Our Favorite Christmas Books for preschool and young elementary

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Clarissa has so many books that they don’t fit all fit on her bookshelf (side effect of your mother being a former reading teacher I suppose). There are certain books we like for each season so I rotate them out. I pull out the Christmas books about Thanksgiving time. But she knows where they are, so sometimes she will go and get them at random times during the year.

We have so many Christmas books that we really enjoy. This is our list of our favorite Christmas books for preschool and young elementary children.

  • Peek A Bible The Christmas Story by Tracy Harrast
    This is a lift the flap book that tells the Christmas story from Gabriel coming to see Mary until the wise men arrive to worship Jesus. Clarissa has always enjoyed lifting the flaps and I like that it is the true Biblical story.
  • Crystal Bowman’s Christmas board books are some of my favorites. I love the rhyme to the stories and the pictures are great. Clarissa really enjoys these as well.
    Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree talks about how every part of your Christmas tree (lights, the star, angels, presents, etc) points you back to Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.
    J is for Jesus talks about how a candy cane tells you Jesus’s story and gives details about the shepherds and angels at Christmas. It also talks about Jesus on the cross. Think Legend of the Candy Cane but for little ones.
    A Star for Jesus talks about how the star appeared in the sky and led the wise men to Jesus.
    My Christmas Stocking talks about St Nicholas and why we put presents in stockings today.
  • A Christmas Prayer by Amy Parker
    This rhyming book talks about being thankful for each part of the nativity set from the angel, to Mary and Joseph, the donkey, shepherds, star, and of course baby Jesus who was the best present of all.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    We like Little Cub in this house. In this installment, Mama takes Little Cub to go find God and see how He gave us Christmas. Little Cub is very excited that she can go and see God in things like the light, a glacier, and a star. They talk about how Jesus is the real reason for Christmas and the best gift ever.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
    I think I need to write a blog post specifically for her books. The Pine Tree Parable is about a family who comes to a poor family who comes to a pine tree farm and the little girl wants the biggest tree there. The family who owns the pine tree farm ends up gifting the family the tree, even though she was planning to keep it for their family. A wonderful story about giving.
  • Of course the Berenstain Bears have some fun Christmas books as well
    Trim the Tree is a flap book that watches the Bear family put up their Christmas Tree.
    In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, the cubs learn that it is better to give than to receive. They also are the camel in the Christmas Play where you can see the Nativity story.
    In The Very First Christmas, Papa Bear reads the cubs the Christmas story from the Bible. It has fun illustrations. Clarissa always thinks its funny that they are bears instead of people though.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia by Sue Corbett
    In this story, a brother and sister are supposed to visit their aunt in Virginia but the sister gets hurt so she can’t go. The brother writes his sister every day to tell about his adventures. We’re originally from Virginia so I like that Clarissa can learn a little bit about the state she’s from.
  • Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
    I like this story better than the original Gingerbread Boy because this one isn’t obnoxious. He just wants some friends and goes on an adventure to find them.
  • The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop
    This is a new favorite for me this year. In the beginning of the story, the princess is quite spoiled. So the king and queen come up with a plan. By the end of the story, the princess has given away all of her gifts and become truly gracious and kind. Clarissa is a little unsure because she thinks I am going to make her give away all of her presents though.
  • The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
    Clarissa was more excited about this new book about giving. Emma and her dog are invited to the king’s palace for his birthday party. Along the way Emma gives away all of her presents for the king. The king explains to her the verse that talks about “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” The end of the book gives some suggestions on how your family can give a birthday present to Jesus. Clarissa immediately was like, “Let’s do that!”
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
    This book isn’t about Jesus at all. But. It has all of the usual Little Critter antics that we enjoy. He tries to get the ornaments out for mom, but the box was upside down. He wants to give her Christmas cookies but he got hungry. You get the idea…

 

As a side note, I noticed as I was linking these to Amazon, most of these books are on sale right now. They are also not new books, so some are available at your local library.

The changing nature of Kindergarten

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Clarissa and I did a preschool curriculum together last school year. She really liked it in the beginning and then started to lose interest in April so we stopped. By May she was asking to do “real school” at home so I planned a June start to kindergarten.

I spent hours looking through all of my school supplies and the activities that I had downloaded. I tried a homeschool planning course to see if that would help me. But I think that stressed me out more because it encouraged me to plan for the entire year before I start the school year. I decided to plan unit studies since I don’t have a formal curriculum to just break down into sections. I did make an outline of what units I thought we would do this year, but I knew it could change because I wasn’t sure how much Clarissa would enjoy doing each day.

I wanted to start slow and get into a habit of doing lessons 20-30 minutes per day just four times per week. Our June Bible story was about Joseph (his coat, his brothers, and his life in Egypt). We read some of the Bible story each day and did a few crafts. We spent some time learning about our five senses, colors, shapes, and emotions. She also learned how to make a peanut butter sandwich and a peanut butter waffle. Some days Clarissa would enjoy school so much that she wanted to do more so we would do two or three days worth of lessons in one day and then she wouldn’t want to do school for a few days. The weather was so nice that we would often do school outside.

In July, we started doing more academics, adding letters and numbers to our days. We went to Japan in July so we spent some time watching videos and reading books about Japan. We also learned about the letter J; it’s sound and how to write it. I wanted to spend the month memorizing Jeremiah 29:11 instead of focusing on a Bible story, but Clarissa kept asking for Bible stories anyway so we did both. I knew that one of our next family adventures would be to the aquarium so we started studying sea animals when we returned from Japan. We learned about the letter C and Clarissa practiced writing her first name. She can already count past 10 but we focused on writing just those numbers and counting things or playing board games that require counting dice and spaces.

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By mid July, Tim thought that I was spending way too much time planning our activities. He suggested that I buy some curriculum instead of making my own in order to make the planning of school less stressful. I agreed that although I enjoy planning, I was spending too much time “trying to do it right.” I was also printing so much that we were spending plenty on ink. So I went online and ordered some kindergarten books.

In August, Clarissa learned how to make her bed. Since it was been so hot outside in Korea, her new favorite place to do school was actually on her bed. We spent two weeks reviewing a literature study on Paddington Bear that was excellent. We then went back to studying ocean animals, worked on counting and writing numbers to 20, and learned the sounds and letters P, B, F, and S. We focused on Bible stories about fish; Jonah, Jesus calms the storm, and feeding the 5,000. For her birthday we went to an aquarium in Seoul and she really enjoyed looking at all of the animals and feeding the fish. At the aquarium, Clarissa and Tim got really excited about the kits to grow triops and angel fairy shrimp, so we have a few new pets at our house. We learned about life cycles too.

September was less stressful. The weather was cooler so we read and explored outside again. I also have a reading curriculum, math workbooks, and some unit studies that we both enjoy so I don’t have to do as much prep. We also read a lot of books. When we studied Noah’s Ark we spent a couple of weeks reading about animals. After a walk last weekend, she is all about bugs. I am so thankful for the library these days! Clarissa is also enjoying attending AWANA, a Korean class, and gymnastics one hour each per week to round out our lessons.

Summer School Days

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Clarissa has been asking me to teach her to read off and on since before she was potty trained. She constantly asked to start kindergarten this spring so I spent May planning what I wanted our year together to look like.

In June, we officially started kindergarten. I knew that I wanted to start slow so I planned for 20-30 minutes of lessons, four days per week. Some days were like binge days for her and she would do two or three days worth in one sitting because she didn’t want to stop. So my July plans had more to do each day.

Omi sent us a scavenger hunt from a magazine. We decided that we wanted to do it across the street at Nonseong Park. Clarissa and I thought it would be fun to do school outside as well so we packed our school books, some crayons, and a clipboard in my backpack. On the way out the door, Clarissa decided to ride her bike and also bring the kite.

Clarissa rode her bike across the street and then we climbed the hill to fly the kite. As I set my bookbag down, Clarissa already had her kite in the air. This was only her second time flying a kite, but she did extremely well.

When we needed a water break, we headed to the pavilion on the hill to do our Bible time.

Then we did our scavenger hunt. Clarissa had a great time finding the items on the list like a crooked stick, a bug that crawls, something that smells good, and something that feels rough. The only thing we didn’t find was an acorn. But we found a pinecone instead.

We reviewed our five senses to talk about what we did on our scavenger hunt and drew pictures.

We took another break to play on the Korean exercise equipment and then headed back to the pavilion to read our books for the day.

Then we headed back up the hill for more kite flying fun. She went on the very top and said she was walking on the Hwaseong Fortress.

When we had enough we headed home by bike. Our “school day” took about two hours with all the breaks but we both really enjoyed it.

Other days, we brought our schoolwork to one of the playgrounds in our apartment complex. We would bring our books and schoolwork outside and she would do an activity or two, go play, and come back to complete another activity.

We have also been on a lot of field trips this summer. We learned about animals at the National Institute of Ecology, fed fish at theĀ aquarium in Seoul, hiked the Hwaseong Fortress wall, touched bugs at the Asan Insect Museum, saw animals at the Ueno Zoo, and learned about Japan before our trip to Tokyo.

Because our school days were short, we had plenty of time to go swimming or play with friends. I think this was one of our favorite summers together. I wonder what school should look like for fall?

Starfall Education Foundation Review

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Starfall

When I was a teacher, my students often used Starfall Education Foundation. Clarissa has enjoyed playing the free version of the Starfall App on her tablet for over a year so I was very excited when we were chosen to review the The Starfall Home Membership. Thirty five dollars will give you a year of access to all of the additional content on multiple devices for a full year.

Starfall

I can access my account on multiple devices so I can look at Starfall on my laptop, or Clarissa can play it on her tablet. Clarissa enjoys using the Starfall app on her tablet. She gladly plays for thirty minutes at least three days per week. I didn’t have to worry about her finding anything inappropriate in the app. She can explore and learn math concepts or work on reading skills.

She seems to really enjoy the math games. She has learned about symmetry, weight, and comparison of sizes. I was surprised that she actually understood those concepts after the lessons and games. I really liked the way Starfall explained place value. I think Clarissa actually understood the difference between tens and ones.

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There are several different levels of reading activities as well. Clarissa can choose books of different genres. I can read them to her or she can press a button that looks like an ear and the words will light up as the app reads the story to her. There are games to practice letter recognition as well as phonics lessons for individual sounds. She got used to repeating the sound after the app, so she now often repeats everything she hears because she thinks she is reading.

Clarissa enjoys playing the games, but sometimes wishes they are more customizable. For example, there is a calendar game. She learns days of week and how to read a calendar. She then gets to choose clothes to get dressed and go outside to play during the game. Because it is winter, her only choices are the current month and winter clothes. Clarissa often asks me to “switch it to summer.” But there isn’t an option to do that since it is currently winter.

I like that I can access Starfall on my computer or her tablet. The frustrating part for me is that there doesn’t seem to be any method to accomplish skills in order. There also isn’t a record of any kind. I don’t know which games or skills she has studied unless I watch her play. For example, if you go to the mouse picture, learn to read, there are 15 phonics lessons. However, it does not check them off or move you on to the next level when a lesson is completed. If you plan to really sit next to your child and tell them which things to do, then maybe that won’t bother you.

My other frustration is that Starfall Education Foundation only works with an internet connection. At home in the living room is fine, but if I want Clarissa to work on Starfall on a train or at a restaurant, I have to set up a wifi hotspot on my phone in order for it work on her tablet.

Clarissa is excited to have some tablet time to use Starfall Education Foundation. At $35 per year, I think that the The Starfall Home Membership is a worthwhile investment for preschool and kindergarten learning. There are even more advanced lessons for first and second graders. Multiple children can use Starfall as well, but they would share the same profile. There is also Parent-Teacher Center that shows a full printable curriculum to use for both preschool and kindergarten. It looks to be made for a classroom setting, but you could also follow the curriculum to use for homeschool if you wanted to. There are plenty of worksheets available as well.

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