the one he has now sucks.

Why I am glad I sent my kids to kindergaretn at 5

Posted by tarastoyland on March 22, 2015 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

this was originally written July 2014

When I first started daycare in this house Elise was 4 months old. She couldn't sit up yet, let alone crawl, walk or talk. One of my first daycare girls was Kelsey who was 15 months old. She was talking, walking and doing toddler things. Five and a half years later Kelsey and Elise started kindergarten on the same day. Elise had just turned 5, that day, Kelsey was a month away from turning 6. Both started by the legal cut off start date for the district, but was Kelsey at the same level as Elise? Obviously not, she was 11 months older. So, should kids wait till they are closer to 6 yrs old or start when they are able to by age, most being 5 years old? This note is to examine that issue.



As they say, hindsight is 20/20.


I was reading some articles on why parents were going to "red shirt" their child by not sending the child who is 5 yrs old before the district guidelines to kindergarten. Since I have summer birthday kids who are now about to enter 7th and 10th grade I feel I can speak on this in the hindsight view. Tara was 5 years and 2.5 months old when she started kindergarten, Elise started kindergarten on her 5th birthday. Additionally I do home daycare so both of them had only ME as their first teacher. We did make sure to have them experience other adults in charge through library story time, swim lessons and other sports, but I was the primary teacher in their lives.


I must say that they both had the most amazingly fabulous kindergarten teacher, Miss Nowak. I think that was essential in their schooling going smoothly that first year. Neither of them had any anxiety over school, only excitement. Tara started with a speech problem not being able to say her /th/ or /y/ or r controlled vowels. Elise had lots of fevers and missed about 30 days of school each year up until 4th grade when she had kidney reflux surgery. They were average as first day of kindergarten kids, but very confident in themselves and in being away from home for school. Our kindergarten is a half day here so they still had lunch at home that year.



So, today I am reading articles about redshirting. I often read such things because although my kids are old I work with parents of preschoolers. Here are some reasons the parents gave to not send their child to kindergarten as a 5 yr old, and my hindsight view.


1. Wanting their child to be the oldest. My children are tiny, skinny, and short. Sorry kids, you know it's true. But they never suffered for being the last to grow tall, the last to develop. Yes it was hard when Tara was in 6th grade and only wearing a size 12.5 shoe and finding shoes that weren't Dora, sparkly or little kid looking was next to impossible. And it was irritating that both girls were told in 6th grade gym class they MUST have bras on even though they were not anywhere near needing them. But there were other girls that didn't need them yet either. The girls that had issues were those that started having to wear a bra in 4th grade, or those that started their period in grade school. Those kids were friends with my girls and hated being the mature ones. Next year Tara would have taken Driver's Ed, but instead she is going to a school that won't offer it and will be so academically challenging that she isn't going to even try to take it until after she is 16 anyway, driving is not something she wants to do yet just like half the kids her age.


2. Wanting to wait to start their formal education. As the person who taught my kids for preschool I knew my kids were ready academically for kindergarten. They knew all their letter names and sounds, they could count out objects, add and subtract, count by 2s, 5s and 10s, do patterns, and many other things. One of my daycare boys missed the cut off and spent an extra year of preschool with me, he was reading by Thanksgiving just like the kids that went to kindergarten. He's now about to enter 5th grade and doing math and reading at the 6th or 7th grade level and luckily is at a school that will let him do that, otherwise he would have been bored or had to skip a grade (which is harder to do then holding back a grade). Tara went to school with a set of twins that were literally hours younger then her. They struggled in school and repeated 3rd grade. It was their choice and they are about to enter high school confident and academically ready. It was no big deal for them to stay back that year, no one teased them, they made new friends easily and fit in fine. Being held back a year was easier then skipping ahead, we had to fight to get Tara into advanced classes and she was never "allowed" to be in the gifted program but is going to an elite high school this fall and is 2 yrs ahead in math. So, starting sooner or later can go either way but from what I've seen it's easier to repeat a year of school instead of skip ahead. I didn't want to hold my kids back. Oh, that boy who missed the cut off - the day he turned 5 he thought he would be allowed to start kindergarten even though it was a month into the school year, the poor boy was so upset that he wasn't allowed to start school with his friends who were only months older. I think this was harder on him then starting kindergarten early could ever have been.


3. I want my oldest child to stay close to her younger siblings. Really? Maybe it's cause my child went to afternoon kindergarten but it has not hurt their relationship at all. Elise napped when Tara went to school. There were some very cute photos of Elise waiting at the corner of the yard for her sister to get home from school, but it just made the bond between them stronger.


4. I want her to be a leader in school. My daughters have both been leaders, and some of the older kids in the class have not been. It has nothing to do with age, everything to do with personality.


5. Along the same lines as 2, I want my child to be able to enjoy childhood longer. My kids were lucky in that I do daycare I guess, but they played with toys until they were 11, their friends would come to our house to play cause we still had lots of toys. And as recently as last week they were playing on the swings out back.


6. I want her to be more emotionally mature. My girls were very emotionally mature, again, personality more then age.


7. (The parent) is just not ready. Who is schooling for? The parent or the child? As a parent there are many times that we must make a sacrifice in order for our children to get what they need. In the case of my kids this meant me letting go of them when they had just turned 5. As an early education expert I have looked at actual research, peer reviewed studies, and those say that starting them when they are legally able to (usually at 5 yrs old, it varies by state with when cut offs are) is the best option.



Now MY main reason for sending kids to school at the age they qualify is, as this article http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/dont-delay-your-kindergartners-start.html?_r=0

so clearly states - the one main way to increase academic success is by being IN school. I had a daycare boy who had a spring birthday who was very behind in skills. No matter how I tried this child would not understand and retain information. I encouraged his parents to send him to kindergarten on time, knowing full well that his new daycare would say the exact opposite. My main reason for saying he should go was that in a formal school setting he would get the help he needed from people trained in that area of education. Being in elementary school was the best thing that could happen to him, it would give him daily academic help in ways he needed. Another year of daycare, even good daycare, would not do what he needed. I have not researched this subject since 2004 when Tara was turning 5, so I revisited the studies to see if my earlier findings were still true, that the studies prove it's best to send them with their cut off age. It seems that the studies still support my view.




this article seems to indicate that poor families should hold their kids back, but for non poor families it doesn't matter http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9082/index1.html




this study says that it's other factors instead of age that need to be considered, and that knosing the age of the child makes the teacher biased in expectations




another article, I found this one interesting because it follows kids that were born in 74. Page 161 in the report (it is not that long, just think it was in a journal that had it there in the magazine) shows the results. Basically saying that redshirted kids have MORE issues. However if kids were redshirted for them to "get more mature" it seems that this would mean that they did not need that year to get mature, they just were more prone to behavior issues. This article followed kids through college graduation and first years in the job market and surprised me when it said that younger students did better on test scores in high school. Page 171 states that there is no difference in economic status or gender of child either.




this article shows results of long term studies, and sorry, redshirting hurts kids in the long run



this article is much more current, 2008, and says any edge disappears by 8th grade http://www.news.illinois.edu/news/08/0818kindergarten.html




this article talks about a 1998 study, but it says there are mixed results





and here is a list of cut off dates by state that I thought was interesting http://users.stargate.net/~cokids/kindergarten_cut-off_dates.htm

and this one had a few different dates on it http://www.superpages.com/supertips/age-to-start-kindergarten-by-state.html



referenced links http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2013/08/10-reasons-why-im-not-sending-my-5-year-old-to-kindergarten-why-im-redshirting-my-daughter.html