I get a lot of questions about how to homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten. I love those! It’s usually young first-time mommas who are so excited for every new adventure in parenting. They are also terrified that their child will be “behind” if they don’t know how to read before Kindergarten. I remember those years! They were my favorite years of homeschooling and that first kid got the absolute best of me. Then I went and had 3 more kiddos and a lot changed. I relaxed and realized that there was plenty of time to learn everything. I learned that just like potty training, if the kid wasn’t ready to learn to read, it was just going to be a frustrating experience for both of us. I had to be taught to value play, reading aloud, being outdoors and social interaction as the MOST IMPORTANT things in early childhood education. Here’s my top 5 list of things to teach your kids in preschool.
- Reading. All kids learn to read at their own pace so don’t stress if your 5-year-old isn’t reading (or showing any interest). Don’t make it about a number (their age). Do read aloud to children of all ages DAILY. Read children’s books, read street signs aloud as you drive, read subtitles on the TV, read recipes. Give play by plays of what you are doing in the kitchen, listen to audiobooks. This is how kids learn to speak well, have good vocabulary and prepare to read. When they are ready to start formally learning to read (you will know) pick up a phonics-based curriculum like 100 Easy Lessons or All About Reading. Find the one that YOU (the teacher) like. If they hate it, put it away and try again in a few months.
- Math. Remember all that talking I told you to do in #1? When you run out of words, count. Count the stairs, toy cars, stuffed animals, their adorable little fingers and toes. Play with them and make up stories about their toys leaving and coming back (make it funny!). Learn all the fingerplays like 5 Little Monkeys and One, Two, Buckle my Shoe. Google and Pinterest are your friends. During snack time, count their cheerios and recount as they eat one at a time. Play simple board games. If your kid is ready to write, pick up a colorful but simple little workbook that they will think is fun. Connect the dots and color by number.
- Writing. There are many steps that come before a child can write a sentence between the college ruled blue lines. They must develop the muscles and small motor skills necessary for holding a pencil. Play with playdough, build with blocks. Start with tracing letters and numbers in salt or sand on a tray. Use dry erase markers on a window or chalk on the sidewalk. Stretch out big pieces of butcher paper on a wall or the floor and use big markers and crayons. Don’t push them into the lines yet!
- Nature. Go outside EVERYDAY. Even if it’s freezing or boiling and you can only be out for a few minutes. Do it. Take a walk and keep talking. Point out the trees, grass, bugs, squirrels, clouds. Answer all the questions, even if the answer is “I don’t know”. Go to the library and get books about nature. Take a sketch book outside and start making simple drawings of what they see. Go to the zoo and do the same thing.
- Friends. Teach your kids to value others over themselves. Have playdates. Allow your kids to put up super special toys that if destroyed would crush their spirits. Everything else should be shared. When a playmate breaks something or doesn’t play nice, it’s a learning opportunity for YOUR child. Don’t try to fix the other child. When they leave, talk to your kids about what happened and how they can avoid making those mistakes. Teach them to give grace and understand if a friend was sad, or grumpy because we all get sad and grumpy. Be a good example out in public. Put away the grocery cart because it’s kind to the next person. If an elderly person needs help loading their groceries, let your child see you be a helper. When you lose your temper, ask for forgiveness.
Learning is FUN! Kids, especially at this age, learn through play. This is not the time for sitting at a desk doing boring worksheets or pushing them into any learning experience that makes them (or you) cry. If the mood isn’t right, if one of you is frustrated because taxes are due tomorrow or your shirt tag is itchy, JUST STOP. Call it a day and go play. Watch a movie, take a nap, go outside, have a snack, play with water, try again later. There will come a time to push through difficult concepts and do things even though they are hard. Preschool is not that time.