This year I decided (it worked out) that I was able to do a little preschool in my home. It was perfect timing where my baby is old enough to be a consistent napper and my two oldest would benefit from the group ‘school’ time. I am writing this post after I have done preschool about 3 months. I can say when I first started I was excited, but a bit stressed and nervous. I was scared to commit every week and planning on top of that. But three months in I have developed a system and love it!
As an introductory post I have decided to outline what my planning thought processes are, the schedule we follow, the curriculum, and my overall philosophy of teaching young toddlers and preschoolers.
As a disclaimer, things have definitely morphed and changed as I get older, read more books, and have more experience. However, momentarily I am overall happy and confident with how things are going in my preschool, in my family, and as a mother/teacher.
I have always been a huge fan of parenting and teaching blogs and articles. I love different books and personal triumphs and fails. I love to try new things. Lately I have read “The Self-Driven Child” by Ned Johnson and William Stixrud. and “The Montessori Toddler” by Simone Davies . I highly recommend both these books. I also recommend @busytoddler and @simplyonpurpose Instagram accounts. I recommend these resources because I cannot take full credit for my ideas and philosophy. I am an excellent imitator.
If I had to put the goals of my teaching into simple words it would be confidence and kindness. These are the target qualities that I aim to have as an individual and aim for my children to develop. With confidence Iwish them to be assertive and independent. I do this by allowing as much autonomy as I can safely give young children. I want them to have choices! I found that when kids have choice they are happy and proud. This also cuts back on tantrums, whining, and hitting. Kindness is the other key word. In the toddler and preschool world, I have found that kindness comes through example. Teaching kindness is very abstract and doesn’t always get results, but showing and practicing kindness helps children see the attribute in a tangible way. We read about kind people and simulate being kind with our words and actions. However, the strongest way for children to learn kindness is by observing, especially their parent and teachers.
When it comes to ‘skill’ and ‘academic’ teaching I take a very moderate stance. I believe that we should educate and challenge our children. But I don’t always agree with the current school system of testing, quizzing, big classes, and little choice for students and teachers. I have seen the current system ‘de-motivate’ children (if that a word), limit choices and overall confidence in oneself, and cause un-needed to stress to children and teens. However, I do believe in making the best of what we are given, and a public education open to all is a huge blessing that we should take advantage of. While homeschooling and specializing your children’s’ education to your family culture and beliefs can be a huge blessing it is not in the cards for every family nor is it every family’s desire. I teach in a way that I believe will have children ‘public school’ ready if a family chooses, but still be self-motivated and confident in choices that they can make. This is achieved through a balance, a balance of choice and structure, independence and rules, and finally play and academics.
With young toddlers and preschoolers I like to have children ‘lead’ the way when it comes to academics. I try my hardest to create rich environments for them to learn their letters, abcs, numbers, shapes, etc. but I have found that your typical child enjoys these ‘academics’ and when they are ready will learn these things happily. However, when we push too early and show our stress we are not helping our children be intrinsically motivated to learn these things, but pushing our stress on them for something that probably wouldn’t even be a problem to learn. TRUST YOUR CHILDREN.
I would much rather practice fine and gross motor skills, matching, sorting, categorizing, and exploring. These skills are hands on and tactile. Yes they can be MESSY, but they are allowing your child to experience and understand the world. Do I throw letters and colors in the activities! You BET! I believe immersing your children in academics can be so helpful, but I am much more interested in their ability to match the letter then say it and memorize the sound. I love the activities that involve tracing, categorizing, and singing. Painting, crafts, and any tactile experience are pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-communicating skills. They allow our children to learn at their own pace and actually experience learning instead of learning being dictated to them. When we put a focus on observing and guiding preschool age children through the ‘experience’ part of an activity we are helping our children gain confidence in their ability to concentrate and master a skill. When they are ready they will then turn around and apply that same confidence and intrinsic concentration to our society’s view of academics.
*Plus a fun and hands-on way to learn academics is through these skills.If they have not mastered the fine and gross motor skills, the activity to learn a letter becomes frustrating for both the student and teacher, because they have different goals. The teacher’s being the mastery of the letter and the student the mastery of the fine motor skill, (such as tracing a letter, or pulling dot stickers of a sheet to put over a letter). I try my hardest to align my goal with that of the child’s because that is usually what the child is emotionally, physically, and intellectually ready for.
In preschool we also have a focus on different life values such as gratitude, choices and consequences, personal and family identity, sharing, earth appreciation, body appreciation, order, and goal setting. These values are a life long journey to experience and fully understand, but the development of these values is important as we send our children into the world as confident and kind individuals.
Here is the schedule that we follow weekly. I believe in consistency and routine. When preschool age children know what to expect they feel confident. They are set up for success because they already know the right choice.
Opening Activity – guided play activity usually focused on a fine or gross motor skill (but not limited to matching and categorizing)
Circle Time – Welcome Song, Calendar, Greetings
Learning Lesson – Group game, some sort of a categorizing or match, use shapes, numbers, letters, and colors as the building blocks for this time
Singing Time – Each month we have a different song list that involve actions, visuals, and props (click to read more about singing time) scroll for a lot of my articles
Free Play – I try to be involved as little as possible in this part and allow children to use imagination and their own problem solving skills
Art and Craft – Some sort of a hands on activity that re-emphasizes the skills or concepts we are learning.
Closing Activity – More of a play/ pretend activity