I love to meet and talk to parents who are just beginning to homeschool their preschooler! They’re so excited and eager to learn more about homeschooling.
Unfortunately, I find that parents who are just starting to homeschool preschoolers are making the same mistakes I did!
They think they need to buy expensive curriculum, and spend hours of time working with their preschooler so they get a good start to their child’s education.
And I get it! I wanted to do the same thing! When we started homeschooling, we bought a well-laid out preschool program from a reputable curriculum provider, and did our best to have our son complete all the work. But I learned quickly that our 4-year old didn’t like filling in workbooks and sitting for very long! He quickly started to “dislike” school. Not a good start to our homeschooling career.
Thankfully, I became sick with mono that school year (I know it’s crazy to be thankful for being sick, but I learned a lot through it!). It was too hard for me to sit and work with the kids (1st grader and preschooler) for very long.
I didn’t know what I should do!
A more seasoned homeschool mom told me to just read to the kids, to lay in bed and rest and read to them. Or get books on tape if my voice couldn’t hold out, and just enjoy listening together.
So, that’s what we did. School suddenly became so much more fun! As we read Bible stories in their picture Bible, and other great children’s books, the questions would come and there were some wonderful learning opportunities that the Lord brought!
I realized that I didn’t need to have an expensive curriculum with lots of workbooks to teach preschool or even 1st grade. Reading aloud to them from great books was a wonderful way to teach. And as I began to feel better, I started also doing more activities and field trips instead of sitting and working through workbooks. It was a much more enjoyable way to learn! The kids were happier and so was I! We did a little bit of that curriculum we had purchased, just as a guide for what to teach them, but believe me, the next year, I didn’t buy it again.
And as I began to feel better, I started also doing more activities and field trips instead of sitting and working through workbooks. It was a much more enjoyable way to learn! The kids were happier and so was I! We did a little bit more of that curriculum we had purchased. I used it mostly as a guide for what to teach them, but believe me, the next year, I didn’t buy it again.
What do preschoolers really need to learn?
- Teach them about Jesus and help them learn to love Him
This is a great time to build the foundations of faith in the Lord! Read them the wonderful stories of the Bible using a picture Bible like “The Beginner’s Bible”, and play children’s worship music (or any worship music for that matter!) throughout the day. Teach them to pray when they have frustrations that they’re working through. Live out your faith and your children will grow to know Jesus as you do.
- Teach them life skills and manners
Encourage independence in as many areas as possible. Train them to be as self-sufficient as they are able to be. Help them learn to put on and take off their own clothing, coat and shoes if they don’t already know how to do that.
Teach them to put away their toys and other things they use during the day in the appropriate places.
Teach them personal hygiene skills, washing their hands and face, combing their hair and brushing their teeth.
Help them learn to make their own bed, and put their dirty clothes in the clothes basket.
Have a water cup in the fridge for them that they can help themselves to when they are thirsty.
Teach them how to interact with others, to have good manners.
How should they respond when someone says “hello” to them?
Role play situations that might come up so they get practice as to what to say and do in new situations. Some kids are very shy, and will need your help to overcome their fear of talking with someone new that you might be meeting with.
Preschoolers are naturally self-centered, so we need to teach them how they’re affecting others.
Train them to be quiet when they need to be, out of respect for others. Or to use their “quiet voice” when appropriate.
Be proactive and talk about expectations BEFORE you get to a new situation, so they know how to behave, and then model the behavior you want them to exhibit.
Teach them to speak politely and respectfully, saying “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me” to others will serve them well all their life.
Here are some good books to teach manners:
“Inventor of Living Skills Books for Kids” by Joy Berry – this is a series of books on helping kids learn manners through stories.
“A Little Book of Manners for Boys” by Bob and Emilie Barnes
- Work on building character and obedience
These are foundational years of training for your children, and if you can help them to understand first-time obedience and being respectful to you and to others at this age, you are setting the stage for success in life. Use scripture to help your children learn the character qualities that God wants to see in them. Check out my blog posts on building godly character for ideas on how to do this.
If you feel like your child is ruling the roost, so to speak, rather than being obedient, then this is the time to get a handle on that! Take a good parenting course to help you learn to discipline your child more effectively. Check out Connected Families for their online courses or book (they also have some great blog posts). If your child tends to be rebellious and defiant, you need to get that under control before you get into the more challenging homeschooling years.
- Focus on gross and fine motor skills
There are many gross motor skills that you can work on in the preschool years. Peddling a tricycle, catching and throwing a ball, kicking a ball, hopping on one foot, climbing onto furniture without help, walking on tiptoes, etc. Check out the Kid Sense website for a thorough list of gross motor skills to work on in these years:
Some fine motor skills to work on are: cutting with scissors, tracing shapes or letters, writing their name, copying numbers and letters, coloring inside the lines, threading beads onto a string, and holding a pencil. Kid Sense has a more complete list for this as well.
- Begin teaching them the letters and numbers
You don’t need to get an expensive curriculum to teach a preschooler their numbers and letters. One of my favorite resources for teaching our children their letters was “Alphabet Activities” by Jill M. Coudron. This is a unit study approach to teaching the alphabet in which you focus on one letter a week and do various activities to reinforce that letter throughout the week. You’ll find art, reading and writing readiness, math, and science activities as well as movement and games and fun foods to eat with each letter.
Use games and activities to teach them the sounds of the letters and the meaning of each of the numbers. Check out Learning Resources for games that will work for this. Either buy or make your own game using index cards cut in half, with similar things written on each half (Capital A and lower case a, etc., or the written number and then a picture of the same number of items, like balls). Then you can play a matching game or “Go Fish” with the sets of cards. Pinterest has some wonderful ideas for this as well.
Keep any teaching times short, like 10 minutes at the most, because their attention span is short at this age. Remember that hands-on learning works best at this age as well.
Even if your child is excelling and beginning to read early, be careful not to push them too fast and too hard, or they may end up disliking school later on. Keep teaching times short!
- Read good literature to them
Take time to read to your child every day! It builds literacy skills and they love it! It develops a love for reading that will serve them well all their life.
Check out my blog post on reading aloud to your children.
You can use the “Five in A Row” literature based preschool program if you want to use a curriculum. This program is based on one book a week that you read each day, and then you do activities related to what you learned about in the book each day as well.
- Let them learn through real life!
God will provide many learning opportunities throughout your day! Take your children on nature walks and see what interests them. Get books from the library about their interests and help them learn more about it. We took out many a book on lizards and airplanes and dogs over the years! Find fun field trips that are good for preschoolers and see what learning opportunities arise through them.
I hope this has encouraged you not to stress about teaching your preschooler! They will learn all they need to know in time. Our society pushes us to have our children reading so early these days, and most children just aren’t ready that early! So take your time, relax and enjoy your preschooler. Check out the book “Better Late than Early” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore to learn more about not pushing our little ones to learn too soon.
I’d love to hear your ideas on what’s worked for homeschooling your preschooler – please comment below and share with us!