Our preschool curriculum

This summer a friend was over visiting and asked me what I was doing for preschool. At the time, I thought about sharing it on the blog but kept putting it off.

I don’t really have a curriculum, so writing a post titled “our preschool curriculum” seemed absurd.

And yet, my children are constantly learning new things everyday. So, yes, we do preschool. It just doesn’t look very formal.

But the definition of curriculum is simply a course of study. So, of course, we do have a curriculum. It just isn’t in an organized prepackaged box. Cooking, cleaning, playing, running, jumping, reading, and pretty much every part of life are part of our course of study right now.

When Stefan was younger and I was setting out to start preschool, I was briefly interested in “letter of the week” programs, or some sort of outlined material that told me what I should be teaching.

I’ll share what educational philosophies I am most influenced by in some other post as well as some resources and blogs that have encouraged me. After much research on how children learn best, and watching my own kids, I realized that a natural way of learning is what suited our family.

A boxed preschool curriculum is not necessarily bad and many children enjoy the activities that are included in those, but for our family I prefer to let learning happen in a natural way.

My daughter has been fun to watch. In part because my philosophy has evolved, in part because she is a very energetic, active girl, and in part, because I simply don’t have the time with three young kids, I have done nothing formal with her. And yet, she still knows her colors, most of her shapes, and is starting to recognize letters and numbers. Most of the time when she comes out with stuff, I am a bit surprised. When did she learn that?

Whatever your inclination for teaching your children, just remember that waiting is usually better, and there is no need to formally teach preschool. You can relax, they’ll learn what they need to.

That being said, there are four main components I think of when it comes to preschool education. This isn’t as much about specific things to learn and do, but rather a mental framework that I keep in mind for what I want to accomplish during these preschool years.

God

Who God is, His character, and His sustaining hand in our lives are all things that I want my children to understand. This is a vital part of our lives and we are communicating what we believe about God to our children consciously, and many times unconsciously, throughout the day.

Character Development

There are so many aspects of character development that you will spend your child’s entire growing up years teaching him. You would become overwhelmed if you tried teaching everything at once.

Kindness is such an important one in preschool because it encompasses so much of their little lives. If they can just learn to be kind, many other things will fall into place.

Self-control is a vital character trait to begin developing in preschool. The ability to be self-controlled will carry with them not only in normal day to day life, but in their academic endeavors as well. From an academic stand point, there is a lot of research out there that shows that if children can master a good level of self-control when they are young, they will test better and perform better in school. Of course, there are biblical reasons to master this as well.

Patience, which is very closely related to self-control, is another important and difficult thing for children to master. This is so helpful to begin instilling in them now, as it will help grow their attention span and will help give them persistence when they don’t learn things as quickly as they would like later on.

Obviously, there are many many more things you will want to teach your children, but narrowing it down to a few that I want to focus on in preschool helps me. Because these will spill over into so many other aspects of life, they are important things to begin learning and growing in now.

Habit training

I won’t go into this at length here because I have already written about it, and I hope to cover this topic more in depth in the coming year on the blog.

The fact of the matter is that children are catching on to lots of habits by the time they are in preschool. That doesn’t mean they can’t change later on, but it will get harder and harder as they get older. Simple, key habits whether lifestyle habits or character habits, will set your children up for great learning (and living!) later on.

The beginning of a love of discovery and learning

This is such an important part I could spend all day talking about this topic. I’ll spare you, though. I fear that many children are getting burned out on school before they barely get started.

Thankfully, there are some really good teachers out there that are instilling a love of learning in their students. But many others are simply handing out a worksheet and getting through the book.

Children are naturally curious, and we have an opportunity to foster that curiosity or shut it down. Creating an atmosphere where curiosity about the world around us is encouraged sets our children up for great success. Reading good children’s books and letting them use their hands and imaginations to create, are excellent ways to foster a love of learning.

It’s important that you not simply “play along” with the curious questions, but that you yourself become curious and want to learn. Children know when we are acting, and when we truly love learning ourselves.

Did you notice what was not a part of my key components of preschool? Letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. My son knows all of these and has  started to read. But these have been natural byproducts, not the major thrust.

When I decided to go with a more natural way of learning in preschool, I worried a little if he would learn everything he needed to. But now that my son is about to enter school age, I can look back and say that he learned far more than I could have imagined.

That’s what preschool learning looks like in our home. It isn’t very ‘schoolish,’ but not a day goes by that we aren’t learning.

How do (or did) you approach preschool in your home?

Comments

  1. This is really helpful!! My two children are preschool age and it helps to know the natural approach is “ok” :) My youngest is like your Olivia: he is a very energetic, active boy, so “formal” activities such as sheets and sitting down activities are close to impossible 😛 But he loves reading with us, he’s always listening even while I’m working with Lara, so he learns things off that as well, even if he’s playing with his cars and seemingly only concentrated on that :) With Lara it’s a lot of fun: if she asks whether mermaids are real, we end up making our own book of mythological creatures from pictures on internet, etc… I must say I’m enjoying this stage very much!

    I liked how you outlined the different components in their education. It’s so easy to get obsessed with drilling letters and numbers and forget all about building character, instilling good habits and all these aspects that will help them in their later years – not to mention, of course, teaching them about God. Great post!

    • I’m always amazed at what my kids ‘hear’ even when it seems like they aren’t paying any attention. I agree, it is easier to focus on letters and numbers, etc, than it is on character. In the long run, it’s worth it I think.

  2. I love this and it’s very similar to what we’re doing.

  3. I love this post Johanna. A funny story along these lines: My 2 year old has had the least amount of formal, sit-down-and-learn schooling at our house. But recently, the boys and I were saying the months of the year together without the calendar just to practice, and I heard a little voice in the other room. My baby girl, playing with her dolls, and was sing-songing with us: “March, Ap-wil, May, June, Joo-wy, Awe-dust…”

    • I love this story, Kelly! I’m guessing it probably happens more with the younger kids because they learn things by hearing what is going on with the older kids.

  4. If I could shrink myself to a little person–dream on!–and become part of your family, I would LOVE to be part of your preschool! :o)

    I know, from experience, all of those concepts you expressed are true! Enthusiasm of the parents is key, whether the kids are homeschooled or in a more traditional school. Natural ways of learning are always better than desk and book learning, though eventually, you need both. I personally think preschool should be pre-school and be happy learning in a normal family atmosphere, if possible. I loved that you included character training! “And be ye kind . . . .” Can’t beat that!

    Great post, Johanna! I give you an A++. (Mr. K would give you an F+!)

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