Thank goodness I wasn’t really online when my children were preschoolers. I might have ended up with an anxiety disorder. There is so much contradictory information about what is and isn’t beneficial for preschoolers, it can make your head spin. Now that we are in our fifth year of homeschooling, I feel that I have a good perspective on those younger years. However, if I were just starting out on the homeschool journey, I’d probably be a little confused.
I’m pleased that the moms of Sandbox to Socrates are discussing preschool articles in our Facebook group. It’s a great way to share our views and help others feel less anxious about this time in a child’s development. We’d love for you to join the conversation here.
In various online homeschool forums, I have seen many questions asking about the best curriculum for preschoolers and how to best prepare preschoolers for school later on. Honestly, I’m shocked by these questions every single time. When my children were of preschool age, the thought of looking for a curriculum never entered my mind. Not even once.
I was, however, interested in activities that would engage my kids and help them improve the skills that they had already acquired, so I talked with one of my sisters about it. This sister can research the living daylights out of anything, so I often trust her legwork and take her suggestions. She recommended a book called Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready. It outlined weekly activities that you can do with very young children to get them ready for future learning. As I read it, I found that, by intuition, I was already doing similar activities with my kids, but it did give me further ideas and inspiration. I used it as a guide rather than as a curriculum, just as I do much of the homeschooling material that lines my bookshelves.
The play-based preschool my children attended was a fabulous experience for all of us. The boys went for a couple hours in the afternoon a few days a week. They were happy to play with different toys, read new stories, dress up in costumes, and paint on easels. I was happy to get to know several really terrific moms who are still friends six and seven years later.
Here’s the thing – if I were going to homeschool preschool, knowing what I know today about my kids and about homeschooling, I’d probably have them play with toys, read stories, dress up in costumes, and paint on easels. In fact, they did all of that stuff at home in addition to preschool. I also read them 500 million books. Okay, some of those were the same book 10 million times. We also went to the park, played in the baby pool, visited museums, and visited grandparents. I sang songs and recited nursery rhymes with them. We played Hi-Ho-Cherry-O and Candy Land. We had our fair share of Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, Go, Diego, Go!, and Land Before Time videos as well. When my older son was three, he was obsessed with Thomas, and we had the whole train table set with which they both played nonstop. They learned about magnets by joining the cars up and physics by running the trains along the tracks. The younger son learned about different animals from Diego videos and trips to the nature center and zoo.
That’s all the curriculum a preschooler needs.
With regard to language, I never talked down to my kids. I mean, I did smoosh my face into their necks when they were babies and say, “Oooo, you smell so nummy, I’m gonna eat you up!”, but I never really dumbed down my vocabulary or altered my way of speaking to them when they were toddlers and preschoolers. I spoke to them like I would anyone else. “Hey, guys, it’s time for your bath. Why don’t you get the toys you want and throw them in the tub?” “Please put these napkins on the table for dinner. Thanks.” “No, you may not throw sand. You are creating a dangerous situation for other kids who might end up with sand in their eyes.”
What I would do differently is to get them more involved in the daily activities of the household. I did do some things, like have them help stir things we were baking or help me sort laundry into piles. I gave them cookies to decorate if I were making treats for the holidays. I had them pick up sticks in the yard before I mowed the lawn. If I had it to do over again though, I would have them help me with yard work, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and organizing much sooner. Preschoolers are pretty industrious and are fairly willing to be helpers. I’d worry less about things being done “right,” and I’d let them help me more. I’d have them empty small trash cans and put away groceries and use a mini broom and dustpan to clean up messes.
Three and four year olds don’t need a curriculum. They need activities, play, encouragement, and love. They will have plenty of time for learning. There are tons of great activities and games and fun sensory projects you can do. If you’re worried that your child has a significant delay in some area, go ahead and have that checked out. Otherwise, let your kid play and be a kid. It will be okay.
If you homeschool older kids, your preschooler may want to school along with them. By all means, give them some “school” work to do, as long as their interest holds. My kids were reading before kindergarten, so we worked on phonics by reading and discussing phonics in books and playing sorting games with words. I thoroughly believe classical methods are the best way for my children to learn, but with that same conviction, I believe that preschool and much of the early grades should be interest-led.
Enjoy the precious preschool time with your little ones.
Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past 4.5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school. Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment. Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio. Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature. She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables. You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.