I didn’t choose to homeschool for myself, the teacher. I chose it for my student, my son. And truly he is thriving. He has blossomed this year. But, surprisingly enough I am thriving, too. I think I’ve done a bit of blossoming myself. I could write volumes on my own personal reflections (and maybe I will at some point), but for now I’d like to share a wrap up of our year more logistically speaking. Part One of this post, published at the start of the school year, is one of the top 3 posts on the blog, so there must be some of you who are curious about the what of our little homeschool preschool. In that post, I shared our plan for the year; in this post I’ll share how it went. Spoiler alert: best year ever.
When I think in grand terms about my homeschooling goals for preschool, I consider the six domains of early childhood development (math, science, communication/literacy, gross & fine motor, social & emotional skills, art & music), all under the umbrella of intentional play. “Play is the highest form of research,” according to Einstein, and each of the components of our homeschool reflects a play-based curriculum. The spine of our homeschool this year has been the curriculum A Year of Playing Skillfully. This curriculum covered all six domains effortlessly and filled our world with fun. So much fun. Exploration, wonder, discovery, joy, togetherness– I just adore this curriculum. You can read my summary of our year of playing skillfully here.
Although A Year of Playing Skillfully (AYOPS) could be a stand alone curriculum, I chose to supplement it with a few add-ons based on what my mama gut and teacher heart led me to:
All About Reading. Through the Fall we completed the Prereading level of AAR. It was a fantastic experience! Play based and starring Ziggy the Zebra puppet, both Toddler Bookworm and Preschool Bookworm loved “letter learning,” as we termed it. I was able to easily mold our school time to include Toddler Bookworm (who turned 2 in the middle of those months). I decided to follow a slightly different order, turning to Handwriting Without Tears for their suggested sequence of teaching upper case letters and selecting the appropriate lessons from AAR to correspond. (More on HWT in a sec.) The night before, I would spend a few minutes gathering our supplies and displaying them on the kitchen table for the kids to discover when they awoke. Since we didn’t follow the typical ABC order, the letter of the day was a surprise each morning– I used these pretty ABC Scripture Cards on an easel. We started with our HWT time (“Get Set for School” level)– we worked with the letter by building it with foam pieces to talk about the basic strokes, then creating it through their wet-dry-try method, and finally completing a worksheet page. This took all of 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, Toddler Bookworm played either with a sensory bin (rice or pasta usually) and hunted for the letter from my ever-growing collection of alphabet letters (where do they come from? I don’t remember buying all of these!), or played with something at the table like a shape sorter or puzzle. Then, we worked through the AAR activities for the day– usually a game with the Ziggy puppet and a simple craft. Annd that’s it. Maybe 20 minutes. Tops. If he wasn’t interested in a component or we had a busy day, we went with the flow and looped it to the next day. Grace. So much grace. We meandered our way through but on the other end, I was confident that my little pre-reader was on his way to understanding segmenting, word boundaries, rhyming, and syllables. And he thought “school” was exciting and fun.
And that brings us through the Fall. We completed the prereading curriculum and the preK handwriting curriculum somewhere around December; we then turned to advent, followed by Preschool Bookworm’s birthday. A Year of Playing Skillfully was our constant, but beyond that we didn’t pursue any add-ons for a few months. Around PB’s 4th birthday I noticed a shift in him developmentally and felt that we needed to bring in some additional components. I connected with a wonderful mentor through our co-op and she directed me to some tried and true preschool resources: Developing the Early Learner (which we call “thinking puzzles”) and Kumon’s fine motor workbooks, My First Book of Cutting and My Book of Pasting. These were sporadic additions (whenever I thought of them, or PB asked for them). During quiet time, PB enjoyed learning basic computer skills with Keyboarding Without Tears and played with a few apps, most notably Teach Your Monster to Read (computer based version is free; app is around $5). We’ve also begun memory work, and PB can recite seven scripture verses; we’re working on The Lord’s Prayer now.
(FYI, I noticed a huge leap between HWT’s PreK Get Set for School level and the next step, Letters and Numbers for Me (kindergarten). The fine motor skills required are very different. I’m delaying level 2 for a while. Six months so far. In browsing their website, it looks like they’ve reworked the PreK program in the past year so it might be adjusted by this point!)
Just after Preschool Bookworm’s 4th birthday we jumped into All About Reading Level 1, a big jump in my opinion! At this point, lessons shifted to Toddler Bookworm’s naptime. PB’s solid understanding of phonograms (A says /a/) made the transition to this curriculum easier. Had he been unsure of letter sounds, it would have been a challenging leap as they teach four phonograms per day in the early lessons, are blending sounds into words from the start, and reading a story by Lesson 3. We are now almost three months into the curriculum, but only 40 lessons in. We split lessons into two days frequently, and sometimes split a half lesson into a morning and evening session. One of my goals at this age is to make sure reading (and all learning actually) is fun– that’s not to say there isn’t a challenge or need to develop perseverance and grit– but I want him to associate learning with joy. His stamina and confidence have grown throughout the months, and he is loving his developing skills! (Unrelated but every night in his prayers he thanks God for his Word Wall.)
For math, A Year of Playing Skillfully incorporated many fun, everyday math activities to teach number sense, patterns, shapes, graphing, measuring, estimation, etc. We added a few other resources very sporadically– the app Bedtime Math we did together (wait for it) at bedtime and took probably 2 minutes per night; we tried Cuisenaire Rods Alphabet Book but this seemed a bit of a stretch for PB (I loved the concept though and suspect it would be great for a more kinesthetic learner); and we worked with Mathematical Reasoning: Beginning 1 with positive outcomes at both a heart and head level 🙂 This is a hefty book at 236 pages, all full color (we didn’t do every page!). We’ve just jumped into a new curriculum within the last few weeks, which I’ll share more of in my forthcoming Homeschool Preschool Year Two post.
These formal curriculum are a sliver of our homeschool. After all, we believe that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” (Charlotte Mason). Our education is rich, lived in the fullness of life. We’ve participated in nature school, library programs at least weekly, countless play dates and hiking dates, and church programs; we’ve visited the aquarium, zoo, farm, nature preserve, orchestra, ballet, children’s museum, Legoland, art gallery. We never stop learning.
Oh, and we read a lot. 😉
If you have any questions about anything we used or how we organized things, I’d love to chat with you. Connect with me in the comments below or on our Facebook page!
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