Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Alphabet Quiet Book: Introduction

I'm excited to finally start a series of posts on what the girls and I are doing for homeschool preschool this year! Annie turned four a few weeks into the school year, so this is our first of two years of preschool for her. Because of that, I wanted to ease into school nice and slow, having fun while we learn some fundamental preschool skills.

Last spring, my mom wrote a great post on her blog about doing preschool at home. She wrote about how preschool should be fun, and a good time to get young children excited about learning. 

"Keep it fun. Keep it short. Plan your activities in advance. And then be faithful. Your children will love the time spent learning with you. "

Not surprisingly, since she was my preschool teacher, this is also my approach to preschool. We sing a lot of songs, read a lot of books, and are working on learning the alphabet over the course of the entire school year.

This summer I decided our all-year preschool project would be to make an ABC quiet book. I planned on learning a letter a week, with a little flexibility for busy weeks. Each letter would have a page in our activity book, and each page would also teach a key preschool concept.

I read dozens of quiet book blogs, made extensive notes, and finally came up with a master plan of the ideas and inspirations we would use to make our alphabet book. I also consulted several "Things your preschooler needs to know" type lists to help create my list of activity pages. It was really fun to be working on this almost-too-fun-to-call-it-school lesson planning at the same time as Collin was creating his much more serious lesson plans for college biology courses.

Before I go any further, I feel like I should throw in a disclaimer. This project isn't quick, easy, or cheap. This quiet book is the main activity I'm doing with Annie (and Laurel) for preschool this year. It's making a beautiful, useful tool that we'll be able to use with all the girls, and hopefully more children in future years, but it's not an activity I'd recommend in addition to another curriculum. If you like to sew and have a decent stash of supplies/fabric scraps lying around, then it's a super fun project to work on while teaching the alphabet to your young children. But it takes a LOT of time, persistence, and materials.

That said, since several people have asked to see what we're doing for preschool, I thought I'd share what we're doing and you can use it in any way you'd like. If you want to turn some of the page activities into paper crafts, that's great! If you just like looking at inspirational pictures, that's great too. Most of all, I'm hoping to communicate some of the enjoyment and fun the girls and I are having together as begin our homeschooling journey.

OK, so on to a few details about the quiet book. Like I said, it's pretty time consuming. Even making the cover took the better part of a weekend. I totally love it though! The only sad part is that, having finished the first nine letters, it's already apparent that this will have to be a two-volume set. Maybe I'll call the second volume X Y Z. It sounds better than N O P, anyway.

The cover is made like a quilt, with batting sandwiched between two layers of calico fabric. Actually, I think the cream fabric on the front cover is some kind of synthetic. I picked it up at a charity thrift store, and while it's a perfect neutral for many elements of this quiet book, I'm not entirely sure what it is. But that's my first tip about making a quiet book - use what you have available, and get as much as possible from bargain bins at thrift stores. If you bought everything new to make a 26+ page quiet book it would probably cost a couple hundred dollars.

The inside of the cover is lined with a red and white dot fabric. The lining of the cover is pretty important, since it will always be a visible border around the pages. I didn't think about that very much when I chose this fabric, but now having seen it with a variety of fabrics on the inside pages, I'm very happy with it. It's fun and cheerful and goes with lots of the other fabrics I have in my scrap pile.

To further personalize this book cover, I sewed in a little piece of ribbon that I wove with my initials. I like that it's visible in the corner no matter what page is open in the book.

The decision to bind the pages together with large book rings was an easy one. This way Annie would be able to play with each of the pages as I finished each of them, rather than having to wait until I finished all the pages to sew together a complete book. Finding the 2" binder rings was a little difficult, however. We live in a small town without any big box office supply stores, and Walmart didn't have any rings larger than 1.5 inches. I could have ordered them online, but was having a hard time convincing myself to pay more than $5 for three book rings. With a " couldn't hurt to ask" attitude, I stopped in our downtown copy shop one day to check to see if they had large rings. Not only did they, but they were only $.38 apiece! Sometimes I love having a more limited shopping selection, since it helps me discover local shops that I wouldn't even think about otherwise.

I bought a gross of grommets from an online sewing supply store called Wawak. They have unbeatable prices for everything from the grommets to sewing thread to the interfacing I used to back each fabric page. One tip about the grommets - if you use this kind of grommets, you really want the little metal tool that fits around the grommet so you can pound it together with a hammer. I happened across this tool in a crafts bin at a thrift store, but you can buy them on Amazon, and probably at local craft stores too. I also have the Dritz grommet pliers, and while they work well with the lightweight eyelets and grommets you can buy at Jo-Ann's, they don't work well with the ones from Wawak. I like the grommets from Wawak better, since they give a smoother finish once they're sealed. They just take a bit more force to close.

So here we are, 11 weeks into the semester. As of right now, I've finished the cover of Volume One and all the letters through I. That means we're pretty much on track to finish M by Christmas, and all of the letters by next May. I'm planning on a family trip to the nearby Children's Zoo to celebrate after we finish the letter Z! In the mean time, you can look for regular updates with a new letter of the week. I'm looking forward to sharing a little of what the girls and I are doing this year with ya'll!


  1. Kara, this is wonderful! I can't wait to see each day's letter. I'm curious to see how involved Laurel is when you're teaching Annie. If you're able to mention that sometime, I'd be interested!

  2. Thanks, Dani! I'll be happy to include what Laurel's doing in preschool as well. In general she doesn't have a long attention span, so she kind of bounces around while I do activities with Annie. But she is super into all the preschool songs we do, and has picked up a lot by being around while Annie is learning.

    Also, as part of preschool that all the girls are involved in, I've been taking all three of the girls to story time at the library every week this semester. It has been so good for them! The librarian who does it is great at bringing in all sorts of props/visuals/songs/actions etc. to keep the kids interested. It's been great for the girls to be around other kids outside of a church setting and to have to learn to listen to and obey a teacher who isn't me, but while I'm right there to help keep them in line. I wish I'd started doing library story time a couple years ago!

  3. This looks like a fun thing to do for my grandkids in a few years! I plan to bookmark or pin this. Thanks for sharing.