So, you are considering keeping your little one home to do preschool? Awesome! All those precious moments and quality time with your little one are memories you’ll cherish. But, how exactly do you homeschool a preschool kid?
First, you don’t need to set up a “classroom environment” in your home. Your kitchen table, your front yard or local park, and even your couch are great places to teach. At 3-4 years old, most of the learning that will be done will be through hands-on playful experiences. Here’s some ideas on what “school” can look like in your home.
Science: Go out to your backyard or nearby green space with a magnifying glass and a notebook. Make observations about what you see in the grass and draw pictures of insects that live there. Take note of how different trees have different kinds of bark and make crayon rubbings in your notebook. Track one tree in your neighborhood through all four seasons and note how it changes in each season. Make a pinecone bird feeder and draw pictures of the different birds that come to visit it. Take a tray of objects to the kitchen sink and make a chart of which objects sink and which float. Make a weather chart and tally how many days are rainy, sunny, and cloudy for a month.
Social Studies: Make a simple family tree. Draw a map of your child’s bedroom. Take a field trip to the post office, fire station, a hospital, or the courthouse to learn about community helpers. Talk to grandma or another older person and ask about what kinds of toys they played with when they were children. Help your little one comprehend how people keep track of time by looking at a calendar together. Place stickers on it to mark special days. Count down the days to a special event. Pick a day to learn about a different country. Make recipes from that culture. Look at artwork or architecture from there. Color a flag of the country. If you know someone who lived or traveled there; ask questions about their experience. Take a trip. Whether you plan a flight to another place or just drive to a neighboring community. Talk about the similarities and differences between where you live and this new place.
Math: Bake cookies. Talk about how you measure each ingredient. Let your child help measure with cups, spoons, and a scale. Play with beads. Try making different patterns. Sort them by color, shape, and size. Which of you has more. Which has fewer. Sing counting songs like Ten Little Ducks or Five Little Speckled Frogs. Count buttons on your shirt, how many chicken nuggets are on your plate, and steps on a staircase. Put together and take apart Duplo blocks to discuss simple addition and subtraction. “I have two blocks. Let’s add one more. Now, how many do I have?” Compare items. Which tree is taller? Who’s shoes are longer?
Reading and Language Arts: Read aloud to your child. Reenact the story with puppets. Use a felt board to tell a story. Look at picture books. Read a chapter book at bedtime. Go to Storytime at your local library. Make letters out of play doh. Draw letters in a tray of sand. Memorize nursery rhymes. Sing! Label items around the house with index cards. Make up silly stories together. Have a letter of the week or letter of the day. Make crafts, do look and finds for that letter, and practice identifying the letter in different fonts. Play dress up and act out favorite stories. Learn about syllables with clapping or drumming. Play with foam letters in the bathtub or magnetic letters on the fridge. Build up hand strength and dexterity for writing by coloring and using scissors and glue sticks. Read books over and over again. Talk about real stories and make believe stories.
Build structures with blocks. Do puzzles. Make an instrument together and play along with music. Paint, mold clay, play in the sand. Practice with buttons, zippers, buckles, and laces. Play with a ball. Learn to brush teeth, wash up in the bathtub, and pick out clothes that are weather appropriate. Skip, hop, and jump. Run and hang upside down. Pour water from one container to the next. Give hugs and high fives. Learn to take turns and share. Practice saying please and thank you. Identify emotions in yourself and others. Learn where it’s appropriate to be loud and where it’s appropriate to be quiet. Practice table manners. Learn parents given names and practice what to do if lost. Have fun, snuggle, and say, I love you.
Mr. Rogers said “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Whether you are interested in Montessori methods, Waldorf methods, or you don’t know who any of these people are- experts agree: kids need to play. Don’t worry yourself with worksheets or testing. You really don’t need them to write. For now, the goal is to have them fall in love with books and find out that learning is fun! Everything else will fall into place.