How To Homeschool Preschool, Part 1

How We Homeschool Preschool 300x480 How To Homeschool Preschool, Part 1

pin it button How To Homeschool Preschool, Part 1
 

Guest Post by Charity Hawkins, Author of The Homeschool Experiment: a novel

 

Spring is the time many people start making decisions for next year’s school. If you are considering homeschooling preschool but are nervous, take heart. You can do it.

 

Homeschooling preschool is not hard.

 

My goal today is to convince you that you can do it. (You can.) In Part 2 of this series, I’ll share more specifics on what we did in our family. (I understand not everyone has the option to homeschool. I’m certainly not saying it’s the “best” choice. But if your heart is drawing you towards it, and it is a viable option for you, I want to encourage you that it’s not as daunting as you might think.)

 

By the time this post runs, my oldest son will be nine, my daughter will be seven, and my youngest son will be three-and-a-half.  I’m writing this based on the experience of homeschooling my oldest two through preschool (and up to 3rd and 1st grade) and my littlest one right now.

 

PRESCHOOL SKILLS


I’m sure there are more, but these are my priorities with my third.

  1. Life Skills / Character –knowing she’s loved by me and by God, knowing how to wait patiently or not get his way without throwing a fit, obeying, sharing, being helpful and kind, having good manners, and listening respectfully. If these things aren’t in place, there’s no point proceeding. (If we were in France they’d add: enjoyment of healthy, nutritious foods. We’re currently working on that one!)
    readingwithsiblings 500x333 How To Homeschool Preschool, Part 1

    Books, wonderful books

     

  2. Academic –Pre-Reading – understanding of language, rhyme, ideas; love of books and reading; talking and forming his own ideas; ABCsPre-Handwriting – the brain must master large motor skills before fine motor skills, so large first, then fine.Math Skills – Anything that deals with numbers ex. Time, temperature, calendars and days of week, months, years, height, weight, cooking measurements. Also counting to five, then ten, but I want him to understand. (Counting to 100 doesn’t mean anything to 2-3 year olds.I’ll give practical ideas on how I’ve taught all these skills tomorrow.
  3. START WITH A WORKABLE ROUTINE         

    Before I start planning what we’ll do for “school,” I think about a healthy daily routine. This is more important than baby flashcards, I promise. This isn’t set in stone, but a guide for our days.

    Sleep and Wake Times – Let’s say you have two children, a three-year-old and a baby. Get out a piece of paper and jot down sleep and wake times for both. (This alone sometimes feels like advanced calculus.) Make sure and put in naps, and the time to read before a nap or whatever your routine is.

    Schedule a nap for your preschooler. If they are younger than five, they probably need a nap or at least a quiet rest time, even if they think they don’t. And you certainly do. They can play quietly in their room or listen to tapes or look at books if they don’t sleep. Definitely schedule this in. I’m hard-pressed to think of any homeschooling mom I know who doesn’t have an afternoon rest time of some sort.

    Meals – Now put in meal times, and schedule enough time to prepare healthy meals, whatever is realistic for you during this season of life. Let’s say you eat lunch at 11:00, then you can put a half hour of preparation and clean-up before and after, and your preschooler gets to help you. That is part of school.

    Also include feeding times for babies, so maybe you write in your typical nursing time and you read to your preschooler during that time.

    Chores – Now pencil in the chores you need to do. (Oh yes, did I mention use pencil? I actually do my schedule in Word because I update it every season.) For example, on Wednesdays we do a mini-housecleaning day where we gather laundry and trash, start laundry, and do a quick pickup of rooms and bathrooms. Saturday is our main cleaning day (in theory). My three-year-old helps with all of this, to the best of his ability. That’s school too, as I will explain in more detail tomorrow.

    stirringpancakes 500x361 How To Homeschool Preschool, Part 1

There are also things like going to the grocery store. I try to do this on Wednesday nights or on the weekend so I don’t have to take all three kids, but when they were younger, we had one morning we went to the store.  If you want to, that can be a fun learning activity, but if you’d rather do it without the children, fine. It’s your schedule.

 

Play – a lot of what we’ve mentioned already feels like play to my son, but he also needs unstructured deep, imaginative or imitative play. This may be playing dolls, dressing up like “Super Cowboy,” or playing restaurant. If you’re home a lot, your preschooler will naturally find things to do, though you may have to help get him started sometimes. If you’re out a lot, you may need to carve out time for play at home. This teaches creativity and higher thinking (the “executive brain function”) in a way structured parent-led activities do not. Because it involves movement and decision-making, it may also help with “self-regulation,” one of the things lacking in children with ADHD.

 

Play 300x365 How To Homeschool Preschool, Part 1

Developing Executive Brain Function (playing)

 

What Mom Needs – Especially if your children are young, think about what makes you happy. For me, I like going to the YMCA once or twice a week, and when the kids were younger we’d do that in the morning. Maybe you like a walk outside each day, or to write a few hours a week. Think about when that would happen, and pencil that in. If Mama is happy, life is better for everyone. No martyrs!

 

Okay, so by now your schedule is probably pretty full. Life takes up a lot of time, doesn’t it?  “When am I going to do school?” you might be thinking. Well, remember, your preschooler is learning all the time, so he has been doing school all day. But if you have any time left over, you can plan some:

 

Learning Activities – If you have twenty minutes and the baby’s asleep, you can do a puzzle with your preschooler (math, pre-handwriting). While you’re going on a walk, you can talk about God’s amazing creation and how he makes the buds on the trees appear (science, vocabulary). When you play dolls with your daughter, you are helping develop her imagination, vocabulary, and story-telling. When you read a book snuggled up on the couch, you are teaching her of your love, of the rhythm of our language, love for learning, and introducing her to a rich wealth of experiences and knowledge.

Limit Screens – Notice, there’s no screen time on the schedule yet. Here’s what I’d challenge you to do: Pretend your TV is broken and plan what you would do in lieu of TV time. I actually have a list of ideas I have written down by the TV so if we need help thinking of some activities I’m ready. For example: instead of TV in the morning when you’re all groggyà reading snuggled up on the couch while munching Cheerios. Instead of TV before nap timeà audio book or reading. Instead of a movie to get her out of your hair while you make lunch à have her play outside or color. (Can you tell we’ve had to work on this a lot?) Once you have your ideal schedule, you can always add back in 30 minutes a day, or keep DVDs handy for when you are all exhausted or sick. We do watch TV, but I try to keep the bulk of it on the weekends, not as a daily habit. In our house my preschooler gets no video games, no electronic toys with screens, almost no computer or iPhone time (like once a month, maybe). I’m just a freak that way. But here’s the thing—he doesn’t know anything different. He’s as happy as a clam. And I learned with my first son that I was creating appetites—the more he played on the computer, the more he wanted to.  It’s much easier to just say no for now. You’re the mom—you get to decide and your kids will adapt and be content regardless. (Jane Healy’s Endangered Minds is an excellent book about the effects of visual animation on children’s brain development.)

You just want the majority of your preschooler’s activities to be moving, interacting with you, playing, storing up a rich database of language and experience, and learning to be a nice little human.

 

So there you go. You’re homeschooling your preschooler.

 

 

See, I told you– you could do it!

 

In Part 2, I’ll dig down a bit more into how each of those activities is teaching your child the skills she needs for kindergarten and life.

 

Read Part 2 of this series here.

 

What questions do you have so far? Please ask in the comments and I’ll try to answer them. 

 

Charity Hawkins is the author of The Homeschool Experiment: a novel. She lives, homeschools, and enjoys life with a three-year-old (most of the time) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

 

 

Comments

  1. Katie says

    Thanks for the post. I have a 5 year old and a 3 year old I am currently “home schooling” but they are also in four hours of a regular preschool a week. For the summer I would like to step it up a bit with a structured school time so they dont get out of practice of being in a classroom. What do you recommend for schedule over the summer? Every day or three days a week? We will have fun things to plan around (and certainly can incorporate learning during those fun things) but for times we are at home I wonder about how often to plan a structured school time. Thanks again! :)

    • says

      Hi Katie,
      That’s a great question! Well, the first thing I’d say is to make sure you have the “bones” of your schedule in place–that bedtimes, naptimes, and meal times are pretty consistent. I was just talking to a friend about this and she struggles with having her kids take a rest time (they are in school, so she was thinking about summer), and I suggested starting on the weekends working up to an hour of rest times where they play quietly in their rooms and get them in the habit of that.
      So once you have all those in place you can start filling in the gaps with some activities. Here’s an idea of what we typically do to give you some ideas.
      Right after breakfast while we are still at the table–Bible (or other reading) Great opportunity to learn to sit still and quietly for the 3-y-o). It won’t go well at first probably. :) Maybe 5 minutes, lengthen to 10 as the attention span grows.
      Then we get up and do “Morning Chores” so brush teeth, get dressed, etc. Summer is a great time to train kids in chores like making beds, how to pick up their rooms becaus you have more time to teach and work with them and aren’t in a rush. Once a week we do “Cleaning House Day,” and again summer is a great time to work with them on learning new skills like helping with laundry, picking up toys, putting shoes where they go, etc. Where we live it’s hot, so we might do an outside play time while it’s still cool for an hour or so. Gardening, jumping on the trampoline, free play, chalk, wading pool, sandbox are all great for large and fine motor skills, which are critical for handwriting and pre-reading.
      Then when everyone’s tired and hot we might come in and do some quiet reading on the couch. For the ages of your kids, I’d stick with great picture books. (Honey for a Child’s Heart and Five in a Row both have great suggestions of classics).
      Notice I’m alternating sort of an active activity with a more sit-still type activity. I found that was a key for those ages (3 & 5). Reading is a sit-still activity (though they could color quietly while you read if that helps), so some sort of more active thing afterwards, like a puzzle or learning game or coloring sheet or watercoloring. You probably have a lot around the house, but you sitting and focusing with the kids for a while can be your teaching time of working with numbers, shapes, colors, etc. Then it’s probably time to get lunch ready and they can help, then more reading, then rest, then maybe a snack and reading time, outside playtime or free play or they play independently, then help with dinner or play or take a very shallow bath and play (if they are old enough to not drown!) while you fix dinner.
      I hope that helps. Here are some resources on my site for more ideas. http://www.thehomeschoolexperiment.com/my-favorite-preschool-resources/
      Also, I go into more detail tomorrow so I bet that will give ideas. I plan to do a post on summer schedules sometime in the next month, so if you like my Facebook page you will see when I post that. Thanks so much! -
      And good for you for thinking about this. I think often people feel like they have to sign their kids up for camps and classes all summer to “keep them busy” or “keep them from getting bored” at home, while really those slower days can be a wonderful time of learning and exploration at home for this age.

    • says

      I forgot to answer the “how many times a week?” question. We try to do a balance of quiet/home days with out/busier days. So we might be home 2-3 days a week where we do a schedule like the one I outlined (that comment might not have come through yet). The other 2-3 days might be “out” days for swim lessons, swimming with friends, etc. I find if we do too many “out” days in a row my kids get exhausted & cranky, so my hope this summer is to do Tuesdays and Fridays out and the other 3 at home, though things don’t always work out exactly how I plan. :)

  2. Meghan says

    Wow, this is wonderful! Inspiring – not too much information that it is overwhelming. We want to homeschool (I was homeschooled and loved the experience), but it seems so daunting at times. Thank you for your post!

  3. Rachel says

    Thank you for this post! (and the comments to people’s questions as that helps too!) I wish I had homeschooled my first two kids for pre-k, and will most definitely with my third. Can’t wait to check out your blog!

  4. says

    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for this post today! I can’t wait to read more. I am homeschooling my 5 year old (second year of preschool at home) and also have a very lively 19 month old. I have felt so overwhelmed lately with guilt of what I “should” be accomplishing at home. I was just thinking today I just needed some sort of advice, a basic plan to follow. I love what you say here, thank you so much :)

  5. Erin says

    Love this! I have slowly started “school” with my kiddos, and having a schedule is a need! Can’t wait to read some more!

  6. Becky says

    Great ideas! Looking forward to reading part 2. My oldest is in a play-based preschool and loves it. Her birthday is in the summer, so she is the youngest in the class. My second daughter is a winter baby, so there will be a year (at 2 1/2 – 3 1/2) where I feel that I could do a neighborhood preschool before she begins her first year (with 3 & 4 year olds) of preschool. What should my expectations be for this? Once or twice a week? Kind of a library story time structure? Or just wait and see (first, if my neighbors will be interested in doing this with me) what my neighbors want to do? What do you feel about that kind of a set up? Should I just enjoy her and have her participate in activities to socialize and learn when they become available to us?

  7. says

    Thanks for sharing your ideas! We too are homeschooling our preschooler (3yrs) and are following similar learning activities. We are also homeschooling our 7year old son and have a 21month old toddler who keeps us very busy! It is so much fun watching them learn and discover things. We keep our learning based around play and it really is as easy as you say it is. Thanks again for sharing :)

  8. Danielle says

    I have a 2 year old and we are thinking about homeschooling. I can spend hours thinking of activities and then making a shopping list then I have to spend a fortune going out and buying materials. How do you make time to “plan” your lessons??

    I also am worried that I am not “smart enough” to home school. I never did very well in school myself, I am not great at spelling or math, would you recommend parents who aren’t well educated to stay away from homeschooling?

    Is there a list out there of things a 2 year old should be learning?

    I love your blog and all your information, thank you so much for sharing! :)

    • says

      Hi Danielle, Well, reading your comment you have no typos or grammatical errors, which in itself means you are smart enough to homeschool preschool! Just take it a year at a time. If you get to a point you feel like is too hard, you can reasses, but just take it a bit at a time. (The other day, for example, I realized I had totally forgotten how to do long division, and there’s Khan Academy online there to teach me a review lesson and that was fine. As we go on, we might do more co-op type things for math/science because I don’t know that I want to teach all that, but preschool and kindergarten are different.) So, I would say a parent who couldn’t read and write English well might need help if they wanted to homeschool, but you are obviously not in that category.
      Don’t spend a lot of money! You can do it for free with a library card and what’s around your house! For a 2-3 year old, don’t plan lessons. Focus on planning workable, enjoyable days for you and your child. Part 2 (today’s post) goes into more details on what you can teach, but no special materials are needed. As you go about your days, for example, a walk in the fall, you can talk about leaves, fall, count the leaves, what color are they, get books from the library about fall, etc. The seasons and rhythms of your life will spark all kinds of interesting topics to explore.
      At age 3 or so you could start reading some of the great books in “Before Five in a Row” from your library and do some of the activities in there.
      I think you’ll do great! It’s scary, but once you start you see the beauty of it all. And if your child is two, you can try it for a year and if you don’t like it, she can still do preschool or kindergarten at a traditional school, so nothing lost. :)

  9. Misty says

    I’ve started this past January with my 3yr old son homeschooling preschool. He loves to help me bake and load the washer and dryer. I love the ideas you have for scheduling. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your ideas, especially knowing you have done this with babies coming. I have an 18mth old and a baby due in Sept.

  10. Jessica says

    Thanks for posting this and enticing me to give homeschooling a go. My only question is, on content. What does my child need to know in before he gets into K? I am a junior high teacher and follow the ca. standards, so I know what they need at this grade level. I feel as though preschool is much more open and that many options overwhelm me. So, I guess my question is, how do I know what to teach and focus on in order to best prepare him for k?

  11. Carol Wickwire says

    Thank you for your encouraging website! We homeschooled all four of our children, and our last one graduated high school seven years ago. I can honestly look back and say I only have one regret. That I did not homeschool from DAY ONE. You can do this Moms. I have found that many moms who give up on homeschooling do so from a lack of committment. No, it is not for everyone, but if you do decide to do it, give it 100%. Don’t be wishy-washy, and do not (even for a moment) allow your child to think he has any role in the decision. You are the parent, and you know what is best. Period. Best wishes to all! I have years of wonderful memories to look back on and four incredible young adult kids to treasure. God bless you all in your endeavors!

  12. Ashley says

    Thank you SO much for this! Homeschooling my daughter has been something I have wanted to do, however I didn’t know where to start. Your posts are perfect, I can now picture what it would be like. I was wondering if you recommend 2 years of preschool? My daughter will be 3 1/2 this fall and I was thinking it would be a good time to start. I also have a 7 month old who will then be 1 yr…wondering how it will look keeping her entertained while working with my oldest. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Ashley,
      Well, the way I think about it is you find a good daily/weekly rhythm that works for you and your home and your kids. You will have times in that routine where you do one-on-one activities with your daughter, so those can be learning activities, at whatever level she is at. They will change as she matures.
      My third child (son) is 3 1/2 and so his activities that are sort of schoolish might be: reading, puzzles, couting things, starting to recognize first letters of names, coloring (though he has almost no interest in this), a little play doh or crafty things. He is not thrilled about sitting in one place for longer than 5 minutes typically, and that’s fine with me.
      A year from now (4 1/2 ) he might sit 10-15 minutes, care about coloring, be learning the rest of his letter sounds, be counting higher, and so on.
      Both of these I would consider “preschool” but changing as the maturity of the child increases.
      A girl might have a longer attention span and interest in workbooks or coloring (my daughter did), so as your daughter is 4 to 4 1/2 she might be ready for a little workbook of coloring/pasting/etc.
      With the 1 year old– well, you could do some activities during the baby’s nap. Baby could play around while you work with your daughter. You could do a quick game or book after lunch while baby is still buckled into the highchair. You could do a puzzle on the bathroom floor while the baby is taking a shallow bath (you are in the bathroom the whole time). Between 1 and 2 my third was basically a non-stop tornado, so I had to be creative. It might not be pretty. But you can do it! : ) You can get a lot done in 5-10 minute chunks here and there! :) And the second year when baby is 2 I thought was actually easier because my son would play with something for a good 15 minutes, which was long enough to do something with my other kids. Oh, also outside–you could have baby in the sandbox and be writing letters in the sandbox with your daughter, so you’re doing school as you go about life.
      Hope that helps! Oh, and chalk on the bathtub walls if you don’t mind that. You can give both a bath and be doing little ABC or counting games with your older while the younger plays.
      Why do I always give such long-winded answers??? :)
      Anyway, I do hope that helps.

      • Ashley says

        Thanks so much! I really appreciate all of your answers – I basically need to be thinking more creatively and get used to it being less structured than I envision in my head. I’m a perfectionist at heart and I NEED to let that go : ) I am looking forward to getting started.

  13. suvomita says

    hello! i have a 4 year old daughter….she is very cranky. for no reason she cries ….please guide me how will i stop this ?

  14. Trisa says

    I am so glad to have found your post. I am wanting to develop better schedules for my 3 and 4 year olds. Your list sounds very doable!

  15. says

    This is so very helpful! A friend pointed me to this post and I’m so glad she did. I’m homeschooling my preschooler but need a bit of direction/organization. Thanks for the super helpful tips. :)

  16. Charlotte says

    I need to get more of a routine or flexible schedule going. My issue right now is that there are so many activities going on in town. There is story time every day, and a huge homeschooling group I joined that has very frequent activities. But we are “homeschooling” and I really want her to have time at home. Don’t get me wrong we read many books daily and we play together plus she plays on her own. She also likes “helping.” But I am desperate to socialize her because our older child has autism and is in special ed, public school.

    So I want to know could you give me suggestions, how often do you do activities and go to story time/library?

    Also, I do different shopping on different days. I get some stuff from Whole Foods and other things I buy on budget. She enjoys Whole Foods because we always eat lunch before shopping. But it seems we are out a lot. It is too hard to go shopping with my older autistic child so I take advantage.

    Please help, I need some schedule regulation.

  17. Jessica says

    Wait….science is: teaching our kids that God makes buds appear, thus making flowers? Yikes, that is frightening. Some great ideas overall in this article…..we’ll just add a little more fact in our curriculum.

  18. says

    Hello,

    I am starting my own blog just to record my activities with my son.
    Reading off your blog has been really helpful.

    I am going to homeschool him so I can start off his learning.

    He can’t talk (much) at 4 years old and there has been a delay with his check up so I am using the time to pay more attention to him despite him being late in going to school.

    I hope you can drop me off a line or 2 because I really need help :(

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>