Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Home Education and The Preschooler

Although I believe strongly that children should be taught as much as possible, as young as possible, I also believe this teaching should take place in a fun and non-pressured environment. I have never set my children down to learn their colors, numbers, or shapes. They pick those up pretty easily in day to day life. Once in a while we do traditional "preschool" activities because they are fun, but not because I think they are necessary.

My children begin "formal" schooling between the ages of 3 and 4, depending on the child, learning phonics in a relaxed way while continuing natural every day learning. Additional learning is introduced casually. I try to bring home books from the library on things that interest my children, but I also use books to introduce them to new interests. Counting and math are learned with manipulatives and games; science and history through crafts, experiments, field trips, and nature walks. Geography studies are really fun to do with little ones because you can play games, do crafts, fix foods, listen to music, and wear costumes.

I try to limit writing as much as possible. Children don't usually have the physical skills for writing until about age 6, and I gave my older children a permanent dislike of writing by pushing too much too soon. Drawing is a fun alternative way to practice these skills, without the pressure (especially drawing exercises where they are supposed to copy step-by-step). Mazes and dot-to-dots also help them to practice pencil control. There are many ways to use notebooking with younger children who aren't writing yet.

Because young children absorb things so easily, it makes sense to include them whenever possible while you are teaching the older children. It also solves the problem of "what to do with the little ones" during school hours. However, it is also good to have some alternatives for the times when it won't work to include them.

Some of the solutions we have come up with are:

1. Take advantage of nap times.
2. Have the older children take turns entertaining the younger ones while you give one-on-one attention       to your older students.
3. Teach the little ones to sit quietly for short periods of time and read or color.
4. Have special toys and activities prepared which the little ones can only use during these times.
5. Place them in a safe area (a playpen or their bedroom which is closed off with a baby gate) and allow them to play by themselves while you work with the others.
6. Give them a snack (or scatter cereal or chocolate chips on the floor for a scavenger hunt- they eat off the floor when you aren't watching anyway)

Sometimes, the baby is the lesson
Preschoolers add a lot of noise and chaos to the homeschool. However, their ability to absorb information and their excitement over learning adds sparkle to the learning environment. Sometimes it is necessary to use distraction techniques in order to get the lessons done. But sometimes, the baby is the lesson. Enjoy the days with preschoolers in your homeschool. They will be gone too soon.

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