Homeschooling a preschooler can be as simple or complicated as you choose to make it.
I am not one to go out and buy a complete preschool curriculum. It seems a waste of money to purchase what can be done on my own.
I also don't find it necessary to make lesson plans for a younger preschooler. With plenty reading aloud and guided play a preschooler can be exposed to a variety of topics and experiences while honing the skills he will need once 'real' school begins. Given the opportunity, a preschooler will learn. Naturally!
That being said, I am still a planner and analyzer at heart, and I love all the 'trappings' of preschool! Thankfully, we have found a balance that works well for us. In sharing it here, I hope you find something that helps you, too!
Our current preschooler, Alan, who is 3, likes to 'do school' with his older brother.
One thing that has been invaluable at school time is Alan's Activity Box. It is just what it sounds like: a box of activities! It is filled with simple things that he or I can choose to pull out and do. Some require my help, some do not.
What's in our box? Among other things, it is filled with....
- Play Dough
- Beads & Pipe cleaners,
for patterns and stringing
- Toothpicks in spice jar
Printed Internet Freebies covered in contact paper, such as:
- animal matching/memory cards
- shape-matching dominoes
- flannel/felt board activities
(Find great ones to print and make yourself from DLTK!)
In addition to an activity from the box, other things we like to do are:
either from a coloring book or a page printed from the Internet. This site has about anything you can think of to print and color.
Chalkboard & chalk
Scissors & glue,
with no other purpose than to have practice holding scissors. Later on I will print or draw scissor practice sheets for him, but for now free-style cutting and gluing is great fun! I usually give him a piece of construction paper and a glue stick, because it is much less messy than the squeezable glue, and let him have at it.
Water Colors or Finger Paints
Writing with Pencil & Blank Paper
One my most favorite school finds has been from a "Just $1" type store, where we found 100 plastic mini clothespins, 25 each of red, yellow, green, and blue. These are great for counting, sorting by color, and just keeping oneself amused for a while.
Tub of soapy water,
with a couple of kitchen utensils and/or bathtub toys. If you trust your kiddo to know to blow rather than suck, a straw is fun for increasing bubblage.
Small tub of sand or rice or other fine grains.
Alan asked for sand the other day and all I had was a box of cream-of-wheat cereal, so I poured that up for him to play in.
Books, books, books
Occasionally I will print Alan an actual worksheet, especially if he asks for something like Dale's. You can search "preschool worksheets" and find an innumerable amount online. I have several sites marked in my favorites, and get most of mine from this site.
In addition to everything listed above, anything sensory or skill-building gets counted as school.
Occasionally I will actually plan a craft to go along with a theme or season.
Also for themes and seasons I will try to put in a couple of fingerplays, rhymes, or songs for each month.
No Time for Flashcards is an excellent source for crafts and songs.
So, those are all the things we do, some more than others. But here is the thing: I don't specifically schedule these activities. I have them in my 'arsenal' to pull out as needed, thought of, or asked for. Keeping them in a central location, like the activity box and the school cabinet have been very helpful!
While I don't make specific plans, I do work under a couple of basic principles: I set very general goals, like learning colors, letter recognition, and counting.
I also like to work with general themes such as something seasonal, or animals. That can be especially helpful in picking out library books or searching for a planned craft to do.
THEN.... as we go through our day, I make a note of everything Alan does that I feel counts as 'school'. From a learning game to sitting in the floor stacking his blocks, to us reading a book together - I write all those things down.
For easy record-keeping I like to put a small box in the margin of Dale's weekly lesson plan, numbering Day 1, Day 2, etc.
At the end of some days there may just be one or two activities listed. Other days we may have done 7 or 8. The point is, I can look back over the weeks and see how much 'school' he is actually getting. Otherwise I would forget all those little things that add up to a lot preschool experiences!
This is so much easier than spending a great deal of time planning and preparing for what is often an unpredictable age. If he is happily entertaining himself with his toy trains while we are doing math, I'm not going to interrupt him to come complete my lesson plans!
School and learning will happen when it happens! But by keeping a record of it, I can rest assured that it is happening, and my poor little preschooler isn't being neglected while I'm busy with a 1st grader. ;)