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One of the greatest gifts in my thirteen years of motherhood has been friendship, having other women in my life to hash out the hard questions and celebrate the victories of this beautiful, complicated journey. I also appreciate hearing thoughts and perspectives from mothers, even when we are approaching motherhood in a different manner. It’s nice to be reminded there’s no one set path. We all have something to learn from the other. On that note, I’m glad to be joining a few other mothers each month to write and share thoughts around a single topic. The series is called Real Talk, Real Moms and today I’m joining them to discuss thoughts on education, more specifically preschool–a topic dear to me.

It may surprise some to know I never planned to homeschool. My two oldest went to a sweet preschool two times a week, and it was in my oldest son’s last preschool year, we decided to homeschool instead of sending him to kindergarten. Perhaps I feel endeared to these years because of the sharp turn in trajectory it took for our family. Or perhaps it is that we are now closing this chapter of life for our family that allows me to see the beauty and simplicity of those years. Children learn so much in those years. Their imaginations and ideas literally gape open to the world around them. Still the preschool years can be busy and overwhelming, too. The changing brain causes shifting emotions and behaviors, too. When it comes to deciding how to best prepare young ones for the grammar school years, it can be intimidating to take the responsibility on at home. Where do I begin? How do I know if they’ll be prepared to leave for school? Will this mean I homeschool forever? Will they have enough interactions with other kids? Can I really do this? Thoughts can easily spiral. It’s normal, especially for your oldest child(ren).

Yet preschool at home doesn’t mean recreating a classroom experience at home. The home and world outside it IS the classroom. As Charlotte Mason famously noted, “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Homeschooling the little years isn’t simply about finding the right curriculum or creating all the right folder games or even making sure they know a certain amount of information before age five. It doesn’t mean you even need to know what to do the following year or how long you will homeschool. It simply requires you to be attentive, to be willing to step into something new alongside your child. As Mary Oliver wrote, “to pay attention, this is our greatest work.” Homeschooling in general is in many ways simply learning to pay attention. For those of you who are considering homeschooling your preschooler or kindergartener next year, here’s a few helpful lessons I’ve learned along the way, often times the hard way.

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TIPS FOR HOMESCHOOLING THE PRESCHOOL YEARS

start small / Begin with something familiar, with what you know and already naturally do in your home. Do you love making food or being outdoors or painting? Use those processes to introduce letters/sounds and numbers.

focus on your home / Social media can be inspiring and paralyzing. Don’t work to live according to other home principles, but instead open your heart and eyes to see your own. Work to establish an atmosphere of curiosity and conversation. Children want to learn in the early years. They want to satisfy curiosities and discover causal relationships. And for the most part, they love being with you.

read books often / Reading aloud to your children will not necessarily mean they will learn to read earlier, but it will develop a love for stories and expand their vocabulary. Developing a reading culture at home will create an appetite for a lifelong love of words.

play with various art materials / Purchase a variety of quality art materials for your children to use and explore mediums. Make collages from different types of paper or magazines. Draw with pastels as well as crayons and pencils.

keep a basket for busy bees / If you have multiple children or small children who love to be busy, keep a special basket for them to play with at certain times of the day. Consider wood blocks, stamps, play-dough, doodle books, needling board, a lap loom, and so on. Pull it out during read-a-loud or when you’re needing to make dinner or spend one-on-one time with another child.

observe + study your children / Become a student of your children. Watch them. How do they respond to large groups versus alone time? Do they tend to move to learn or sit still and focus? Do they have trouble holding writing utensils? Understanding who your children are and how they learn will help you parent them, whether homeschooling or not.

consider hiring help / No one said you need to do everything to be a good mother. Prioritize what’s most important and look for ways to delegate other tasks. Do you have room in your budget to hire help with cleaning or a babysitter to help run errands or play with the kids for a few hours a week? If your budget is small, consider swapping children with a close friend or asking a close relative for help.

play, play, play / Children discover so much on their own by simply playing. Allow them time to create their own play, checking in on them occasionally for safety.

choose simple materials / When I began homeschooling during these early years, all of the materials we used fit into a small antique cabinet in our dining area (maybe one square foot of interior space). I kept a stack of drawing paper, watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, a reading guide, and pre-k materials from Handwriting Without Tears. We made weekly trips to the library and our local children’s museum, and I met weekly with a couple of friends to do a few simple activities, have lunch, and play.

MORE I’VE WRITTEN ON PRESCHOOL AT HOME

Other contributors to this series:

AVE Styles

Design for Mankind

The Effortless Chic

The Refined Woman

Sarah Sherman Samuel

 

11 replies
  1. Randi Schmid
    Randi Schmid says:

    I believe yours is the most helpful in this series.

    May I suggest the ABC Jesus Loves Me curriculum for anyone wanting to have some material to help them intentionally parent during these small, preschool years. It’s great for working parents, homeschoolers, or anyone really wanting to have some ideas of what to focus on during their time with their little one. My 3yo daughter and I really enjoy it!

    Reply
  2. Claire
    Claire says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this. Both of my girls are preschool age this year and it is overwhelming and wonderful all at the same time. Thank you, as always, for helping me remember to keep things simple and focused. I have admired you for quite a while. You are surely a breath of fresh air.

    Reply
  3. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    This is lovely. As are all your posts.
    I’ve taught my kids at home always and wished I was smart enough in the beginning to not do so much. :)
    My third child has benefited the most from my change in thinking as I have relaxed so very much. She’ll actually be considered a kindergartner this year, but already has picked up an amazing amount. I have a few specific things I’ll work on with her one on one this year, but the rest of the time she’ll just continue to learn along with her brothers and have plenty of time to play.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  4. Brandi
    Brandi says:

    We found a moth emerging from a cocoon a few weeks ago, and it was a sad scene when I showed it to my eldest son (closing in on 16) who could find no real enthusiasm. It was a reminder of how precious the early years are when their wonder and eagerness to explore and learn is so intense. Though, I was still excited about it, and I’m…well, older. :) Perhaps it all comes around again.

    Lovely blog you have here, so glad to find it through Life Captured.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Thank you, Brandi. I think there’s always time and place for the love of learning to re-emerge. How wonderful for you to experience it with your teen. And thank you for the reminder to pay attention no matter the age or stage of life. ;)

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] mom series” mama’s views on the subject… Erin, Emily, Alex, Bethany and […]

  2. […] other “real mom series” mama’s views on the subject… Erin, Emily, Alex, Bethany and […]

  3. […] A few of my e-friends are chatting about their education methods/strategies today, if you’d like to take a peek at a few other perspectives: Emily, Alex, Jen and Bethany. […]

  4. […] It’s interesting that when I first sat down to write this post, the first thoughts conjured up by the word ‘education’ were pamphlets I’ve received from Mommy & Me classes and the discussion of different educational theories I have seen take place on Facebook.  I thought of desks and pencils and even SAT scores.  But then when I thought about Parker, and how her mind is absorbing things at two years old, I thought about how when Aaron gives her kisses she points to the stubbly part of his face and says, “scratchy” and the part above and says, “soft” and how she then applies those words to other things around her– the bunnies at school and the leaves on the squash growing in the garden.  I thought about how she is learning about contrasting things: short and far, cold and hot, long and short.  She’s talking about her feelings and recognizing them in the faces of others.  The whole word is, in fact, her classroom.  But as working parents, preschool often isn’t optional and in what seems like the blink of an eye we will have kindergarteners, so thinking about education in some abstract, intangible way gets met with reality.  With our move to Austin and recent house shopping we were forced to think about both preschool and beyond in big serious ways, so I thought for our latest round of Real Talk I’d share our personal priorities and the decisions we came to about education. (Be sure to check out posts on this same topic from Erin, Emily, Sarah, Alex, Erin, and Bethany.) […]

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