Simple steps to beginning an at-home preschool

I could be wrong, but I don’t think my mom’s generation felt the pressure for “preschool” like we do today. But today – 13 is the new 25, and preschool is the new kindergarten. Not that I am downplaying what you can teach an eager 3-year-old, but I’m giving myself at least permission to take a proverbial breath, and realize it might just be possible for Sam to get into college if  he never experienced a certified preschool program.

In the words of my mother-in-law (a retired kindergarten teacher): “His work right now is play!”

With that said, if you’re willing and you have the time, short and scheduled “preschool moments” can be loads of fun for mom and a 2-4 year-old. Last year was our first with anything resembling preschool. Here are some things we’ve learned that we will continue this year as he’s three:

  • If possible, find a friend or two. It’s not even necessary that he/she be on the exact same “level” as your child. It will lend accountability, feel more official, and provide extra hands to garner supplies/watch younger kiddos/teach lessons.
  • Meet two regular days a week, and don’t feel the need to do more than 25-30 minutes of planned events.
  • Make sure your time includes singing, exercises, and crafts or experiments. For our time, after about 5-10 minutes of writing/reading/sitting, I do some sort of break, even if it is only a minute or two of “silliness.”
  • If you can plan for a month ahead, including making copies and a supply list for projects.

We follow this format every time:

  • Sit in our chairs, say what we’re all thankful for today, and pray. (We pass around a giant smiley face as we share our blessings.)
  • Pledge of Allegiance. (They love taking turns holding the flag.)
  • Sing our “ABC” song.
  • Do a language activity.
  • Do a math activity.
  • Choose one from crafts or science experiments.
  • Interspersed amongst these, we do exercises, dance, sing children’s songs, paint a picture to send someone in the mail, stand up and stretch, etc. I add in one of these very quickly when I begin sensing they are “done.” It’s my opinion that building confidence and love of learning is more important than “gritting our teeth and finishing the lesson” at this young age.

I once read somewhere that a preschool teacher recommended, “Don’t get so overwhelming designing the ‘perfect’ curriculum. Just pick something and go with it for a few months. Once you begin, you can always rework it, add to it, or change it.” I think that is excellent advice. Once you have the shell of a curriculum, here are some other things you can add to it:

  • special days – pajamas, pancake day, color days, field trips, etc
  • show and tell – they love this!
  • special guests
  • making each student bring a pencil box/bookbag with an exact supply list

I know I said this, but two of the most important things, in my opinion:

  1. I strongly believe that the best thing you can offer a 2-4 year-old in an “academic” environment is the joy of learning. Act excited about anything they love. Praise them infinitely for each thing they work on. Make a point of reminding them to show Mommy/Daddy/Grandma what they made and learned today. Greet them with a smile and hug. Thank them for coming every day. If your child and his friends begin to enjoy learning, what a great gift you have given them!
  2. Plan ahead. Even if each “session” has only three activities, plan them ahead of time. I would say plan out at least one month before you begin. Even if it’s not perfect, if it’s workable, go with it for  month. I know from experience there is nothing worse than opening your eyes in the morning to realize, “Ughh…it’s preschool day. What are we going to do today??”

Does doing a at-home preschool excite you? What activities work best for your child?

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4 thoughts on “Simple steps to beginning an at-home preschool

  1. I would add that we underestimate how much preschoolers love to do the same thing over and over. They feel comfortable when a routine is followed and they feel confident as they repeat an already learned song or Bible verse. Tell the same story for a month and they will love filling in the details they remember.

  2. There’s a whole lotta wisdom in what your mom-in-law said! As one who has been where you are, and homeschooled, starting with my own pre-school (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), fun and love of learning is the name of the game. My oldest STILL remembers a tree rhyme we made up together back in preschool, and he’ll be 21 in December. Standardized tests can’t measure that! 😉

  3. Pingback: 5 Worthwhile Purchases for a Homeschool Preschool | Smartter Each Day

  4. I’ve been pulling from so many printables and curriculums online (all free YAY!) and doing things here and there with my son. He’s only 27 months so a lot of it flops miserably…but he already knows all of his letters and can count to 10 (and 16, but he skips 11-15 lol). I just keep trying but try a unit-study/themed approach. One theme every few weeks or so. It’s working well…

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