Homeschooling with PRESCHOOLERS!

My preschoolers, finally past the manic toddler phase, were usually quite eager to settle down and join the big kids in doing school for part of the day. 

Older siblings help this very kinestetic PK-er learn the alphabet actively
Their apparel often wasn't always conventional, though.  They might arrive garbed in something from the costume stash or sometimes something more unconventional. Looking for pics to illustrate this post, I found the daughter to the right (crosspiece)  wearing bathing suits in almost all of her 3 year old pictures. (What was I thinking?)

Goofy brothers try to eat their toes
Preschoolers are so much fun! But they still require some thought and planning to determine how best to fill their days. First up, the things I wrote about with toddlers (12-36 months) mostly still apply with preschoolers (3-5s.) However, besides wanting to keep them safe, include them in the family activities, continue to mold their little characters, and generally love them, with preschoolers I also had some additional aims.

While sorting through old notebooks recently, I came upon this list of goals for preschoolers I wrote many years ago. These are big-picture type goals, not specific ones for a given year.

I want to:

  1. Keep the little guys happily, productively occupied during school. (i.e., I don't want them off destroying the nether regions of the house or plopped in front of the computer or video babysitter.)
  2. Prepare my preschoolers for more formal instruction later. They need to learn to sit still and listen, increase their attention span, work hard, and obey. We'll work on this by having them diligently do their chores and other age appropriate tasks, listening to picture and chapter books read aloud, memorizing scripture and poetry, and other means.
  3. Have some moments of individualized special times with each child so my middle children don't get lost in the shuffle while I teach the older siblings and care for the babies.
  4. Include the preschoolers in the family direction and studies.   
  5. Instill a love for learning in each child. (Don't kill it by pushing academics too soon, but be really aware of what each child is ready for.)
And here are some general academic aims from the same long-ago planning sheet with a few newer notes interspersed:

  1. Work on Bible memory and basic Bible knowledge

  2. Lay a foundation for phonics/reading and math by teaching letter sounds, counting, etc. Play lots of math and pre-reading games. (Some of my PKs were ready to learn to ready to read, but for most, I waited until kindergarten.)

  3. Develop a love for literature. Read good books together every day!

  4. Science – especially nature study and simple, fun experiments. Hands-on all the way!

  5. Peter in "the stocks" 
    History – let the little ones listen to the history readings along with the older kids.  Then let them dramatize! Give them costumes and props. Read books on their level, etc.

  6. Age appropriate art, music, and movement activities as time allows.

Two little sisters have now joined the fun

Newly hatched butterfly (and yes, another bathing suit)

However you structure things, keep it fun and simple. Hands-on, real, active learning beats seat work a hundred times over for little ones, especially sons. Include your under-K's along with the family as much as possible. But do make sure to spend time early in the day with your little people so they don't feel shoved aside while you get on to the "serious business." Enjoy this time with your little ones! Laugh together as you read The Trumpet of the Swan. Watch their eyes sparkle as they discover simple things like a butterfly hatching from a cocoon.  

Now, so far I've been addressing this post and its predecessors to those of your who have school-age children and little ones. But what if your preschoolers are your oldest children? Should you start doing school with them? Opinions will certainly differ here! My advice is, don't feel any pressure. As long as your children are involved in real life learning, listening to good books, exploring the outside world, baking cookies, and generally living life alongside you and their dad, that's great!

But if you are eager to begin schooling, sure, go for it. I started homeschooling two and then three days a week when my oldest were 3 ½ and 2. I wanted to get my feet wet before it “counted,” and I knew in those early years there would not be much pressure. Also, I had some fears about teaching reading which seemed like a mysterious process. Andrew, Kara, and I had a couple of sweet years doing preschool before Andrew officially began Kindergarten at home. God was gracious to this insecure mom, and my firstborn, who had trouble talking because of ear issues, learned to read readily before he was four. That helped me grow in confidence for teaching other areas, and the daily routine we established helped all of us transition to a full week of school when it became necessary. But most of all, we had such a wonderful time doing crafts, reading Bible stories and all kinds of other books, trying simple science explorations, and much more. What a joy it was learning together!


SarahD said…
Hurrah for bathing beauties! I have small one who prefers swimsuits anytime and any day of the year. It doesn't even have to be her swimsuit. Mine or any other in the house will suffice. Love it!
Lauren said…
Hi Anne,
Thanks for posting on this subject. I am about to have our third baby at the end of December and Noah is about to turn 4, so I will be figuring out a new schedule for Noah's preschooling soon:)
When you have a chance(if you ever do), do you think you might be able to write a piece about teaching young children gratitude during the Christmas season? Noah's b-day is Dec 26th and the new baby's will be the 27th (Lord willing). So between two sets of very generous and all grandparents and all those events, I can see it leading to poor character development in my kids. Don't worry about it if it isn't something you want to address right now, but I just thought I'd ask if you have any practical words of wisdom.
Lauren Pickett
Anne said…
Sarah - It's nice to know that you have a bathing beauty, too! Mine would also wear them in any season. (One pic shows her wearing a suit + a winter coat, and nothing else.) And even though I wrote that I didn't know what I was thinking to let her dress that way, later I realized what was probably going through my mind: "Hurrah! She dressed herself!"

Lauren - Yay for your new baby next month! And thanks for the suggestion. It's a good one; I'll see if I can come up with something about cultivating thankfulness. Our firstborn's b-day is Dec. 28, and we also have generous grandparents and others, so I can empathize!
Jessi Thornhill said…
Thanks, Anne. I'm encouraged by your posts and the fact that you still have the goals that your wrote down for your preschoolers. Right now is my prep time to get ready for Eowyn's first grade year next fall, but this is a good reminder for what to do now with Anara (preschooler) and Daniel(toddler).

Anne said…
Well, Jessi, you oughtn't to be too impressed that I still had those lists of goals as it was more a function of poor organization/housekeeping than the opposite. ;) I just happened upon them while purging old notebooks a few months ago. I have kept my planning notebooks for each year, and do occasionally dig those up. That's where these goals belonged, but not where they were.)

In general though, I wish I had done a more thorough job of keeping track of some of the things we've done through the years, especially unit studies we created or did with a co-op. This year, for example, I'm teaching anatomy in our co-op, and I've gone back to search for ideas in the "yearbook" compiled by a different co-op almost 20 years ago. I sure wish we'd put more detail to some of the fun activities we did back then. I guess I never anticipated I'd still be hs-ing so far in the future!

So my encouragement to you is to keep all those plans you are making this year beyond the time you use them, and do so in some easily accessible format. Likely, part/all of it will come in handy some time in the future.
Kristen Wegener said…
Dear Sarah,

I am also living proof that bathing beauties can grow up and wear real clothes every single day. =)

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