Guest Post by Catherine Gillespie
I have three children aged 4, nearly 3, and 16 months. Because of their littleness and close age range, things are pretty busy at our house and we needed a preschool core that would allow us to be together rather than requiring me to be apart with my oldest daughter while the other two kids ran amok. After much reading and careful consideration, I decided that the essence of what we want to instill in our young children at the preschool level is good habits of character and a love of reading. As I began to structure more of our time around these goals, I found that we were able to cover a wide range of subjects and activities in a short amount of time and I was surprised to see how much of what we already did together was educational without being formal “school” time.
We start with building character. My husband and I discussed areas of character that our children needed to work on, and found Bible verses for memory work that fit with those traits. If you need inspiration, feel free to check out our outline. Some habits have come easily, while we’ve spent weeks working on others. We don’t expect our kids to be perfectly patient or kind by the end of the sequence, since character development is a lifelong process, but it has proved helpful to have the verses and ideas to use as reminders when incidents arise.
We read widely from living books. My book policy for children is that they be well-written, beautifully illustrated, and tell a worthwhile story rather than just beating kids over the head with a moral (this loosely follows the Charlotte Mason principle of “living books”). I sorted our book collection into categories and was surprised to see how well most subjects can be covered using good books. My basic categories are Bible/Devotional, Language Arts/Poetry, Art/Music, Manners, Math, Science/Nature Study, History/World Cultures, Folk Tales/Fairy Tales, and Good Stories. I try to read a little from each category most days.
Other good resources for children’s books include the Sonlight reading lists, Ambleside Online, and books such as Honey for a Child’s Heart, Babies Need Books, and Books Children Love. Even babies and grabby toddlers can be taught to enjoy reading time, and we have learned a lot at our house just by reading great books together.
We remember that all of life is educational. Aside from working on character and reading, I try to remember that our whole day is an opportunity to learn and grow. We memorize poetry, listen to good music, learn about nature when we take walks, learn about math and science when we cook, talk about colors and shapes when we describe the world around us, and most of all we just have fun playing! Preschoolers need lots of time to relax and enjoy exploring their world and how things work. Since our preschool approach doesn’t involve a lot of desk work, I feel free to relax and incorporate learning into everyday activities knowing that we’re covering a lot more than most strictly academic preschool programs.
Ultimately in our homeschool preschool I want to lay the foundation for good character and love of learning and reading that will serve my kids well in later years. Whatever you choose to do for preschool, have fun and remember that all of life is learning!
Photo Credit: Michael Goodin