How to Homeschool Preschool, Part 2

How We Homeschool Preschool

 

 

Guest Post by Charity Hawkins, author of The Homeschool Experiement: a novel

 

Read Part 1 of this series here.

 

In the last post I talked about a workable daily routine for homeschooling preschoolers. In this post I want to delve into the specifics. Here’s how those activities teach your child.

LIFE SKILLS / CHARACTER

I messed up with my first child. I didn’t have a great routine; I basically let him eat whenever he wanted, have terrible sleep habits, and call the shots for what we did a lot of the time. I’ve wised up.

You want to help your child establish good habits, with the parents as the authorities. With my first son we spent the first six-months of kindergarten (okay, fine, the whole year) just getting him to obey with a good attitude. Help preschoolers cultivate an attitude of cheerfully helping and obeying.

These Little Jewel Books are super cheap ($3 each) and do a good job of reinforcing the idea of being a cheerful helper at home. My favorites are: Just Four, Molly Helps Mother, Helping Mother, A Boy to Help .

 

rolls
Helping make rolls: fine motor, counting, sensory activity. Tie optional.

 

Regular social interaction with other children is helpful. My three-year-old learns manners and sharing at home with his brother and sister, but he also gets practice at Sunday School, Awana Cubbies, and a homeschool co-op we go to one morning a week. When I had two preschoolers, they attended a Mother’s Day Out type program. I don’t think it was necessary for their academic or social development, but it was pretty helpful for my sanity. My guess is that your child is around other children in some form, whether at church or soccer class or with friends, but if not and you think that is needed, then there are lots of good one-day-a-week programs or classes.

 

ACADEMICS

 

 My three-year-old might get an hour of reading plus an hour of other “academic” activities spread out through a normal day. The rest of his time is spent on playing, helping, joining in with whatever is going on in the house, nap, baths, meals, etc.

 

puzzles
puzzles – fine motor, spatial, pre-reading

 

1. PRE-READING – There are so many excellent picture books out there. I read to my three-year-old son one or two books in the morning and again before his nap. Sometimes he gets a few while the older two are working on their school. My husband reads him two books at bedtime. If you need ideas on wonderful picture books for these ages, I’d recommend Five in a Row books or the Sonlight books. I personally don’t mess with chapter books (with no pictures) until age five or so. There are so many wonderful picture books with rich vocabulary, Beatrix Potter for instance, that there’s no need to jump to chapter books yet.

 

Even more than actual books though, talking with preschoolers and telling them stories can prepare them for language. I talk to my three-year-old about what we’re doing, ask him to follow simple instructions, and listen to his silly stories. Talking naturally falls into your day whatever you’re doing; you don’t have to schedule that. If we’re waiting at a restaurant, for example, instead of looking to an app for entertainment, we can play iSpy, make up stories about the silverware, or color. The other day while he got a haircut (and was decidedly unhappy about it), I held him and told him a “Three Bears Story.” This is our standard story, but I have the baby bear do whatever he’s doing that day. Nursery rhymes, songs and finger plays at the library all teach rhyming and language.

reading
Lots of excellent books

Before the brain can do the eye-tracking necessary for reading, it has to have mastered large-motor and fine-motor skills. So just as important for reading as actual books is that your preschooler uses his muscles a lot. Pushing the laundry basket down the hall is working his large muscle groups. Throwing clothes into the washing machine crosses the mid-line of his body, which helps establish those cross-lateral connections in the brain that are so important for later learning. (See Healy’s book for more on this.) Jumping outside is good. Climbing jungle gyms. Swimming. Gymnastics. Running in circles. Whacking at baseballs. All that energy they have? Great! It’s God’s way to help their bodies do what they need. It IS school.

For the actual ABCs, with my three-year-old I use a couple of puzzles (also good for math and handwriting skills) and we talk about the letters. I relate each of them someone’s name, like “M. for Mommy!” or “oh, that’s a D. That says ‘Duh’ for Daddy.” I also have been giving him a printout letter to color from this site but mostly to keep him busy while I do school with his brother and sister. He has improved a lot. About a month ago he’d scribble and be done in thirty seconds. Now he is at least attempting to color and working two to three minutes, so that’s quite the increase in attention span, right? That’s very normal at this age. (Many girls might sit and color for 20 minutes though. That’s probably normal too.)

Your goal with the ABCs is to teach the letter sounds. “That’s a B. It says ‘buh.’ “ I teach short vowel sounds for the vowels. “A for ‘aah’ as in apple.” That way once your preschooler knows her letters, she is ready to start blending three letter words like C-A-T, probably in kindergarten. (See Jenae’s book for more info on Teaching Your Child to Read.) I also point out letters on signs we see. Teaching letter sounds is phonics. (Blends like “ch” usually come in kindergarten.)

Songs, Poetry, and Bible verses are easily memorized and teach language. I love the Steve Green Hide ‘Em in Your Heart CDs for scripture. We listen in the car to CDs. Any nursery rhymes count as poetry. Songs do too. These all lay the foundation for reading. Think of it this way—when your child starts reading in kindergarten if she’s never heard of a word, she’s going to have a hard time reading it. By giving her rich vocabulary through books, memorized songs and poetry, and stories, you “build the database” of rich language for later reading and writing.

(This is a fantastic presentation ($3) about language acquisition through reading and poetry. In fact, I just listened to this tonight and if I had one educational resource to recommend to any parent, homeschooling or not, this is it.).

 

2. PRE-HANDWRITING – Along with those large motor skills, preschoolers need to develop fine-motor skills to prepare them to hold a pencil and write letters and numbers in kindergarten.

playdoh
Cutting a play-doh “green bean” with a popsicle stick. Fine motor/ sensory activity.

 

a. Helping activities like wiping a table, sorting silverware, folding washcloths, digging in the garden, putting muffin liners in a muffin tray, cracking eggs, stirring, pouring, sweeping, Dustbusting, watering plants, helping cut and arrange flowers or leaves for a centerpiece, cutting a banana with a butter knife. Scooping birdseed into the birdfeeder. Basically the kid version of your real work.

b. Sensory activities like play-doh, playing in a sand box, digging, pouring dried beans, pouring water, making rolls, bathtub play, washing toys outside. Lots of things outside provide this: sand, leaves, grass, water, etc.

c. Craft activities like cutting with safety scissors (great for fine motor), pasting, coloring, watercolor (cleans up easily) painting, playdoh.

d. Learning toys like puzzles, shape sorters, matching games, etc.

Almost everything they do fits the bill. (Except picking their noses. That’s one fine motor activity I could live without.)

This cute workbook is cheap ($3) and gives your child practice sitting in a chair, holding a pencil, etc. (You’d be surprised at how much practice it takes to not fall out of a chair. It’s amazing.)

DoraCandyland
Candyland (and other games) are great for colors and numbers.

 

 

3. PRE-MATH – Math concepts are easy. Those happen all the time in life. You can talk about the days of the week, sing songs, show him the months on the calendar. When you measure him against the wall, talk about inches. When you cook, talk about cups and teaspoons. When you weigh him, talk about pounds. Shapes and colors are everywhere—right now with my preschooler, I have talked about squares, triangles, hearts, circles, and rectangles.

Chores are great for math. When your daughter helps set the table she’s learning one-to-one correspondence (math). Putting away silverware is sorting skills (math). Folding washcloths is spatial skills. Cooking pancakes teaches the idea of measuring liquids and solids. All of these things also teach following directions, memory skills, and vocabulary (pre-reading).

I have taught my three-year-old counting with fingers and toes, grapes at snack time, and putting apples into the bag at the store. When I’m teaching a child to count, I touch their finger to the object as we count. Board games often teach counting when you move your piece. Hopscotch is fun for number recognition.

Then we work on recognizing the numerals, then about four, he’ll start writing the numerals. (For that, I LOVE this sweet little booklet ($3). That alone prepared my daughter for her kindergarten math curriculum.)

After that, and into kindergarten, you can play easy “add” or “take away” games.

ScoopingRocks
Scooping Rocks – sensory, fine motor

 

SCIENCE– Right now your child is exploring everything. With my three-year-old, we look at daffodils and ducks, birds and butterflies. We feel snow and rain and hail. He helps us dig in the garden. He’s learning about the seasons, which is part of the curriculum at most preschools. Most years we watch caterpillars turn into butterflies.

HISTORY / LANGUGAE / ART / MUSIC — History  is over the head of preschoolers. They don’t understand past, present, and future well enough to grasp that, so don’t worry about history. If you know another language, why not say some things in that language? We read Spanish books and some soaks in, but just as it comes up. Whatever you are passionate about will come through to your preschooler. If you are musical, you’ll sing. If you love art and nature, as I do, you will point out things about art and nature. If you speak Chinese, your preschooler will learn Chinese. But none of those things is necessary.

Think about the typical preschool. Much of what they do and learn is about the life that they would be living if they weren’t in school. I’m not saying that’s bad, but you are giving them the actual experiences in your home. You have the luxury of getting to go to the farm and see the sheep, or plant the actual plant in the actual garden, or make real bread. It’s wonderful.

If you focus on the basics: character, play, and some academics (pre-reading, pre-handwriting, pre-math), your preschooler will have an excellent foundation for kindergarten.

If you do decide to homeschool preschool, just check to see if there are any requirements in your state. I believe most states do not have them for preschool, but double check to make sure.

I had so many resources to share, including more ideas for older preschoolers (4s and 5s), that I had to make a separate resources page. That has a lot more information.

Please let me know what questions you have. Does that make sense? Are you considering homeschooling? What worries you the most?  I’m happy to try to answer any questions if I can.

 

 

Charity Hawkins is the author of The Homeschool Experiment: a novel.. She lives, writes, and tries to keep her preschooler from picking his nose in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 

29 Comments

  1. My biggest thing right now is the structure of transitions and clean up. If we are working on letters, 5 minutes later he wants to do something else, and runs to get it, while we still have a mess to clean up. I taught elementary school for 7 years, and still find it’s my own child to frazzle me! Thank you for the tips

    1. Erin, I think that part gets better as you work with him on it, but it sure is tiring isn’t it? At least as attention span lengthens it’s 15 minutes instead of five, long enough for you to at least drink a cup of coffee. :)

  2. I taught for 7 years and now stay home with my son(3) but I’m having trouble figuring out how to transition from preschool into kindergarten, more structured homeschooling. He’s already mastered letters, numbers to 10 and we’re working on other skills like numbers11-20, color words etc. all of it so far was very random throughout the day and in quick games, activities, etc because his attention span is very short at this age. How do you move from that to more structured, longer learning activities?

  3. Thanks so much for the great post! I second Molly’s question; how do you transition your little guy into a more formal program?

    1. Hi Kim, I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now, but in case anyone else has the same question and is reading this later, I just start adding one more chunk of “schoolish” things at a time. For example, now he is 5. He has a “desk time” during school time when I’m working w/ my 3rd grader. During that time he does his tracing of the letter or number we are working on with a wet sponge on chalkboard (described more in a reply below) and 2 pages in a little workbook. His attention span might be 20-30 minutes then when he’s done he can go play.
      So he does some listening to a story (10-20 min), some circle time songs/poems/movement games with sister and I (15 minutes but because it’s movement he LOVES this), and maybe 15 minutes of drawing, then desk time. If he loses interest, I let him play. Later this won’t be an option, but he’s only five. Chores are a great way to teach obedience because there’s no option whether to do those or not, but school I don’t want to be a battle this young. It’s not worth it.
      So, as he gets older his chunks of time might move more toward 30 minutes. And he might have 2 of these “desk time” chunks instead of one when he’s six (our kindergarten year) , like one for phonics, one for math.
      The next year (first grade) he might have 3, one for phonics, one math, one reading.
      And so on, but we tend to keep short chunks, bare minimum of seat work/workbooks in order to have lots of time for reading, play, art, etc.
      Even when my son did 4th grade last year, I’d say he did maybe 4 hours total of “structured” school (on a good day) and that was more than enough. You don’t need nearly as much as they do in school because it’s one-on-one tutoring.

  4. THANK YOU!
    Your site was so helpful. I am a mother of 2 little boys. My oldest is 3 yrs and I am starting to learning about homeschooling. You helped me a lot. Blessings, Barbara

  5. I have the same questions as Molly. My little man is 4 and has mastered his ABC’s, counting to 100 by 1’s and 10’s and even knows the states West of the Mississippi. However, he doesn’t want to do anything that requires writing and I can’t get him to sit still for more than 2 short books. How do I start something that is more structured? Or should I just relax and it will come?

    1. Man, I feel badly I never saw these comments and I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now. In case anyone is reading this that has the same questions though, I’d say just relax. :) He’s only 4. Writing is hard and very frustrating if they don’t have the fine motor skills. My son is now 5 and I’m barely having him write. I’m having him work on fine motor by: cutting and pasting, doing those Rod and Staff workbooks that require drawing lines which is good for fine motor control, learning the CORRECT way to make the uppercase letters by making them out of crescent roll dough and tracing with his finger, making letters and numbers out of beeswax (I get this at BellaLunaToys.com and it is AWESOME), etc. Anything that little fingers can do is good for fine motor. Oh, watercolor painting using wet paper, coloring, dot painting, etc. Handwriting w/out Tears has a wet sponge technique you use on a chalkboard and I have him use that. So you cut up a kitchen sponge to make a small square, maybe 1 inch by 1 inch. The child gets it wet (he shakes a few drops from a water bottle on it) and paints a wet letter or number on the small chalkboard. So he’s practicing the correct shape but it is much more forgiving than a pencil. But he’s working on pencil skills in other ways.
      Anyway, long answer, but the short answer is: relax. :) Attention span of 2 books at 4 is good. I know you’ve figured this out long ago, but maybe this answer will help someone else that stumbles upon it. :)

    1. I just use Word to make sort of a table of what curriculum we are using that year, a schedule for that season, and any other organizational things. I print off a free calendar for each month to just pencil in our school weeks vs. off weeks. It’s very low-tech. :)

  6. I didn’t realize I was already doing so many of these things. I am encouraged. I am a part-time working mom, and many days I work from home as my little one plays right behind me. I am very grateful to have a lot of flexibility where I can take breaks for learning time, going outside to explore and take walks together, or meeting up with other moms for play time. I always feel bad when I have to work and he is behind me playing by himself, but I am now encouraged that he is developing skills during this play time. I thank God that He has allowed me the opportunity to have a very flexible work schedule and the ability to work from home. I also praise Him for people like you to offer wisdom and guidance as I try to balance all aspects of my life.

  7. This is such a great help! We’ve just decided to homeschool our 3 year old and we’re clueless where to start. It’s great to know that the daily activities we do are already “school” for his age. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. My son will be 4 the end of August and I have him signed up for preschool at the local school. But he doesn’t want to go and I don’t want to make him. I am home with him anyways. The last few years have been hard BC I get sad sometimes BC my PTSD and major depression but its not all the time. Just blue mood. Not really worked up. My whole family is against me home schooling my son BC that’s all they know is school at public school. I want what’s best for him and me like any parent. The teacher he will have told me he may have some anxiety and that’s OK it should only last a month and then the one day of will be the sad day BC he won’t be with all the kids and toys etc…I don’t want that for him. Hr tells me he wants me to be his teacher. The only problem is right now he likes to watch TV and I need to cut that back some and doing a schedule will be hard. I also take care of my sister and she will be going into kindergarten. She hated preschool. Liked it while there but when going hated it. I just need advice and encourage ment if anyon can help me I would be great fully appreciated! Lenah

  9. I have a 3 year old girl who knows her ABCs and colors and shapes. I also have a 5 year old son that is i kindergarten, which I homeschool. She is always wanting to do school too. Should I go ahead and start with her or just make her wait. I just don’t want her to get burned out on school. She also listens to books and dose art and music with us. For the most part she will set here with us for a long time if I let her. But she gets to where she wants to talk over and it distracts him from his work. She wants to do what he is doing. Any advise for this and how to get her to be more patient?? I have tried sitting her down with him with her own book to do but she hurries and it is hard to help him and her too.

  10. so is there a goal for how much academic time to fit in during a day or do you just make everything all day a lesson of some sort? i am very interested in homeschooling but am trying to figure out where to start.

    thanks,
    jenna

  11. I just want to say THANK YOU!!! I was feeling super intimidated homeschooling my tot. Reading blogs and looking at different curriculum’s then I cam across your blog. The way you broke it down make complete sense! This should be fun for my tot and fairly easy for me as we already have a pretty good routine. I love that you keep it simple and fresh. Now instead of feeling intimidated I am excited to get started! Thank you again!

    Kayla

  12. My child is not quite 2 and I am a first time mom. I found this YouTube video called ChuChu TV (before reading your post) and she did become addicted. So at 22 months she can count to ten, knows her ABCs and at least 20 songs or so, word for word (including shapes…she knows colors but cannot identify them. I thought that’s been great, but I feel like I’m pawning her off on YouTube so I wanted to start mroe structured learning and found YOUR SITE! Thank you, it’s a huge help. How do I backpedal now…and is 2 still too young? Most things you speak about reeference three year olds. Her attention span is about 5 minutes until she sees tv. Shall I just focus more on the character goals you mentioned at this stage?

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