The preschool age is so fun. Kids who are three, four, five years old have boundless energy and excitement. Sometimes it seems like they have waaaay too much energy. They get excited about every little thing. They have a passion for learning new things. They soak up new knowledge and new experiences like a sponge.
If you have preschoolers and you plan to homeschool, it’s tempting to jump in and begin all kinds of formal schooling with them. I know. I’ve been there. I’m the mom who signed up for the homeschool support group when I had a two-year old and three-year old because I was so excited about the prospect of homeschooling.
But your young kids don’t need lots of formal, structured “school.” In fact, trying to push preschoolers into this can backfire. It can cause their excitement for learning to burn out. It can dampen their enthusiasm.
If you’re excited to really “do school” with your preschoolers, I encourage you, instead of structured schoolwork, to try some of these simple ideas for homeschooling preschoolers.
Read. Read. And read some more.
Reading to your little ones, reading often, reading a variety of great books, is one of the best things you can do to begin to instill in your kids a love of books and a strong vocabulary. Read books interactively. Ask questions about the pictures. Give kids a chance to talk about the pictures and the story or name words that they begin to recognize.
Often you can find fun learning activities to go along with great classic kids books. This Pinterest board is devoted to literature unit studies that you can use along with great books. These activities will help you to extend the learning after you read.
Begin to establish routines.
Although young kids don’t need structured “school”, you can begin to establish homeschooling routines when kids are young. These routines will help to develop a flow to your day, and this can carry over as kids get older and you begin to do more structured schooling.
When my oldest kids were preschool aged, we had “Gather at the Table Time” several mornings a week. The kids began to understand and look forward to this time because they knew that we were going to read and do some fun activities as we sat around the table together.
Your routines don’t have to be set in stone. Unlike a more structured schedule, routines can be flexible. If you usually have thirty minutes of sitting and reading a book and doing some fun activities, but your child is full of energy on a particular day and is having a hard time sitting and focusing, cut your time short. Save activities for later. Head outside for a nature walk or some physical play.Routines are great, but they can also be changed and adapted as needed.
Have a letter of the week and number of the week.
One fun way to begin to teach young children letter and number recognition is to have a number of the week and letter of the week. Each week introduce a new letter and a new number. Talk about the sound of the letter. Tell kids the sound of the letter. Name words that begin with the letter. Introduce a number. Have kids count out that many objects. Write the number and the number word so that kids see what the number looks like.
After you’ve introduced your number and letter at the beginning of the week, you can look for opportunities to point out the letter and the number throughout the week. Look for your letter on signs as you drive. Look for it on packages in the grocery store. Take opportunities to have kids count out items using the number of the week. Look for the number as you go about your weekly activities.
Don’t stress if your child doesn’t remember the letters and numbers. This should be a gentle introduction- not a formal lesson with a follow up test. My youngest child was the age of a second grader and still couldn’t name some letters consistently at the beginning of the school year. By the end of the year she was reading chapter books. And now, at twelve years old, she’s an avid reader. Children will learn letter and number recognition at different rates. Don’t make it a stressful thing, just keep on pointing them out in books, on signs, and as you go about your daily routines.
Provide opportunities for learning naturally.
As a young homeschooling mom, I had a friend who had been homeschooled throughout most of her school years. She told me something that I’ve never forgotten. And this phrase has shaped my ideas about what “school” really is. She said, “Life is school.” It’s a simple phrase- just three words. But it’s incredibly important.
Kids- especially your young kids- can learn so much from just doing life. Provide your preschoolers these real life opportunities for learning. Have your child count toys as you clean up. Play “I Spy” and have kids look around to identify a letter or a number. Let kids help in the kitchen and show them how to measure the ingredients. Count out loud when you’re counting out how many cookies your child can have for snack. Point out the words on road signs as you’re driving.
The learning that happens naturally this way will stick with your child. It’s often much more meaningful than a page in a workbook. Learning is happening all around us every day. Take time to notice it and point it out to your child to encourage her to learn.
Preschoolers truly are so much fun, and it’s exciting to watch them learn and grow. These ideas will help you begin to homeschool your preschooler gently, encouraging a love of learning and providing opportunities for it.