Friday, August 24, 2007

Preschooling at Home

Children at the age of 3 and 4 are at some of the sweetest ages they will ever be. To be able to spend full days with them, discovering the world and lighting the fires of their curiosity and discovery is truly a gift and a privilege. Preschool at home is a blessing for the whole family as it sets the stage for a family life full of wonder, learning, and togetherness. For mom, it is fun, and even relaxing if she can let go of her perfectionism and allow herself to just enjoy the time and 'play', learning new things right alongside her children.

When your preschoolers stay home with you, instead of going off to school each day, you gain on so many levels:

-their younger siblings have a playmate, and someone to help them when mommy is busy
-mommy doesn't have to drag everyone around in the car or stroller each day, twice a day.
-mommy (not a teacher you don't know, or young children who aren't formed yet) is the primary influence in their growing spiritual, emotional and intellectual lives
-mommy has something to distract her from the daily chores of laundry, dishes, meals and diapers. It opens up a whole new world for her to immerse herself in and learn about.
-the child has so much more time with family, and more opportunities for real life learning, through doing chores at home, going to the store, visiting Jesus at daily mass, going to the library etc...
-you can still have a daily quiet time, or daily nap without being rushed out of the house each day... and the younger siblings don't have to be rushed through their naps either.
-you can use the money you saved on preschool fees and gas to buy really good books, art supplies, and other fun preschool-at-home supplies that you will be able to use with each of your children.
-It's so much fun!!

There are many many resources for the new homeschooling parent who wants to begin in preschool. It's becoming a very popular choice, so you won't be alone if you choose to go this way.

Many mothers who have been homeschooling for awhile already, will likely tell the new homeschooling mother to relax, not worry about a formal program until grade one, and enjoy this time by reading lots of good books, letting them color and draw, and spend lots of time outdoors in nature.

For the new homeschooling mother, this can sometimes be scary advice, because she is trying to set up a routine for doing 'school' at home for the first time, and needs a bit more structure than just snuggling on the couch with good books. I am of the mindset that with your first child, homeschooling for preschool and kindergarten is more of a training ground for MOMMY than it is for the child. It gives her time to get her feet wet, figure out the different philosophies and resources for homeschooling and dabble in them to see what fits her, and her family the best. It gives a slow easy transition from playing all day to more of a routine, and all without the pressure of the local school board wondering what you are up to.

When a mom is already homeschooling an older child, it is much easier to ease the new preschooler into the pre-established routines and order.. and they are learning right alongside their siblings already, so you don't often have to formally teach things like the alphabet and colors and numbers.

So, for anyone who is wanting a bit of structure or a look into how other people have started the home school journey with preschool/kindergarten, I will lay out a list of Good Books to read, online resources, stores, curriculum and fun stuff for you. If it seems like too much information all at once, then ask me any questions you have. I can tell you what we did, and what I would do if I had to do it over again with my first child.

For me, I really like to have LOTS of information, because that is my personality LOL.. so here is just a piece of all of the resources out there. Please know, however, that all of this is truly optional. Your preschooler will learn all of this stuff eventually whether you start now and take 2 years, or start in grade one and take 2 months.

1. Good Books to Read:

Many of these can be found at the library, and the other ones can be bought online or can be borrowed:

Real Learning -- One of my very favorite homeschool books. The author has a blog, and a very good message board where you can learn from other catholic homeschoolers.

Catholic Homeschool Companion

Charlotte Mason Companion - full of gentle learning ideas from nature study to crafts to chores, etc.. a really good book.

Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler

The Well Trained Mind -- classical education. a great book, but you need to take it with a grain of salt and not worry about trying to do everything in the book. It's very inspiring though.

Design your Own Classical Curriculum -- a Catholic classical education book. very good!!

2. Online Resources

A Magical Childhood -- A wonderful website dedicated to just plain childish fun. "this site was born out of my desire to share ideas and celebrate the neat parents out there. In an age when kids are getting scoliosis from toting home such heavy backpacks and people are trying to teach their infants French, I thought it was high time there was a place that focused on plain old happy, goofy, silly, leisurely life for our children"

Mater Amabilis -- Free online Catholic lesson plans. This is based on a Charlotte Mason style education. Looks really good. I will follow a lot of this with zach in kindergarten.

Letter of The Week - free online preschool curriculum -- free online learn-to-read program. It's really good!!

Preschool Express -- lots of good ideas and printouts

Preschoolers and Peace -- This is a protestant website about homeschool preschoolers. They have some good organizing help on there.

Real Learning Blog -- a wonderful collection of essays on homeschooling the preschooler. This mom has 8 kids, I think, and still enjoys the preschool years. -- popular children author's website.

3. Actual Curriculum to buy (you don't NEED to buy anything, but if you want here are some good resources):

CHC -- they sell daily lesson plans with preschool and kindergarten in one pack. They are very gentle, catholic and sweet. This is a very popular program with lots of help for the new homeschooler.

Sonlight -- a protestant, literature based curriculum that is very very popular and looks like lots of fun. You get an instructor guide to follow each day, and a whole bunch of books to read with your child. It is a very comprehensive program and lots of fun. Right now they have a special on where you can try it for 30 days for Free with free shipping and if you don't like it, just return it.

Five in a Row -- a 'light' cuddle on the couch and read stories sort of curriculum. It weaves in math, reading, art, social studies, science etc.. using picture books. This is very popular among homeschoolers. Not as 'academic' as most curriculum, but lots of fun to do.

Little Saints -- a full catholic preschool lesson guide that gives you themes for each week, schooling for 3 days a week. Includes Craft templates, coloring pages, game ideas, circle time, finger play, book lists for the library for each week, etc.. We used this for a while and really liked it. It does involve a bit of planing for mom. You have to photocopy things and prepare the crafts ahead of time, but it's fun for the kids and gives you structure.
You can buy it here and often there are copies on ebay.

Seton -- a Catholic academic program that is done with lots of workbooks etc... they have a kindergarten program that is supposed to be good, but not as 'fun' or 'light' as some of the other programs. You can register your child as a student with them and they will grade their work and send you report cards etc ... or you can just use their lesson plans and books without registering.

Rod and Staff -- a set of 5 workbooks that are great for preschool.. they teach pasting, cutting, coloring, letters, numbers, and bible stories. They are pretty inexpensive and are a fun way to do more 'schooly' stuff. We used these with my oldest.
Mother of Divine Grace

My Father's World -- kindergarten curriculum that is quite popular among protestants.

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