(my wee ones here at 3 and 5)
I have been asked many times how I homeschool, what I use, etc. For some reason, I use to always find that awkward. As I mentioned in my "I am a Charlotte Mason mama"post, I didn't know if people would understand the way we chose to homeschool. I thought if I didn't mention a set curriculum or some other fancy thing, they would look like I had sprouted a set of wings. I am well over that now, thankfully. So, this is the first of a series of posts on how we homeschool, what curriculum we use, and any other gems that I find along the way. I will be doing this twice a month. After we go through that, I will show you we use each year for each grade, which does change from year to year based on what we are studying and need. I have my core curriculum, but I always add to them.
(my 3 littlest with our Truffula trees after we read The Lorax)
Preschool. At what age do I start "school" with them? How do I do it? How young should I start? These are all questions I have been asked over the past 15 years. I am a firm believer in letting babies be babies, letting toddlers be toddlers, letting them be little. Let them discover the world around them, it is all so fascinating at this age. Purposefully, put these in their path that they can explore and discover. Keep things low and let them learn to be more independent. Read, read, and read some more to them. Start gentle, talking about colors and shapes, noticing letters and numbers. Talk about what clothes they are wearing and what color they are. Observe the wonderful colors in the produce department. Let them notice the basic shapes of pasta, the moon, or anything else around them. Point out letters and numbers saying what they are. Counting socks as you sort laundry. Make it a part of every day life. The skies the limit with gentle learning. There are many fun things out there for gentle learning. I made sure we had blocks of different shapes and sizes, letter and number magnets, duplo, lacing cards, sensory bins, kid size brooms and watering cans, a kid sized kitchen, etc. to encourage play and independence.
By the time mine were 4 though, they were ready for more "meat" so to speak. When we first started off, there was not much out there preschool wise as far as homeschool curriculum. So, I spoke with my mom and how she worked with us. And, having just left the kindergarten teacher life behind, pulled out some of my books that I had held to and made my own system up. Mom gave me her set of color circles that she had made and some basic shapes that she had cut out of poster board. I had my abeka letter cards and number cards from my teaching days. And we just went with those. I did a color of the week, shape of the week, letter of the week, and number of the week (yep, a bit like sesame street). We did crafts and read and dressed the colors and had a lot of fun. I only had 2 wee ones at this time, so it was easy to do.
Then, I had 2 more. :) And, these 2 didn't learn in the same style. We did a bit of the above together, but my first son is extremely auditory, so we threw in some videos from the library and cds in the stereo. My second son, by the time he was 4, had 3 older siblings all doing school (plus I had a baby to boot). He wanted books like the big kids in addition to what I was already doing. So, to keep to my gentle learning, I purchased Rod and Staff's preschool books, which were simply lovely. Simple pictures in black and white and easy to understand and do. He was happy and felt like a big kid.
But, by the time my youngest 2 were ready, I had discovered Montessori. I started following Homeschool Creations and 1plus1plus1. Both were huge fans of Montessori. I loved the way it fit into my gentle learing style. I also loved how she encouraged independence. (I will also add there are things I didn't like as well, but overall, it was a good fit into my way of thinking). I read all I could on it and did preschool that way with them. It turned out to be a good fit for both. They learned best that way. And, as it turns out was a blessing I didn't realize till a few years later. My youngest daughter has dyselxia and learning in a Montessori style with its constant repetition was a good fit for her. I didn't know that at the time, but as I look back on it, God did and he directed my path in that way to help her. They, too wanted little books like their siblings, so we just went to Dollar Tree for basic letter writing and number writing books. They were happy as well.
To wrap up my thinking on preschool, keep it gentle. Figure out how your little one learns and what he/she likes and go with that. Also, go with your heart. Remember they have years of learning ahead of them. No need to rush anything. Let them explore and discover the wonders around them. And, be sure to read, read, read with them.
Goodies from across the 'net:
(Each of my homeschool posts will end with a list of links that I have either tried or recommend.)
The first list contain some of that I have personally used either in full or bits and pieces of.
God's Little Explorers, by Motherhood on a Dime - I have personally used this with my youngest. Highly recommend.
K4 Curriculum, by Confessions of a Homeschooler - I have used bits and pieces of her stuff over the years, very nice stuff
Be sure to also check out all the goodies at Homeschool Creations and 1plus1plus1 (mentioned previously) - they have lots of wonderful Montessori style stuff
Spell Out Loud - if you like doing hands on nature stuff with your child, this is the place to go. Her Nature Study for Preschoolers and Toddlers is wonderful!
This is a new one and, if I had still had preschoolers, I would use. It looks excellent and I have heard wonderful things about it.
The Peaceful Preschool, by two of the excellent ladies behind Wild and Free - check out this link for more about this wonderful looking program. There is also a link to download letter A week to try out for free!
A couple of preschool books that I love and have used over the years are:
Making the Most of the Preschool Years by Valerie Bendt - lots of great hands on learning included in here
Before Five in a Row by Jane Claire Lambert - takes some of the best of children's literature and turns them into great fun - my kids still talk about some of the things we did based on this literature based book
Read aloud Revival - I would be remiss to not mention this fine lady and all her work, especially in the area of reading. She has an excellent book list for reading for all levels. Be sure to check it out.
Here are a couple of websites that share regularly free or frugal preschool things:
Teach Beside Me has another list of free preschool curriculum. Also included is a link for a free planner (I find planners in my life make me flow so much more smoothly)
(painting degas after going to the art museum)
I hope you found some useful things in my first part on babies and preschool. Next week in part 2, we will cover how I juggled babies and preschool while having older children that I needed to teach as well. Know of any other great preschool curriculum? Let a comment below.