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How I Homeschooled During the Preschool Years

21 Oct

I waited patiently for 5 years to start homeschooling…okay perhaps not all that patiently.  I “might” have been guilty of trying to push academics on my little ones.  Thankfully they pushed back just as emphatically and won…and then went back to their play.

In the year Ethan turned 6, which is the year Aussie kids start Prep (it used to be called preschool) or Grade One, we started trialling a school routine.   For two reasons I knew I needed to keep our school day simple and not too long.  Firstly, the boys might revolt if I tried to make them sit and work all day at the mere ages of 6 and 4; and secondly, being my first year I didn’t want to burn myself out either.  Both parties needed to ease into formal school time.

To keep things simple, we focused on the basics – the things I considered important foundations – Bible reading, beginning Mathematics, beginning sounds and something interesting to read about and explore.

Our mornings started by snuggling on the couch listening to bible stories from a children’s bible.  This was a habit that would continue over the years and change very little.

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For Mathematics and Language we did use some workbooks.  We used the Earlybird Math workbooks and the Before the Code series.  But a lot of our other work was play based and hands on.

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In Mathematics we counted a lot of things.  We counted while skipping and jumping on the trampoline.  We played lots of simple Math games – some  that I printed off the internet and some that I purchased.  Early Math was relatively easy to incorporate into our days as it was something that came fairly naturally.

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We approached beginning sounds in much the same way.  We did a little bit of bookwork which Ethan really enjoyed.  He felt very grown up doing “real work”.  But, like Mathematics, the rest of our learning happened while moving and playing.   Our favourite ‘beginning sounds’ activity was writing letters on the floor tiles in chalk and then hopping on  each, and making its sound before moving on.

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Sounding out words by driving cars from sound to sound. Remember to hold the sound as you travel to the next sound.

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Singing the sounding out of words using a drum beater to move from sound to sound

With both Language and Mathematics I learned that these skills, while they seem easy to us, won’t be learned overnight.  They take time and lots of practise.  I also observed that as I added new concepts to their repertoire, often they would start forgetting or confusing something they already knew.  It wasn’t something I needed to lose sleep over as in time the puzzle pieces would all slot nicely into place.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Shame I didn’t know that at the time – but second borns reap the benefits thankfully.

Our last core part of our curriculum was our “something interesting to read about and explore” work – otherwise known as themes or interest based studies.  While I knew we would go on to study Geography, History and Science as separate subjects I didn’t want to dive right into all of them in the first year.  I wanted to tantalise the boys with little bite sized pieces of what was to come.

Our first themes were plants, elephants (after we fed them at Australia Zoo and fell in love with them), and the human body.  I didn’t set any timeline for our themes.  We just continued to explore the topics until our interest started to wane and then we moved onto the next topic.

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I had no elaborate plan for what we would cover during each theme.  All I did was keep a folder of cool activities and ideas for each theme and then selected from the collection during my planning time. I did have a basic idea of broad concepts within each theme so we could work in some sort of orderly  fashion.  This was useful for some topics more than others.   For example, when we explored the human body I made a basic list of body systems, key organs and body parts that could be explored and grouped them into a logical progression of study.

What about music and art and all the other subjects, you might be thinking?  Well that’s the beauty of themed based work.  It can integrate activities from many different subject areas.   Our unit on plants, for example, sounds like a Science topic, which it was.  But at the same time we utilised art and craft skills to make garden collages, a plastic cup flower and stain-glass flower petal pictures.   We utilised our Language skills when we read non-fiction books about plants, scoured plant books for activity ideas we’d like to try and enjoyed fiction stories where plants and gardens were central in some way.   Our Math skills were put to use as we made graphs and measured the growth of our plants.  In SOSE (Studies of Society and Environment) we visited plant nurseries, Botanical gardens and watched DVDs about deforestation and the importance of plants.  And of course we learned and listened to songs and music about plants, trees and flowers.

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This theme-based or unit study approach eased us into our studies while allowing us to sample a little of everything that was on offer.  No we didn’t choose to continue with this approach in the following years, as I felt the approach can be a little too shallow for older students, but it was an ideal choice for us in our first years.

“School” in this first year was no more than an hour or two long and I did my best to include my then 4 year old.  He insisted!  The rest of the day was spent running and playing as they always had.

During this time it was more important for me to have other homeschoolers to socialise with, than it was for the children.  As I started out I needed people to share our challenges and successes with.  I also learned a lot from what other homeschoolers were doing.   Some people have said that homeschool groups were beneficial to their children when their peers started heading off to school for the first time.  It was important for them to see other children that weren’t going to school and to feel just as “normal” as their school-bound peers.  Different but normal.

These first years were a steep learning curve but I learned that education is a life-long journey.  Small consistent steps with the end goal in mind was vital.  I also learned that mistakes are inevitable, we just have to make sure we learn from them.  And that commitment to this challenging but ultimately rewarding task is what will see us through those days when we’re considering giving up.

Enjoy your preschool years.

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Snuggle up with good books.

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Get messy occasionally.

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Soak up the sunshine.

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Be a bit silly.

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Treasure those first days as you begin your homeschool journey.

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They are the beginning of some wonderful experiences together.

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8 Comments

Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Homeschooling Days

 

8 responses to “How I Homeschooled During the Preschool Years

  1. Kelly

    October 22, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Thank you for this! It is always nice to see you made it through the other side with preschooling! It does not come easy for me.

     
  2. Taylor

    October 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Wow! My friend emailed me your post today and I have to tell you that I had tears in my eyes as I read it. It was a HUGE encouragement to me! I am just beginning my HS journey with my twin boys (age 5), and I really have to keep reminding myself that HS is life long journey and they need to just have fun learning right now. I also LOVED your ideas for teaching things like reading and math. I have also discovered that I like Unit Studies at this age, not only for them but their younger brother who is 2 1/2 yrs. old.

     
  3. Emma West

    July 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Really lovely blog – thank you! I need to see and hear what homeschoolers are doing, as I am preparing to start this journey, and a few people have told me I am nuts. To see your pictures inspired me and showed me that it’s possible, and can be a great experience.

    Em

     
  4. Tracey

    July 16, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    OH it is very possible and even more enriching. Just take it one day at a time. If your children haven’t been to child care or preschool it’s most likely just a continuation of what you were already doing with maybe an additional serve of focused activity and fun with Mum.

    Step out and be bold. Pick a path where friends and family haven’t dared to go. Do it for the love of your family and it’ll be the best choice. It won’t necessarily be the easiest choice, but then again neither will school. School parents just have more company on their bad days.

    Oh and there’s nothing wrong with being a bit ‘nutty’. I reckon a nutty topping would go nicely on a homeschooling day. Hmmm…perhaps some chocolate sauce and cherries too.

     
  5. Carolina

    October 29, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Thanks Tracey for these great ideas! i’ll try some of them out with my boys too. Btw, where do you buy stickers with numbers on them? I looked on ebay but they are pricey, and you only get 3 sets of numbers from 1 to 10.

     
  6. Tracey

    October 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I’m not sure if you’re in Australia or the US but I got my sheets of stickers from discount stores like Crazy Clarks, The Warehouse and Stacks. Those sorts of stores often have large sheets of stickers for $2 or so. At least that’s where I found them. If you’re in Australia I can keep my eyes peeled for them and send some too you if I find them. Just say the word. Alternatively you could buy simple white dot stickers and write the numbers from one to ten on them. Maybe sort the numbers into a little divided craft/fishing box. Peeling the stickers off is a great fine motor activity for them.

     
  7. Megan

    October 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    oh they are so little and cute! 🙂 its great reading this over and over as we are just heading into it all and i love seeing that you are still going strong and raising lovely young men. Thank you 🙂

     
  8. Tracey

    October 30, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    I remember them being so big…or so I thought at the time. They just grow so quickly. Too quickly. Cherish every moment.

     

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