Preschool and Kindergarten: A Homeschool How-To, reposted from Lisa at Golden Grasses

Reposted with permission from Lisa at Golden Grasses.

I’ve had several young mommas (so young I could be their momma!) ask me about pre-k and kindergarten recently. This is my all-in-one response with tons of resources – blog posts and series, Pinterest boards and FB pages linked. Let’s get started!

The biggest challenge with preschoolers is keeping them engaged. Most still have a fairly short attention span, are easily tired and need fed and watered at regular intervals. Habit is key – routine is your safest bet.

I would  recommend taking a look at Kendra’s Circle Time. This is a great way to think about what you want your littles to learn and how to organize it.

After years of doing this I recommend over-planning before you get started and then going with the flow once you start. With littles, like with anything else, you don’t get what you want, you get what you plan for. With littles, you often get lots of surprises, too, right?!

What can pre-Kers be expected to do?

Age appropriate chores. Kids do what you inspect, not what you expect, BUT, they do need to know what you expect, too! One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Andrew Pudewa is that if your child keeps asking for help, they need help. This seems simple – well, it is, really, but it might not come naturally!

Outside play and exploration/nature walks – do you see the baby snapper we found on a walk near our home? Nature journaling and nature tables (or in our case, our entire enclosed front porch) is a great way for kids to display the cool things they’ve found as they explore the great outdoors!

Read-alouds  – at least 15 minutes a day; more is better.
I think some table time is good at this age, because it helps kids get acclimated to regular study.

Crafts and art – there are so many fun art books, but in any case an easel, paper, and paint are always appropriate. Colored shaving cream is great for bath/shower painting. And hey, how about a shower tile wall- works great as a white board and for painting – easily wipes off – all for $15 bucks.

Gardening – this can be in the yard, with containers, or how about a Fairy Garden?

Bible Study – Arch books, Bible Memory, reading a good quality Children’s Bible, Veggie Tales, Veritas Press or Bible Study for All Ages Bible cards.

Memory Work – When our youngest was four, we started a Classical Conversations community. She learned 160 VP history cards that year (even though she was a pre-reader), along with 24 history sentences, several others hundred facts related to grammar, geography, Latin, poems and more because we regularly and diligently used CD’s and table time to review. She also learned the letter sounds and started on a notebook-sized timeline. I say all of this so that you realize your littles are capable of learning a LOT. This is NOT to say that you should sit them at the table and force information down their throats. Kids this age, however, can learn a ton through CD’s, good DVD’s, books and great visual aids such as flashcards. Also, if you have older kids, why not include your younger kids? They really are sponges. If you start early “training their brains to retain”, you’ll be amazed at how much they really can and do retain as they grow older.

Limit screen time – There are so many apps, computer games, DVD’s, etc, and they are all fascinating. We use some but in limited quantity. You really want your pre-Kers neurology to be hard wired to people and words, not electronics. Studies have shown that kids learn language skills by interacting with people – NOT screens.

Open Ended toys – Brio Trains, Playmobile, Duplos/Legos, Stuffed Animals. Pinterest has some adorable pins of old entertainment centers refabbed as play kitchens. Add some felt food and old pots, pans and measuring cups.

Art Supplies – Easels, paint, glitter, glue, pipe-cleaners, colored paper, stickers, colored rice bins, colored shaving cream to “paint” in the bathtub, white boards around the house (make a whiteboard wall with shower tile or several smaller lapboards), chalkboards and magnet boards (easily made with some chalkboard or magnet paint).

Unstructured Outside Play – Trampoline, playhouses, daily walks, parks, swimming, gardening, sandboxes, swings.

“Sound exploration” -Musical makers. Kids loving making sound.

Gross motor skill development – For years we had a “Step 2″ playscape, complete with ladder and slide, IN our house.

Sand box or table – a friend actually built a sandbox in their basement for their kids and we had a sand table on our front porch for years.

Fine motor skill development – have plenty of pens, pencils, markers around for the kids to play with, sewing cards, small toys (once they are past the “everything in their mouths” stage- Lego, of course.

Cooking – my kids have all loved to help cook in the kitchen. Usborne’s First Cookbook is full of fun and simple recipes.

Travel/field trips

Singing – the Wee Sing series, with books and CD’s are full of old favorites.

Christian Studies – Arch books are a fabulous way for your littles to get a great introduction to basic Bible stories with pictures that they’ll remember for a life time. We also have loved and read out loud to our kids a couple of different Children’s Bibles, including the Golden Children’s Bible. We had tons of felts and teaching Bible stories through felts is always an attention grabber. Daily prayer. Family evening prayers, with everyone snuggled in a bed together is really a gentle way to teach your littles about what’s important to you. We have each child pray, youngest to oldest, ending with Daddy blessing each child. If your kiddo doesn’t know what to pray for just help them along following ACTS (Adoration, Confessions, Thanksgiving, Supplication). We would just have them repeat a simple sentence or two, such as, “Thank-you, God, for this day.” This year, we made an Easter garden.

Pre-Reading – Read aloud 15 minutes a day. There are so many adorable books on everything under the sun; don’t limit your read-alouds to baby books.

IEW Language Acquisition through poetry memorization– This is a fantastic program and easily accessible for littles, especially with the CD. There are four sections of 20 poems each, starting with simple, short poems and ending with epic dramatic retellings. Andrew Pudewa (who put the program together and recites the poems) has incredible diction, so your kids will really hear fantastic vocabulary and superb story-telling.

Letter and Number recognition – We used Kumon and Usborne workbooks; colorful, easily accessible and fun. There are tons of complete programs available.

Phonics – We always used Alpha Phonics in conjunction with Explode the Code. There are other great products out there. We took the low cost, no bells and whistles, effective approach.

Books – If you live with books and magazines, your kids will think having them around is normal. My kids love books on tape. We use Sonlight, Bethlehem Books, Memoria Press and Veritas Press catalogs as reading lists. Ranger Rick, National Geographic for Kids, Ladybug, Boys Life have all been favorite magazines around here.

Good Stuff:
Classical Conversations Cd’s
Veritas Press and Classical Conversations history, Bible and Science cards
Kumon Workbooks
Silly songs CD’s
Usborne Cat and Mouse books, Puzzle Books, Mazes and Dot-to-Dots, along with Board books. We love UBAH!
Bible Study for all ages.

Editor’s Note: For an assortment of links full of ideas, crafts, curriculum, games and much more, see the full article at Golden Grasses.

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Why Classical Education? Peace of Mind Pedagogy, by Lisa

 

I spent last weekend at a large homeschool conference vending for a company we’ve worked with for years. I talked with parents who were trying to sort out the best curriculum for their unique children with homeschooling budgets that varied from stingy to excessive. Some came with lists and were clear about what they were looking for; others needed whatever help was offered. The common denominator was that each of these parents was homeschooling and wanted to provide their kids the best education they could afford.

When I was a younger mother, I remember walking through vendor halls feeling a mixture of anxiety and personal struggle. Would I spend our curriculum dollars well; would my kids respond well to the purchases; would they learn; would we have fun; would this solve the problems we’d had the year before; would the difficult subjects be mastered?

I don’t think I’m the only one who goes to vendor events with that level of anxiety. In fact, when I jokingly mentioned to a harried mom who came to my booth that I was a trained therapist (I am), she breathed a huge sigh of relief and exclaimed, “Good! Maybe you can help me!” I laughed with her, but seriously, don’t you sometimes feel the intense pressure and weight of what it is homeschooling endeavors to do – provide your kids with an individualized, cost-effective quality education provided by…you?

I like themes; I look for them. As I gazed around the vendor hall I didn’t find a theme- just a whole conglomeration of mismatched stuff, thrown out there for people to “eclectically” pick and choose from, hoping that it would all come together – like stew. You know, you just pick out whatever’s left over in your refrigerator, throw it in a pot, add some seasonings, and everybody loves it.

My understanding of the theory of eclectic homeschooling is much like the theory behind a good stew. You throw whatever you have in to the pot and the results will be pleasing.

What about when the stew turns into a gloppy mess, everyone grumbles and complains, and it really is so bad you can’t justify forcing people to choke it down? In my years of “eclectic” and “literature-based” homeschooling, it could go either way. We had some wins; we had some losses; we spent a fortune; and every year it was the same anxiety, the same worry and frustration over choosing the right stuff, and finagling a bit more money for the latest “wonder curriculum” that would solve all manner of problems.

I saw both the beautiful stew and the gloppy mess as I looked around the vendor hall. And frankly, I breathed a sign of relief that my days of “other-than” classical ed were over. We’ve homeschooled for a long time. And we know others who have homeschooled for a long time. Many of the people that we know/knew who have homeschooled for many years have essentially given up on academics and turned their homeschooling attention towards “delight directed” learning (whatever the kids want to learn) or “life skills” (keeping the house running). They quit worrying about their kids understanding math and talked about how they would learn what they needed to know when it was important to them.

My personal testimony is that this is false.

Just because I want to learn something doesn’t mean that I have the skills or ability to learn it. This becomes more true the less natural ability you possess or the more skewed your abilities are. Furthermore, if you don’t spend time building a firm foundation, it’s hard to move on to more difficult subject areas. Basic math is necessary for algebra which is imperative for the study of astrophysics. If I don’t know algebra, no matter how much I want to learn astrophysics, I’m not going to be able to do so. This applies to subjects both simple and complex. Guessing at whole words does not a strong reader make.

As I looked around the vendor hall I did not see what I was looking for. I didn’t see it years ago and I still don’t see it. What we were looking for was an academic pedagogy that guides and directs the training of minds; that affords study as worship; that pushes us beyond our own wants of the moment, that shore up our weaknesses. What I found in the vendor hall was some really great curriculum, lots of information on worldview and religious training and plenty of books, books and more books. Those are all good things. Necessary, but not sufficient.

We continued to seek for an educational method that actually taught people to learn and think and seek, that taught the benefits and joy of discipline, that increased knowledge and wisdom. I found all that in the Classical Model of Education.

Classical Education provides a methodology that is time tested, works effectively, trains the brain to retain, gives your child the gift of knowing what they know, and provides a clear incremental, sequential, logical path that points the way to what’s next. Now, if you are thinking to yourself that you are not a left brain, logical sequential learner or thinker, don’t worry. I’m not either. I’m a big picture, random, global thinker who needs to know the why and where of things. I think in Venn diagrams, not time-lines themes, not specific details. The classical pedagogy is not a formulaic plan for a specific type of thinker. It provides a plan for any type of thinker.

That is part of the beauty of it: classical education works regardless of your abilities or lack thereof.

Using a classical pedagogy has saved us thousands of dollars. Why? I’m not second guessing choices nor am I catering to fun or my kids learning style or the latest homeschooling fad. I’m not comparing myself to the draconian homeschooler or the radical unschooler or the Christian school or the public school. I’m simply following the path and pattern of assured academic success. And we have lots of fun along the way. Furthermore, my children know the deep and lasting satisfaction of sustained effort that bring forth excellent results.

While many pedagogies tend to focus on either skills or content, classical education focuses on skill building and content. Students end up with more tools in their academic toolbox and a better appreciation of how to apply them.

With a clear vision of what I want and how to get it, I look around the vendor hall and purchase very little – some audio books and signed copies from a favorite author – and was totally at peace. I already have a clear plan in place for next year. This plan requires some research and planning on my part but no desperate searching or pressured buying or frantic questioning. I’m just sticking to the plan we implemented years ago and trusting that it’s going to yield the results it’s known for.

Classical Ed, all the way, Baby!

 

Lisa hasImage homeschooled her 5 kids for 23 years, 3 of whom have graduated. She continues to homeschool her two youngest and has recently re-entered the working world. You can find her blogging at Golden Grasses