Preschool at Home

“How was preschool today?” my husband periodically asks our youngest daughters. Run of the mill question, you might think. Except that these girls are 14 and 16. Tim often teases the girls this way after picking them up from their volunteer shift at our local science museum. Their role is primarily to play with the exhibits, encouraging the young visitors to explore the bubble-arium, the hissing cockroaches, parachutes, a heat camera, or blocks. To top off each stint, before going home they munch on a snack in the volunteer room, usually something like animal crackers. Hence the preschool analogy.

Back when Tim and I were tots we each attended “nursery schools,” as they were known then, complete with blocks, parachutes, and, yes, animal crackers. I adored nursery school which I began when I was two. Back in the early '60s there wasn't the academic push that schools seem to all have these days, but instead our classrooms were filled with all sorts of learning delights such as painting easels, dress-up clothes, and Waldorf-style wooden toys. In their off-hours, my teachers were professional puppeteers, so often our story time included performances they were perfecting. As a cooperative nursery school, all the mothers took turns helping in the classrooms, which was also a big plus.

Our kids have never attended a preschool like this, which at times has been a disappointment to me. And yet, in other ways, they have gained many of the same things that I did from my idyllic co-operative nursery school. Chiefly my nursery school gave me a love for learning and exploring all sorts of activities and environments. From those early experiences, delving into new materials or ideas became second nature. Stories and books, which were an integral part of our day, became loved friends. My mom, partly because she was involved in the school process, and partly because she was a former teacher, was able to build on what we did at school.

When Tim and I began to consider homeschooling, we decided to wade into the homeschool waters with preschool. We shouldn't be able to mess up too much here, we thought. And so we began with Andrew and Kara when they were two and three. With all the subsequent children we have continued to build a preschool time into our schedule, always right after our family Bible period first thing in the morning.

A while ago someone asked me about doing preschool at home. Is it helpful? Necessary?

I'd have to answer: It depends on what you mean by preschool.

If, when you think of preschool, you envision a highly academic program which purposes to give your children an academic edge by hitting the phonics and math concepts with a bang, then, no, I'm not too keen on that. If, on the other hand, you are thinking of a play-based, exploratory time where you can introduce your children to the world around them, using real life experiences, walks outside, good books, and lots of time to talk and sing together – yes! Preschool in that scenario will go a long way in helping not only your little ones, but also you, to be ready for the larger job of homeschooling that will come in the future years.

One of the greatest challenges for moms in homeschooling is setting aside the time to get it done. How, you wonder, am I ever supposed to teach my children to read, multiply, and write coherent, maybe even thought provoking essays when every hour of my day is already crammed full with taking care of my family, doing the laundry, shopping, cooking meals, and keeping the house clean (more or less)?

I know this feeling, and in fact, I have it every summer! How can I possibly have time to teach 6+ hours in August, when I'm not accomplishing everything right now, I ask myself most Julys. But when we start back to school again, even in my most hectic years of having lots of little AND big ones, we have been able to step back into the school routine. (It is the other areas of life that sometimes suffer here!)

When you begin homeschooling with preschoolers, it makes for a gentle introduction to school not only for your little ones, but for you as well! An hour a day, two or three days a week, helps you set patterns which are easy to expand upon as your children grow. First we have breakfast, then we do chores, and then we have our school time. Everything else goes on hold until these basics are accomplished. (OK, not quite everything! Emergency diaper changes, discipline situations, and other events can intervene. But for the most part, you establish a routine and priorities.)

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. You'll be glad for the designated time to watch them grow. And you'll all be more prepared for future days of living and learning together.

Isa 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:


Jessi Thornhill said…
Woohoo! I was doing preschool at home and didn't even know it. : )

I was thinking of doing a simple schedule like this (for all three kiddos) toward the end of summer to ease into homeschooling Eowyn (first grade). Any suggestions for how to start in the fall?

Anne said…
Jessi, I have complete confidence that you are going to be an outstanding homeschool mom! Starting with a relaxed schedule towards the end of summer can be a good way to get your kids ready for more and getting them used to the daily schedule.

This year I'm thinking of having a Back to School party on our first day. Some homeschoolers call it a "NOT Back to School" party. I read of a fun German custom called “Schultüte” where parents prepare decorated cardboard cones and fill them with school supplies, candies, and other goodies. (Check it out on Wiki.) They give these to their first graders before departing for school, but wouldn't it be fun to have these for our homeschooled children on the first day of school? If I can get my act together, I'm going to do that this Aug.

But in general, the best ways to get ready for a new year are by doing as much school planning as possible in advance, and working on basic living routines (chores, laundry, meals, etc.) so those things can happen reasonably smoothly and they don't become huge distractions.
SarahD said…
"How can I possibly have time to teach 6+ hours in August, when I'm not accomplishing everything right now, I ask myself most Julys."

I am so glad to know I'm not the only one has this thought! ;)

I'm terrible at preschool and should probably have done more for my older kids, if for no other reason than to fill up their love tanks early in the day. I'm currently blessed with a ten year old daughter who LOVES to do preschool activities with the littles, and she really fills in my gaps. She actually researches trusted preschool blogs and carefully plans a variety of projects involving all sorts of messy yet educational things that would drive me to madness in a matter of seconds. I'm so blessed to have her help!
Anne said…
Sarah - that is so wonderful! And she's only 10! Hooray for your daughter!

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