The bulk of this post is geared to those that have preschoolers at home. However, I do want to say that there are some amazing preschool teachers. It is a gifted person that can take this age group and make them thrive. If you know of one, explore that option. Many children thrive in this type of setting, so don’t rule it out. When looking for a preschool, the academic results of the school are not important. At this age, the teacher is the key to a successful experience.
When Stefan turned three I had the bug to start school with him. I couldn’t wait. Well, actually, I couldn’t wait from the time he was born, but that’s a whole other story! I am a teacher and I was excited to do all those preschool activities with him.
Over the past year, however, my philosophy has changed drastically on that. This was in part because we had our third baby and realistically I couldn’t keep up with all the cutting and pasting of preschool. Mostly, though, it was because I observed how he learned, and researched how children at his age learn in general.
I have decided not to use any formal preschool curriculum. We do not do a letter and number of the week, or anything like that. There is nothing wrong with that, but I have decided that I prefer to let life be our schoolroom. Worksheets, projects, and school books are not that far down the road for us. I do not need to rush there. I can promise you that my son has not suffered academically at all. If anything, he has been thriving even more. I do use some things as resources mainly for myself. Having something as a guide to know what order to teach reading is helpful, but I reference it myself and then just teach him in other ways. Here are some of the ways we approach preschool in our home.
We do not call it school.
It is easy to inadvertently send the message to our children that learning is a worksheet or project to get through. Once that is done, we can move on to life. I do not want my children to think like that. Life is learning. Until we die we will always be learning. I want my children to embrace that. Learning is a gift of God to the human race. We should treasure that. Right now as I am setting the stage of learning, I want them to think of it as a precious gift, not as a chore to get through.
Reading is the best gift you can give your child. Read books to them. Go to the library to pick out good, quality children’s literature. Read chapter books that are slightly above their level. They will pick up on vocabulary you never would use in your daily conversation with them. When we do do activities, it is usually based off a book we have read. When we read Bear Shadow, we talked about how the placement of the sun causes our shadow to look different. When we were outside a couple of days later, we remembered the book and took note of our shadows.
I include my children in cooking all the time. This is not only good in learning life skills, but it is a great place in using math terms. Counting the number of cups of flour, breaking the egg shell in half, cutting the potato in half and then in quarters, cutting the pizza in triangles, cutting the brownies in squares, etc. We sound out letters on cans and read the small words we know. Train yourself to talk out loud and your children will pick up much more than you think.
If you have good quality, interactive toys, your children will learn so much just by playing. I personally have an aversion to toys that have batteries, flashing lights, and noises. This is not because they get annoying (though they do!), it is because they tell the child what to do. Children need toys that require interaction. Blocks, cars, Legos, and food toys are all examples of toys that require the child to participate in the play and not just sit and stare at something entertaining them. I should note here, too, that it is important for them to play alone. As imaginative as you think you might be as a parent, your child will be more. Do not push your own imagination on them. Let them explore. You will be amazed at what they come up with when left alone for a while with blocks and cars.
Next to reading, this is the best gift you can give your child. Teach them to ask questions. Anybody can learn anything if they know how, and are willing, to ask questions. Remember, you do not have to answer the question. If your child is genuinely interested, then you can explore the answers. But always ask. When your child finds a worm in the dirt, ask why worms live in the dirt. When the baking soda reacts in the vinegar, ask why that occurred. When you notice that the moon is big and round at times, and, at other times, that it is just a sliver, ask how that happens. At this age the answer is not important. Questioning is invaluable. Make him curious, and then follow his curiosity to answers.
In a future post, I will share with you some specific resources for preschool-age learning.
Do you take a more formal or informal approach to preschool? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!