Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Choosing Curriculum - Preschool

I was cuddling Little Bear this afternoon and thinking about how difficult it was for me to choose curriculum when we started homeschooling. I still have days when I just don't know what would work, but I am a lot more confident in my ability to choose what will work for my family.

I remember when we decided to homeschool. For our family, it wasn't an all or nothing decision. I wanted to homeschool; but my husband wasn't so sure. So we comprimised. We agreed that we would homeschool that year. It would be a preschool year since our oldest son was just 4. Then we would go from there.

I was ecstatic! I was terribly afraid that I wouldn't be able to homeschool and my husband had said yes! What a blessing from God! Now what?

After intense research I found several different "curriculums" that I wanted to use. All of them were several hundreds of dollars. My husband had a fit! I pieced together a hodge-podge of things and made it work. With two kids through "preschool" and looking ahead to another, here is my compilation of what is needed to preschool. Then I will share what looks interesting for those of you with larger budgets.

Nothing. I know that sounds terribly simplistic, but if you are hard pressed to come up with any extra money for preschool then don't. Dig out some scrap paper, a pair of scissors, crayons, some yarn and glue and let them be. Let them sort and count with M&Ms and an egg carton. Use crayons for coloring and learning colors. Practice the alphabet song. Read the Bible together.

*A Bible story book - Yes, you can read straight from the Bible and I think that is a great idea but little kids like the pictures in a Bible story book while you read. Boys especially like the David and Goliath picture!
*Work books from Walmart - Or the dollar store, or where ever you are. They are cheap and will teach everything that the more expensive ones will. If your little guy hates pencils then skip them. We loved doing our workbooks, one page a day when they were 3 or 4 years old. They would show their completed pages to grandparents and be so proud when they recieved praise!
*Explode the Code primers (books A, B, and C) - These are available from Rainbow Resource. I loved the primers. My boys loved the way they where able to learn the letter sounds with almost no effort at all. They are cheap so that is a plus (there are 3 and I think they are around $6 a piece).

If the budget allows, you might be interested in using the following:
MFW preschool options (there is one for 2-3 year olds and one for 4-5 year olds I think). These are mainly hands on activities. I look forward to giving these a try with my 3rd son.
Sonlight preschool core - We finally own most of these books, buying them a little here and a little there. These books are precious and I don't know any preschooler on the planet that wouldn't clamor for one more reading.

I thought that I would conclude this post with some ways to use these items with your preschooler. I always try to stick with the easiest ideas for mom, while adding the most fun for the child.
1. Try sidewalk chalk. The perks with this are obvious: the child is outside and you don't really have to clean anything up. If you live in an apartment, then take school to the park.
2. Have a letter of the week. We did this in various forms with both of my older boys, but I really see the wisdom in this now. They learn so much from this, not just in phonics/reading. Your child will learn relationship and how ideas can work together. I plan on starting this when Little Bear is 2 and going through the alphabet at least twice. You are not required to start with the letter A. I plan on starting with N for Norman and then moving on to L for Lee and G for Greg. Who wouldn't want to learn their letter? Or bubby's letters?
3. Count everything. I always hear people say that you should count the plates and silverware while setting the table. That's true but there is so much more out there to count! Count the cars that go by, the bugs in the yard, cats in the garage. How many people are in line? How many legs does that dog have? You could go on forever and it keeps your sanity. This is also a good activity when you are in the "never-ending-grocery-store-line".
4. Practice colors with candy. I know some people don't want their children eating a lot of candy and I am not advocating that your eat candy every day, but there is no better way to learn colors than by sorting skittles :)
5. Make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar. Google the instructions. Boys think that this is very, very cool and makes you the best teacher on the planet. Grow seeds into plants, or work in the garden. Get a pet, even if it is a goldfish. Living with and working on things teaches more than any book.
6. Dig in the sandbox. Write letters or numbers in the sand. Bury the toddler (we buried my 2nd son while he was sitting in the sandbox - that picture is precious - he was just 1).
7. Have fun. Don't forget to play. School shouldn't last any more than 30 minutes at this age. I didn't make my boys sit still for 30 minutes at a time anyway. We did a worksheet in the morning (5 minutes), then read a book in the afternoon (10 minutes), then counted something in the evening (5 minutes) and finished the day off with more reading at bedtime. No stress for you, no frustration for your child and the learning has begun!

Enjoy your children now. My little fellow (oldest son) turns 11 on Saturday. We don't know where the time has gone, but I am so very blessed to have been able to be with him every day. I can't imagine what I would have missed if he had been gone during the "school hours". All of the trials and frustrations of homeschooling have been worth every single minute that I am able to look at my oldest son and see his smiling face. I KNOW my son and who he is becoming. Relax and enjoy these years....they are truly over before you know it!


Mary said...

I love you helpful hints. I am starting to homeschool for preschool with my little girl. She just turned two a few days ago. I love the post.

Anonymous said...

What a lot of good. hints. Please add my e-mail address to get your blog. Thank you. Susan