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Saturday, June 4, 2016

How We Homeschool Preschool

Before having kids I worked in a wonderful transitional kindergarten classroom that I absolutely loved. Somedays I wish I still worked there (you know so I could send my kids home at 1:30 and have the rest of the day to myself. Just kidding. Sort of. You mamas of littles know what I'm talking about).

Seriously though...the world of preschool is magical. Yes, it comes with struggles but it really is such a magical stage. The world is exciting and ready to be explored by these little learners. 

 I've been saving ideas since then and thought maybe someday I'll do homeschool preschool with my kids. 

Here's a sampling of what our homeschool preschool looks like...

Pre-reading skills:
- Letter Tracing: this can be as simple as you writing letters for your child to trace on paper. Or you can buy workbooks full of letter tracing pages. Don't forget to check Pinterest too, there are lots of letter tracing activity pages on there too if you have a home printer. This is great for your child to start learning how to prepare to hold a pencil for writing later. We typically use markers because they're easier for little hands to grip and your little one doesn't have to press very hard to get color out so she can focus more on mastering those letter curves. 
- Letter Recognition: This can really be so easy. You don't have to plan activities for this. Just point out letters in books when you're reading with your preschooler, or when you come across signs while out grocery shopping. The list could go on letters are everywhere. The opportunities to be letter hunters and help your preschooler practice letter recognition are everywhere! But if you want to plan activities there are lots of fun letter recognition activities. One recent one we enjoyed that was super easy was going on a letter hunt in our sandbox. Before I hid the letters in the sandbox I made a chart of all the letters I was going to hide so we could account for them all (we were practicing lower case letters or "little letters" as we call them). It was fun digging for letters then finding their corresponding letter on the chart. Even toddler sister got in on the fun of digging for letters. 

Art is so so so important for preschoolers. It's way more than just another center for them to play at. Almost all art projects really help develop their fine motor skills which will play a big part in their confidence as little writers in a few years. Holding a paintbrush, scribbling with a crayon, using q-tips to spread glue on a collage all really work to develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. 
Art is also important emotionally for little ones. It can be very calming and quieting for their little minds that are usually running a mile a minute taking everything in. 
A few of our favorite preschool art projects this year have been painting birdhouses, making collages with buttons, dot art paintings, melting broken crayons into new crayons and coloring with them, playdough, painting on paper, painting in the bathtub with pudding (or can do outside just wouldn't recommend doing it inside unless it's in the bathtub). It really doesn't have to be complicated. The best thing you can do is just give your preschooler opportunities to create open ended art, meaning the end result is up to your child. All those cute preschool crafts on Pinterest are precious but often these end up with the parent doing most of it and making sure the child has a certain end result in mind. Whereas open ended art grows your child's creativity which we know grows their little minds. So think projects that have no end result in mind. Just put out some paper and paint maybe some glue and buttons and see what your little creates. 
(side note: squeezing glue from a bottle can get frustrating for littles. And while it can help build their hand strength if your preschooler is having a tough time managing that glue bottle pour some glue into a bowl and have them use a q-tip or small paint brush to get the glue on their paper- still working those fine motor skills and with less frustration).

Math & Spatial Awareness:
- Pattern blocks are a favorite of ours for learning shapes, math, and spatial awareness. You can count the sides of the pattern blocks and talk about the names of different shapes. There are lots of fun patterns you can buy or print out for your child to follow to create animals or other pictures. But also it's fun to pour out a big container of pattern blocks on the table and see what they create!
For math we also talk about "how many" a lot. I need this many oranges at the grocery store, can you count? Or how raisins do you have left? Those types of questions. 

Gross Motor
Caroline takes ballet and that has been a huge part of developing her gross motor skills this past year.
 We also enjoy visiting open gym time at our local kid's gymnastics gym. They have a blast running, jumping, swinging from bars and braving the balance beams. 
Freeze dance is another great way to get some energy out and develop gross motor skills.
Hopscotch is great can draw a hopscotch or there are lots of fun interlocking hopscotch sets you can buy. We love those for indoor hopscotch on rainy days. Hopscotch is also a good opportunity to practice numbers and talk about right and left. 

Caroline loves the Nutcracker so we listen to the soundtrack a lot. She also learns songs during the kid's program Sunday mornings at church. The library has also been a big music resource for us. I check out lots of favorite children's CDs and the girls have enjoyed almost all of them. YouTube is another fantastic resource for homeschooling and I'll admit I totally enjoy sitting with the girls and watching YouTube videos about music- we especially like the Piano Guys. We also have a piano at home that Mike plays. We let the kids experiment playing keys noticing the sounds, taking a peek at the strings inside. It's not a fancy piano and for that we're grateful because instead of having tell the kids "don't touch" we can invite them to learn and explore with it. Just today Mike took the front off the piano so Caroline could learn how pianos create sound. Learning is so much better when you're not afraid of getting messy or breaking things. 

We try to spend time outside almost everyday. Outside play is so so important (The Last Child in the Woods and Charlotte Mason are great resources explaining the importance of children to be outdoors...and I'm talking outdoors with trees and grass..not a concrete playground). When we're outside we just let nature make the lessons. When the seasons change we talk about how nature changes whether it's the leaves falling from trees in autumn or discovering a nest of robin eggs in spring. Recently Caroline was filling up a small bucket with water and pouring it out inside the garage over and over so I suggested we go water the plants in the garden. I told her about roots in the ground that we can't see and how that's how the plants drink. Really just being outside with an open mind is a wonderful way to learn. I remember as a kid while out for walks with my dad he'd gather interesting looking leaves and bring them home and we'd look them up together to find out their names (and back then we had to use a it became a spelling lesson too) 

An important part of preschool is social development. Fortunately when you have two kids less than two years apart in age the social environment is very real. Someday it's too real. We deal with a lot of social conflicts all day everyday. Sharing, taking turns, personal space, empathy, working together, and on and on and on till sometimes my mama heart just wants to sit down with Netflix and a bag of Bark Things, ha! I'm far from perfect but I've tried to be very intentional in how we handle our conflicts all day. We've been talking a lot about empathy and reading books about empathy and pointing out empathy and opportunities for it every chance we get. It's hard but we're starting to see some fruit in small ways. When I was planning out unit specifically set on empathy & kindness I saved some of my favorite ideas to a Pinterest board. You can check it out here. When you grow up with siblings every day is an opportunity for character development that's for sure (and I'm not just talking about them...mama too!)

Okay so history isn't usually a big part of preschool beyond pilgrims at Thanksgiving and the Christmas story at Christmas. But I grew up in a family that was truly in love with history so it's hard for me not to make it a daily part of our homeschool preschool. Right now Caroline loves reading the My First Little House books and we read those often.  I always make a point to talk about different things like how they couldn't just go flip a light on like we could, they had to light candles. Or how they couldn't just swing by Target like we could- they had to make or hunt their own food. We often even pretend Little House on the Prairie throughout the day..."washing" plastic bowls in the bathtub or a basin of water to pretend we're hand washing like the Ingalls did. Or when I need to get errands done at the mall and the girls are in the double stroller we pretend we're in a covered wagon and ask Caroline to imagine things on our journey "Is there a river that we need to cross?" I also made a recipe from play dough (not the kind from a container but dough that felt and looked like real dough made from flour and oats but was more the consistency of the store bought playdough) to pretend we were making bread like on bread making day in the My First Little House books. 

Really the bottom line is this: LEARN AS YOU LIVE.
You might read this post and be overwhelmed and feel like how does she plan all that? I could never do that. I don't. I'm just as stressed, and distracted, and busy as the next mama of young kids. I don't plan things and I get overwhelmed and I'm just trying to roll with the craziness of having two small children. It all comes down to attitude. If you approach each day and each experience with an open mind -whether it's a visit to an incredible children's museum or just a quick trip to the grocery store- you'll find endless opportunities to learn. I'm preaching to the choir here because I'm task oriented and checking things off my list is what I do best. But if I remind myself to slowdown and teach and learn and explore life their little minds really open up to the world around them. 


Unknown said...

I love this!!!Thanks for sharing your ideas so that other moms could benefit! Your two are so sweet...and their mama is such an incredible teacher, all day long!
Love, Oma!

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