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:
- 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!
- 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?