We began our first full year of Preschool Homeschooling this September! I get a ton of questions every time I mention homeschooling. One of the most common ones I get from other homeschooling parents (other than Why We Chose to Homeschool) is how do we do preschool?
Lets Be Real – I Panicked
I had this blog post outlined in August. That was a big month for us with lots going on. My son, who is 3, began spelling and reading words…overnight…on his own. Looking at my preschool lesson plans, I panicked. I had NOTHING in them for spelling or reading beyond basic language development (nursery rhymes and stories) and a little bit of writing skills (drawing his letters). I panicked, felt completely inadequate and everything I looked up on the subject made it worse.
Labor day weekend came and I took a breath and a step back. I had to remind myself of the big goal for preschooling at home – simply create the habit of homeschooling and raise my son in the way Damon and I believe is right. After that, everything else is a bonus.
I share this with you to let you know – I am not an expert. I’m playing this all by ear. I wasn’t homeschooled and I didn’t have a Pagan/Polytheist/Heathen upbringing. Pumpkin is my only living child. So here we are…learning as we go.
Problems with Preschooling at Home
Preschooling isn’t a very popular topic on most homeschooling groups and sites. What I commonly find is people discussing how to preschool younger ones who are wanting to be like their big siblings. That wasn’t how things were happening in our home as we have only one lil pumpkin. When I asked about it, I unfortunately was met with some condescension and, while well-meaning, patronizing advice.
Most of the mentality around preschool I faced was this push of no schooling at all for little ones. “Enjoy your time, while he’s young!” “Don’t rush into it!” “Just play!”
That’s nice and all but when we look to kids who enter public school through preschool and kindergarten there is a polar opposite approach. It seem that in the public and even private school system there is a push to get younger and younger children to learn more and more. Everything from multiple languages to long periods doing worksheets to reading to math is pushed on little ones as young as 2 and 3.
Deciding to homeschool is a tough choice and made all the more difficult when faced with the choice of HOW to homeschool and how early. I approached it the way I do a lot of things – research the hell out of it then make up my own mind according to how my family works and our world view.
Preschool Homeschooling Curriculum Packages
I did find some preschool curriculums out there. Most were Christian and heavy on the bible stories. Two that weren’t and were heavily Waldorf influenced that I liked were, unfortunately not in my budget at this time.
For those curious, the curriculums I was interested in were:
Preschool Waldorf Earthschool Curriculum (they also have a lifetime curriculum membership)
Since it didn’t look like I was going to find a ready made package for our next year, I had to get creative.
Deciding on Foundations and Goals
Before I got too deep in preschool planning and activities, I needed to take a step back and think about our family goals for this year of homeschooling. Not having goals is like going on a road trip without a destination or a map. By deciding what we wanted to get out of this, we could make better decisions about what we wanted to do, what we would like to do but it would be ok if we didn’t, and what we knew for sure we didn’t want.
I decided to have a look around and see what the different philosophies were about pre-k kids and what they should know before entering the early grades. Some, like Waldorf, felt this was a gentle time to focus on the home rather than learning anything concrete like math or letters. Others had some points based on how the brain works in young people and how they, like sponges, easily soak up vocabulary and facts and so should be exposed to as much of that as possible.
I decided to first have our back up plan in place – if something happens and we have to put our Pumpkin in school (public or private) what would he need to know in order to integrate without being held back. I checked out the Common Core Standards for kindergarten. Making a few notes about math and reading, I felt we were already doing well in that area, especially in literature.
Next I found this awesome article! It included links to her posts about what the Classical Philosophers had to say about teaching young children (we’re talking Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, and Quintilian).
What stuck out to me, reading these quotes and how another mom is doing it, were 2 concepts I wanted to base my early homeschool on. Habits and Virtues – this was the foundation of my preschool homeschooling.
Preschool Homeschooling: Habits
One of the big Truths of parenting small children is that they learn by watching and mimicking the people around them. This can be good if what they are seeing and mimicking is healthy and creates good habits and personality in the child. In order for that to happen, the parents and others around the child will need to practice good habits and actions in front of them.
When we discuss habits, some of the first things that come to mind are personal care and chores. Things like brushing teeth, keeping clean, picking up trash, cleaning up dishes, etc. These are all good things to do and teach children to do as well.
Other habits that are healthy for children include living natural rhythms in their day and life. Going to bed at an hour when they will be able to get a full night’s rest. Eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Getting enough activity and sunshine. Living by the seasons. Seeing health care providers regularly. Participating in their communities whether that means going to the library, attending local events, or aiding in local charities. These are all good for you and your young ones but aren’t things we often think of as habits – sadly this usually means we don’t get into the habit of doing it.
How do we create and teach Good Habits
One of the biggest things I saw among homeschoolers when asked what they wished they had done, looking back, was they wished they had started earlier with creating a habit of homeschooling. Waiting until their child/ren were “school age” to start the daily habit of school at home was a struggle for many of them. A child that is used to running free waking up one day to be told to sit still and listen and learn is going to create rebellion. So we knew that even if all school time consisted of was stories and songs, we needed to at least make it part of our lives early on.
Creating a homeschool rhythm was something we immediately were interested in. I share the inspiration for ours and what it looks like here.
Create a habit of manners. Saying please, thank you, sorry, etc is all learned through mimicry and repetition. We want these things ingrained in our son so that he does it immediately when necessary. We already are seeing results as strangers remark on how polite Pumpkin is (when he’s not too shy or anxious to talk at all).
I touched on part of the virtues important to children in the habits (learning manners) because the way to teach virtues is partly through creating a habit of them in every day life.
Children learn through a variety of means – mimicking adults and people they see (on tv or in real life), habits (being told repeatedly and shown how over and over until they get it), stories (oral or book lessons told through fictional tales), and more.
When it comes to virtues we want to teach Pumpkin, we look to the things our family values and our faith-based world view. We are always on the look out for stories to help us teach these things but beyond that we strive to live our lives by these values every day and watch our son imitate us. Things like volunteering to help a family member or neighbor, cleaning up after ourselves, showing gratitude, etc.
We are also teaching our son to pray and honor the Ancestors, Gods, and Nature. He sees us give offerings, attend and pray publicly at special events, and interact with nature here at home, in our garden, or when out on hikes. We treat plants and stones and animals (even insects) with respect (or when we don’t, like killing mosquitos, we explain why). He is learning 2 prayers (one for meals that focuses on gratitude and one for bedtime that focuses on protection) through habit and memorization because we believe its important to pray.
Habits and Virtues
This might not sound like the most academic preschool plan but we think that its building fertile soil for our son to grow in.
Please share your favorite preschool at home methods and thoughts in the comments! We love learning about new ways of doing things or resources!