To be honest, I am sitting down to write this post with some butterflies in my stomach. This could easily tread into the territory of “Don’t I know what I’m doing? I’m so put together.” And that is certainly not the case! I also don’t intend to judge anyone else’s path. However, I wanted to put down into words how I’ve been thinking about and planning for our school year. You know, so at the end of the year I can look back at this and laugh.
I am public school educated and a former public school educator. Homeschool isn’t something I had previous exposure to, or interest in, quite frankly. While pregnant with my first, I fully intended to return to the public school system as a teacher librarian. Funny how the things we swore against become our reality– SAHM and now unlikely homeschool mom. I don’t fully fit into the homeschooling niche yet, nor do I know if I ever will. With a 3.5 year old, we’re only dipping our toes into the homeschooling pool. (But boy is the water inviting!) We very well may end up sending the kids to public school. All I know for certainty is that this year, we are piecing together what I like to call “gentle homeschooling.”
I’m doing a lot of philosophical reading (Classical education? Charlotte Mason method? Delight directed?).
I’m reading my student: I’m thoughtfully considering his interests, his strengths, his weaknesses.
I’m looking for ways to intentionally plan our days to incorporate play based learning in the six domains of early childhood development.
I’m seeking out opportunities to interact with nature, to expand his horizons- literally.
I’m aiming to cultivate his sense of wonder and quicken his curiosity.
Of course I’m exposing him to a rich variety of literature and striving to create a literacy rich home.
And, I’m praying. A lot.
As far as the nuts and bolts, I am combining pieces of three curricula based on my own assessments of how we can bring together the above areas with the little boy in front of me.
- A Year of Playing Skillfully from The Homegrown Preschooler. About a year ago I read The Homegrown Preschooler and fell in love with their philosophy and practical way of creating a rich learning environment at home within the rhythms of your family life. I decided to purchase their formal curriculum for this school year. It’s like an organized, inspiring, but doable version of pinterest. Each month has a theme, character trait, and activities that fit into the six early childhood domains. It’s flexible, but the gorgeous photography throughout is so helpful in putting feet to those grand ideas. So, I find myself really planning out and completing the activities rather than daydreaming about how great they are. (Like the herbal tea playdough we made! We looked up photos of mandalas and created one using the flotsam we collected at the beach the weekend before. PB and I both were super proud.) It’s been a blast so far! You can find a sample month here.
- All About Reading- Prereading. Last year we loosely went through The ABCs of Preschool from The Measured Mom and Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschooling’s Getting Ready 1 sequence. We jumped around and I followed his lead rather than forcing any set plan. Between those areas and reading a ton, Preschool Bookworm has a solid foundation of preliteracy skills but I wanted to shore those up even further. I wasn’t comfortable teaching him to read formally. “Rigor” is not a word I want to impose on my 3 year old. In deciding what the next step was, All About Reading’s prereading program filled in the gaps beautifully! We’ll be working on more phonemic awareness skills: rhyming, word boundaries, syllables, blending sounds into words, and identifying beginning and ending sounds. This review at This Reading Mama was very informative and helpful!
- Handwriting Without Tears- PreK. After Preschool Bookworm was confident with both identifying upper & lower case letters and naming their sounds, I wanted to turn our focus to some handwriting skills. I started piecing together my own hodgepodge of fine motor activities (tactile letter writing like do-a-dot pages, q-tip painting, tracing in shaving cream, that sort of thing). Then I discovered HWT and fell in love. I put aside my randomness in favor of a proven program that teaches in a developmentally appropriate and FUN way. In just a week we’ve effortlessly worked on grip with an adorable song that we sing all day long, finger plays, beginning coloring skills (aim and scribble!), and started a foundation for the common language of letter formation. We complete one workbook page per day, and Preschool Bookworm LOVES to proudly show daddy his work.
We’ve also joined a co-op that meets once a week for a 3 hour program. We work on preschool social skills in a fun, playful environment. He’s exposed to a typical preschool structure with circle time, songs, movement, stories, snack, craft, and free play (and he’s learning how to stand in line & raise his hand, and he gets to proudly wear a backpack. LOL).
My word for the year is intentional. I am working hard to take hold of the time, rather than just aiming for the finish line (whether that be “nap time”/quiet time, when daddy gets home, bedtime, or date night). Too often I meander through the days. One of my weaknesses is letting perfect be the enemy of good; if I don’t feel that I have every detail tied down tight, I postpone. And then weeks pass. To counteract my tendencies, I’m working through consistent self-assessment. I put together a series of questions to help me cull my scattered ideas into a vision and guidepost for assessing our progress. I plan to revisit these questions every 8-10 weeks. You can download a set here.
*Mentioned above are the materials I’ve purchased myself after much research. I only recommend products I LOVE. AYOPS, AAR and Amazon links are affiliates; all others are for convenience only.
So, as of late September, that’s our plan! Our first month has been so much fun. We started our year off with a hot air balloon “ride” as suggested in A Year of Playing Skillfully. I’m excited to see where the journey takes us! Stay tuned. I’d love to hear your family’s preschool experiences, too! Connect with me on the Facebook page or in the comments below.