Overview: It’s time to take back the time you spend planning & prepping for homeschool preschool. Gain quality time to play, explore, and learn with your preschooler.
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Have you ever said to yourself…
“Maybe I’m just not cut out for homeschool preschool. No matter what I do my little just won’t sit still and pay attention.”
“I’m so caught up in planning that I don’t spend quality time with my child. I feel bad.”
“I wish our days were easy going, full of learning, playing, and exploring. And most importantly, I wish I could give my little the undivided attention they deserve.”
Mama! You are not alone!
Being at home with littles all day can be stressful. And that’s without adding homeschool preschool on top of it.
Then once you do start, you spend hours pinning activities that you think your little one will enjoy.
You take the time to set it up and get excited for their little face to light up when they see it.
Your little one has no interest in the activities you set up.
They don’t have the attention span to focus for more than 2 minutes on activities that took you hours to find and prepare for.
Then those dreaded questions of “Am I doing this right? Am I meeting her needs?” start to pop up.
You start to feel defeated because nothing you do seems to grab their attention.
Those bad feelings start to pop up because you spend so much time planning and preparing.
You get so caught up in planning that you aren’t able to spend quality time with your child. Which you know is the most important.
But have you noticed?
Putting a simple box in front of them provides hours of fun.
I mean that took 2 seconds to prepare for and they focused.
Did you know they were learning too?
Here’s the truth…
Homeschool Preschool doesn’t have to take you hours of prepping.
And your child CAN pay attention longer than 5 minutes.
Easy going days full of learning and exploring are possible when you take the time to figure out how your child learns and what they want to learn about.
Planning and prepping only takes minutes when you have simple activities at your fingertips that provide a high value learning opportunity.
I’ve been there, Mama!
I was just like you.
Spending hours on Pinterest trying to find the perfect activity that would teach my daughter and keep her busy for more than 5 minutes.
That’s why I set up a structured homeschool preschool child-led approach in our home.
Today I spend a half hour planning and preparing for the whole week.
She is engaged in the activities I set out because they are based around her interests and the skills she is ready to learn.
Our days have a natural flow that allow her the flexibility to follow her curiosities, but gives me the structure to feel in control…even when I’m not.
Through experimenting with my own children combined with my 11 years of teaching, I’ve discovered the 4 little secrets that when done right will give you more QUALITY time to play, explore, & build a love of learning with your little.
All it takes is simple child-led activities, a relaxed routine, an encouraging environment, and trust in the process.
When you get these 4 things right, your days become peaceful. Your child starts to focus and builds independence.
And most importantly, your child learns…quickly.
What is Child-Led Learning?
True learning – learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning — can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner
There are no truer words spoken than by John Holt in this quote. I’ve seen it first hand with the children I’ve taught in my 11 years of teaching experience and even in my own children.
Child-led learning is all about following your child’s interests and signs of readiness for both academic skills and their own curiosities.
When a child has a connection to the topic or skill, learning becomes meaningful.
And when the topic and skill is meaningful to the child, learning is inevitable.
I can hear your questions now, mama.
“But how will they learn their ABCs and 123s without my teaching them. My child won’t ever become interested in learning how to read.”
That’s where the environment comes in. What you place in their environment and the experiences you give them, is what shapes their learning timeline and motivates them to learn what we want them to learn.
Your child will model you. So if you put importance on reading, math, and writing and place materials to learn these things in their environment…
They will learn it.
If you place things at the level of your child and give them access to materials, even paint…
Your child will become independent.
Nothing is forced in a child led approach. We may set goals and have a flexible plan for learning, but we do not force our children to do activities that meet these goals.
You simply provide a rich environment that encourages the learning of the goals and constantly model the things you value then wait until they are ready.
Benefits of Child-Led Learning in Your Homeschool Preschool
Your child is in charge.
Okay I know this is a weird benefit to start off with, but I think it’s one of the most rewarding benefits of child-led learning.
Children are highly curious and have an infinite amount of unique ideas.
When they are in charge of their learning and we fully embrace their ideas, you never know where the learning will take you. You never know what your child will learn.
But the important thing is…they are learning. Usually when we follow their ideas, the learning experiences they come up with are ten times better than we could ever think of.
Learning is un-pressured.
When you follow your child’s interests and wait until they are ready to learn certain skills, there is no pressure to learn.
You won’t get frustrated when your child doesn’t do an activity because it’s always up to them.
And when they are ready to learn the skill, they will be eager to do the activities you set out.
You rely on the environment.
Your homeschool preschool environment is your best friend. The way you setup your activities and learning space encourages your child to learn the things you want them to on their own time.
The way you incorporate learning into your lifestyle shows your child what’s truly important to your family. When your child sees you use math and literacy skills everyday in a natural way, you are providing a reason for his learning.
The environment and experiences you place your child in, is what will ultimately decide what your child will be motivated to learn.
And when your child is motivated to learn, there is no stopping them.
Learning is deep and complex.
When a child is interested in something, they ask lots of questions and seek all the possible answers to their questions.
This results in learning on multiple levels. They have time to explore, investigate, and experiment. They figure things out for themselves, and in turn grasp a deeper understanding of the topic.
Fosters a love of learning in our children.
When you give your child the freedom to choose what they want to learn and how to learn in your homeshcool preschool, they begin to enjoy learning.
There is no frustration or sense of pressure to learn.
Your child is born with the innate responsibility to learn and be curious.
When you let that run wild and free, learning becomes a daily habit. And your child truly becomes a lover of learning and seeks learning opportunities.
The child gets to advocate for their learning.
Your child is in charge, and they LOVE being in charge.
That doesn’t mean you have no control over what your child learns.
It just means that they get the most votes. You control the environment. Your child controls what is done in that environment.
Learning happens quickly.
When a child is ready to learn something, it’s all they think about. The learning happens quickly because it’s their time, and it’s where they want to put their focus.
One small interest can ignite multiple learning opportunities.
You never know where an interest might take you. One day you could be learning about nutrition because your child has an interest in eating healthy (I know that’s a far fetched idea for a kiddo).
But a few weeks from now that healthy eating interest changes into body systems, and eventually into animal body systems.
An interest may take a few days to explore or it could take a whole year to explore. It all depends on the child.
The Adult’s Role in Child-Led Learning
Be an Observer.
As a parent of a child-led approach to homeshool preschool, you are a supporter, resource provider, question asker, and modeler.
You do all these things based on your child’s interests and readiness.
Constantly jotting down interests, honing in on the specifics your child wants to learn about that interest, then setting up the environment and activities that help your child learn about the interest.
You get to truly know your kiddo and their learning style by simply observing and reflecting.
These observations help you plan out your days and activities, so you are best meeting the needs of your little learner.
Be an Environment Provider.
You want to set up an environment that includes meaningful and multiple exposures of concepts and interests.
Be a Follower.
Give your child the choice of what to do, when to do it, and for how long.
Trust in their ability to know what they are ready to learn and to follow their play urges.
Watch and wait to be invited into their play.
When you do get invited, they are still the leader. You are just a puppet in their play. Do as they say, and definitely don’t tell them how to play even if it’s not the “right” way.
This is their way of exploring and learning. Respect their play choices.
Be a Guide.
Model activities then place them on the shelf for your child to do when they are ready.
Ask questions, but only if it will enhance their learning in that moment.
It’s okay to start playing with a toy your child hasn’t touched in a while to help motivate them to try a new activity.
Child-led learning is all about being the guide and model, model, model.
Oh and just for good measures…model some more.
If you’re feeling unsure about this whole child-led learning thing or are a bit iffy about giving up the control, grab this free getting started guide where I show you the exact steps to setting up your environment and planning your first week.
How to Handle Learning Gaps
This is such a complex question that many parents ask, but it has such a simple answer.
WE ALL HAVE GAPS IN OUR LEARNING!
It’s impossible to know everything. Learning is not linear. There is no start and endpoints. We can always learn and improve upon ourselves.
I see gaps as learning opportunities in our homeschool preschool. These are places that I can capitalize on in the environment to help encourage my child to learn more.
Parents,and even some teachers, get too worried about a child being behind, especially with reading, writing, and math that they forget that their children are learning exactly what they need to be learning in that exact moment.
For gaps that are a big concern for future learning or life, like certain math skills and reading, we can address this by using the environment. (Psst. I teach you how to set up an encouraging environment with this free getting started guide.)
Your child has control of when and how to learn, but you control the environment. And the environment is what controls what is being learned.
Each child has their own unique learning timeline and as long as they learn it at some point, who cares when it happens.
I would rather have a child who knows HOW to learn and seek the knowledge they need instead of a child who knows a bunch of random facts and skills that will never be used in real life.
Of course, a child may not know what he may need to know in ten years…who does?, but he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him, or just allow him, to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it.
– John Holt
What is Play-Based Learning?
Now that you understand a child-led environment is what’s best for your child, it’s time to talk about the types of activities you want to plan for your homeschool preschool.
Sorry, but I’m going to start by bragging a bit, but I promise I have a valid point to my bragging.
Sicily is 3.5 years old and she is beginning to write. I know you’re probably thinking “yeah, so what?”
Well first, writing with a pencil is not developmentally appropriate for a child until 4.5-5 years old. It’s only appropriate if the child is ready and motivated on their own.
I never taught Sicily how to hold a pencil…
I never taught her how to write each letter in her name with a pencil…
So how did she learn how to write her name with a pencil?
We’ve played with letters since she was a toddler.
We’ve done sounds boxes, sandpaper letters, and salt tray activities during her free play time. These are activities she chose to do on her own, in her own time.
Plus having lots of fine motor activities available since being a baby.
All of this playing and an environment that naturally encouraged letter learning through the activities and toys I laid out all contributed to her learning to write her name with a pencil by herself and before the checklist says she should learn it.
We’ve NEVER done a worksheet, NEVER seen a flashcard, and I’ve never formally taught her anything in our homeschool preschool.
I plan activities around her interests, but those activities are not sit down activities. They are hands-on and relate to her interests.
Once I introduce the activity, she gets to choose whether to do it or not. Many times she chooses not to do it, but I’ll place the activity on the shelf and she will eventually do it a few days after I’ve showed her how.
For our kids, play is so much more than something they enjoy.
Play is where a child makes sense of their world, practices skills, develops self-esteem and helps them figure out how things fit into their lives.
To children, playing and learning go hand in hand. They are not separate, and we should not treat them as separate things.
Learning through play is more than learning the academic skills like letters and colors. It’s also the best place to learn problem solving skills, social skills, and critical thinking skills.
Play is about Exploring
The best way to foster learning in your child’s play is to let them experiment. They need to be the guide in their play if you truly want them to learn the important skills.
When you give them time to experiment and discover something on their own, you are giving them the chance to learn about something more deeply.
When you give them the answers or show them how to do something before giving them time to explore, you are robbing them of the opportunity to learn something on multiple levels.
Letting your child lead their own learning and setting up simple child-led activities to learn through play makes planning & prepping quick giving you more quality time to play, explore, and learn WITH your child.
If you’re ready to get started, get your free getting started guide where I walk you through my step by step process to getting set up and your first week of child-led, play-based planned.
Setting Up Your Homeschool Room for Preschoolers
We value space, to create a handsome environment and its potential to inspire social, affective, and cognitive learning. The space is an aquarium that mirrors the ideas and values of the people who live in it.
What is an Encouraging Environment?
The homeschool preschool environment is a part of your teaching strategy. You can’t just throw a bunch of toys in a bin and call it a day.
You need to give yourself time to reflect and set up an area that will encourage your child to freely explore, learn, and grow.
An encouraging environment should provide multiple exposures to concepts and provide multi-sensory ways to explore them.
In order for your child to be ready to learn, he needs to have a reason to learn it. He needs to see the concept in action and have multiple opportunities to play with the concept in order to develop his own reason for learning it.
An encouraging environment also shows the value of learning concepts without forcing it upon your child. Your environment should help your child understand the purpose of learning different concepts.
When they have a purpose for learning, they will want to use the concept or tool intentionally.
By intentionally, I mean they will be using the tools to help them learn whatever it is they want to learn in a way they want to learn it.
Sometimes they won’t choose an activity that you set up, and that’s okay too. I know it can be super frustrating to set up an activity and it never gets touched.
I use to get frustrated all the time over this, but I’ve learned to set up simple invitations. This way if it never gets touched, I don’t have to worry about all the time I just wasted (because I don’t waste time prepping anymore).
What Does an Encouraging Environment Look Like
A child can be overstimulated very easily. Having a lot of clutter or even a lot of toys in your learning area can overstimulate a child, which can cause them to not reach deep, concentrated play which is where all the learning happens.
Materials should be organized and easy to find.
Shelves work best in a learning area. They make it easy to see what’s available, plus clean up is easier because every toy has a home.
Toys should be placed in a neat row, or for small shelves, one toy per shelf to help cut back on clutter.
I like to keep toys to a minimum as well. Less toys equals more engaged play. I rotate the toys every time we change themes or about every 2 weeks.
Wide Range of Materials
It’s important to offer a wide range of materials for your child. Every child learns in a different way, and having a variety of materials helps them explore their interests in multi-sensory ways and with meaningful exposure.
These materials should be available to your child 100% of the time. Yes, you can keep paint on a shelf where they can reach it 24/7.
The key is to teach them early on how to use these materials properly and to set your expectations.
Preschoolers will obey your expectations when you make them clear and teach them what they mean. And most importantly, trust your child to follow them.
They need you to model what you want them to do and be consistent with your expectations.
After modeling, give them a month or so of constant exploration before making them accessible. If your child breaks an expectation, put it up for the day and try again the next day.
When your child consistently uses the materials in the way you expect them to, then you can leave them accessible to your child and foster independence.
It’s important to remember that even after teaching them how to use materials accidents will happen sometimes. Usually these accidents are purely accidents and not intentional.
Allow them to ask for materials that are put away. You never really know what’s going on in their brains, and providing any material they ask for, within reason, may just be the key to unlocking a new skill.
An encouraging homeschool preschool environment is all about learning through child-led play.
Providing 1-2 invitations in your learning area per day and 4-5 preschool learning games each week gives them the learning experiences that relate to their interests.
A homeschool preschool program like The Preschool Experience provides you with the invitations and preschool learning games ideas for any theme you can imagine. All you have to do is pick and choose the activities that will most resonate with your little one and grab the materials which are usually found around the house.
But learning through play isn’t always in our hands. Children can learn through the play that they create if we give them the time to get to a deep concentrated play.
Not Always in One Room
An encouraging homeschool preschool room is not contained to one place. Learning is constant and all around us in our everyday interactions.
Child-led learning is real life.
Your homeschool preschool room should be ever changing. When your child develops a new interest or shows new signs of readiness, switch out the materials to meet their needs.
I typically rotate materials on a 2 week basis, but I don’t rotate all the toys. I purposely think about each material I put on or take off a shelf.
For example, the cars have been on our shelves for 6 months now because Sicily plays with them every day. She loves creating little towns, and will reach deep, concentrated play with them.
Our Favorite Homeschool Preschool Supplies
You can see a full list of our recommended materials in this free getting started guide.
Homeschool Preschool Organization Tips
With creating a toy rotation you’re going to have more toys in storage than you have out. So you need some sort of organization system.
I like to dump all the materials I have in the middle of the floor.
I throw away any broken toys then donate any toys my kids don’t play with, are not open ended, that talk/sing, or are not realistic looking.
With the toys that are left, I start sorting. First I sort by themes. I have a farm theme, zoo theme and dinosaur theme among others. Then I place all books and materials related to each theme in a large zipper bag. Last I place the zipper bags in a large plastic container.
Once everything is sorted by themes, I take what’s left and sort by things that go together. For example, I have fine motor toys, science toys, and art supplies. Again, I place these materials in a bin.
I do this same process with my books.
This organization method may not work for you. Everyone has their own idea of an organized room, so I encourage you to sort your toys into groups that make sense to you.
Knowing where to find materials makes prepping your weeks so much faster.
Creating a Relaxed Homeschool Preschool Schedule
When I first started teaching Sicily at home, I spent weeks searching for daily schedules and routines on Pinterest. And I tried almost every single one of them with no luck.
That’s when I realized that there is no one size fits all routine for every family. It hit me like a brick falling from the sky…if my approach to teaching Sicily is child-led why shouldn’t our routine follow her lead as well?
Every family is different…
Every child is different…
And just how every child learns in a different way, their natural rhythms are all different.
When setting up your homeschool preschool schedule, try to keep the times very loose.
You want to create a routine, not a structured schedule.
If your child is really focused on an activity, you don’t want to interrupt them to go outside. Wait for natural breaks in their concentration before moving onto the next activity in your routine.
Homeschool Preschool Schedule Step 1
The first step is to observe. Now if you’re like me and have more than one child, you want to create a preschool routine around the youngest because they are less adaptable.
A baby and toddler’s natural rhythm are always changing, and you’ll always be changing your routine too. But with this method, the changes are usually little and will always be meeting your kiddos’ needs.
Spend a week observing your child in a no pressure environment.
That means no structured activities or lessons. Just free play all week. Trust me your little is still learning even when you don’t have anything planned, so no worries there.
During the week, write down your child’s active times, tired times, and focused times.
By active, I mean lots of energy.
And by focused, I mean focusing on an activity. This could be 5 minutes or it could be an hour. It depends on your child’s attention span. 5 minutes of focused play counts as focused time.
By the end of the week, you should start to see a pattern. All the focused, active, and tired times should be close to the same time every day.
Homeschool Preschool Schedule Step 2
Now it’s time to create your unique homeschool preschool schedule.
Active times become outside and gross motor times. I also try to schedule any active programs like gymnastics during this time.
Tired times will become meals and nap.
And the focused times will become your free play/learning time. Remember I mentioned above that your child’s playtime is the same as their learning time.
Your free play/learning time should take up the majority of your day, usually about 2-3 hours.
Using a Montessori Method
So why do I recommend 2-3 hours for free play/learning games?
One major part of a Montessori program is the 3 hour work period. When observing children she noticed a predictable pattern in the play.
The first hour is the time a child usually chooses activities that are easy. This is a time they build their confidence.
During the first hour, you should let them play. Don’t interrupt or suggest other activities. Let this be completely free choice. Only intervene if they ask you to.
About 45 minutes to an hour into the work period, your child will become antsy. This is where we tend to think our child is bored and start to find things for them to do.
Montessori calls this period false fatigue. It’s kind of like a coffee break that adults take. It’s a time to organize their thoughts and recoup from the past hour of play.
Let them be bored during this time. Push through the antsiness.
I usually sit a snack on the table at this time, and don’t engage with them unless they engage with me first.
I know Sicily has reached false fatigue when she goes to lay on the pillow in the corner of our room.
Then about 20-30 minutes later, if you’ve stepped back and let your child be bored, you’ll start to see them transition back to playing.
But this time will be different.
This time your child is ready to practice new skills.
They built their confidence in the first hour…
Had a “coffee break” the second hour…
Now they are ready to learn.
This is where the deep concentration comes into play.
This is where you want your child to be when you teach and model new skills that they are ready and motivated to learn.
Let them get into the groove of this play time before inviting them to do other activities.
This is where I try to engage Sicily into the preschool learning games I have sitting on her shelf.
I say invite, because you want to keep the choices child-led. So I ask if she wants to join me, but if she doesn’t I don’t push it.
I let her play a little longer then invite her into another activity. Usually she will interact in at least 2 of the learning games/ activities I set out.
Don’t stop this concentrated play abruptly. If you must stop at a certain time, give plenty of warnings.If you don’t, you might be met with a tantrum.
If you don’t need to stop at a certain time wait until concentration has broke before transitioning to a new activity.
Homeschool Preschool Learning Games
You want to set out 4-5 child-led learning games each week. I mentioned these in the environment section that you want a shelf for just learning games.
These games are simple child-led activities that use materials around the house. It typically takes 2-3 minutes to set up each one and you keep them out all week to provide multiple exposure (Time Saver Win!).
These homeschool preschool learning games are usually geared towards learning academic skills. I try to have 1-2 literacy activities and 1-2 math activities each week.
At the end of the week, if she engaged with the activities, I leave them out for the following week. If she didn’t, I’ll replace them with new activities from The Preschool Experience (Another Time Saving Win!).
These are the activities that I model and interact with Sicily during the 3rd hour of the work period since she is ready to learn and practice new skills.
I model the activity then ask if she wants to give it a try. Usually she does.
The hardest part for me is when she doesn’t do it the “correct” way. I don’t force her to do it the way I modeled.
I believe she needs time to explore the skill in her own way first.
When I first introduced sound tubs to Sicily, all she wanted to do was play with the pieces. She didn’t want to pull out each one and say the sound like I modeled.
As hard as it was, I let her explore and play with the pieces in her own way.
Then out of nowhere, she pulled out the C sound tub, sat down, and began pulling out each piece while saying the sound and name.
She finally did it the “right” way in her own time. Kids just need time to explore first.
Sally from Fairy Dust teaching does a great job at explaining what the explore stage looks like in this post about exploring clay
Our Homeschool Preschool Schedule
6:30 Get dressed
7:00 Breakfast/ Story/ Educational YouTube Video
7:30 Clean Up
8:00 Chores/ Free Play/ Begin 3 hour work period (I invite them to help me with cleaning chores for the day. Sometimes they join in and other times they don’t)
11:45 Wash Hands/ Morning Meeting (This is where we read a story, do calendar, and sing some songs.)
1:00 Kade nap/ Sicily Peace Time (We work on character development lessons and activities at this time)
1:30 Sicily Nap
3:00 Tea Time with Poetry
3:30 Outside and/or Structured Activity (Usually a science project or messy play.)
4:30 Dinner Prep Begins (I always ask the kids to help with dinner prep.)
Signs of Readiness
After setting up an encouraging environment and providing multiple, meaningful exposures to skills, you can start to watch for signs of readiness.
Signs of readiness are little signals your child shows you to let you know they are ready and motivated to learn the skill. Sometimes it’s really obvious because that’s all they want to do, like read books and find letters. Sometimes it’s more subtle like asking simple questions or playing with certain materials.
When your child starts to exhibit these signs, then you can begin more intentional activities on the skill your child is interested in.
Here are some of the signs of readiness for the important preschool skills:
Colors and Shapes
-Asks to identify shapes and colors frequently
-Looks for a specific color
-Begins to show a preference for a certain color (favorite color)
Number Identification and Counting
-Wants to count everything
-Can identify similarities and differences with ease
-Begins to notice more and less
-Interested in counting books or counting everything in regular books
-Wants to read more often
-Can identify similarities and differences with ease
-Asks you to identify letters they see in their environment
-Shows a strong interest in the letters of their name
-Wants to know the first letter of the things he’s interested in
-Has a strong pencil grasp
-Has determined his hand preference
-Can control writing materials
-Knows most of his letters
-Can remember and retell simple stories
-Asks to learn to read
-Has strong book and print awareness skills
-Enjoys playing with sounds in words (rhymes, syllables)
-Knows most of his letters and their sounds (does not necessarily need to know them all if he has a strong interest in learning to read)
Learning academic skills may not be on our time table, but learning will be deeper, faster, and more meaningful when we wait for them to be ready and motivated.
I like to follow this basic outline for when to teach the concepts:
3 Year Olds- Identification
4 Year Olds- Application
These academic skills are the most important skills your child will learn and they have a whole 5 years to learn them before starting Kindergarten.
Take your time and follow their lead. Creating an encouraging, child-led environment naturally leads your child into WANTING to learn these academic concepts.
Practical Life Skills
Practical life skills is a huge factor in a Montessori education. These activities are designed to help your child learn skills to accomplish everyday tasks such as pouring water, sweeping, cooking, and personal hygiene.
The difference in a child-led approach is you give the child the choice to help instead of making it a chore they have to complete.
When we start inviting a child to do these activities at a young age, they are more likely to keep doing them throughout their life.
As littles, they are eager to be just like you and want to do the things you are doing. This is why they’d rather play with pots and pans instead of the fancy toy you just bought them.
Take advantage of this opportunity by letting them help with chores such as cleaning, folding the laundry, and cooking.
It may not always be done the “right” way. You may have a flooded kitchen after washing the dishes and towels that are not folded “properly.”
But you’ll have a child who likes to help around the house and a child who is building essential lifelong skills.
Practical life also involves independence. You need to trust your child to do things for them self if you want them to be independent.
Put those art materials within their reach. Teach them how to dress/undress themselves, pour their own drinks, crack the eggs, and get their own snacks.
Motor skills can be a forgotten addition to most preschool programs. But they are essential for many skills we want them to learn such as writing.
When your child has had a lot of exposure to fine motor skills, especially ones that use tongs and tweezers, writing with a correct pencil grasp will happen naturally.
Writing with a pencil is not a skill you need to teach. It’s a skill that happens all on its own when you provide enough opportunities to hone motor skills.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor development is all about the small muscles in our bodies, particularly our hands.
Developing fine motor skills is super important in preparing kids to write. In The Preschool Experience, there are fine motor activities that are specifically designed to hone the pincer grasp and prepare your child to start writing with a pencil naturally.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor is all about the large muscles in our bodies, basically our arms and legs.
As young toddlers, children are working on walking and running. Some may be working on rolling and throwing a ball.
As they get older, they define these large muscles with galloping, throwing, climbing, skipping, jumping, and catching. Preschoolers should be learning how to pedal a bike, hop, and balance on one foot.
You can see a full list of motor skills when you download the free getting started guide.
There are 4 main math topics your preschooler should be exposed to during the preschool years. I’ve broken down the individual skills for each topic below.
Learning is not linear like many programs make it out to be. Your child will skip around from skill to skill. And yes, they are still learning when skipping around.
-Counting/one to one correspondence to 20
-Knows what comes before/after/missing in a sequence up to 10
-Simple addition/subtraction within 10
-Comparing sets of numbers
-Ordinal numbers (first, second, third)
-Number words through 10
-Writes (or sensory writes) numbers through 10
-2D and 3D shapes
-Puzzles with pieces up to 20
-Uses measurement attribute correctly (big, small, large, more, less, long, short)
-Compares and orders by measurable attributes
-Uses non-standard units of measure (using loose parts to measure; ex: the table is 10 blocks long)
-Recognizes items that don’t belong
-Simple AB patterns (copies, creates, extends)
Literacy includes reading, writing, and speech. And they all work together.
Lowercase or uppercase?
Sounds or letter names?
There are a lot of choices when it comes to teaching your preschooler to read.
However, your child should not be focusing on the names of the letters. Instead, they should focus on the sound. This makes it easier for your child to transfer that knowledge to reading and writing.
You should also focus on lowercase letters rather than uppercase for the same reason as the sound focus.
95% of what you read and write is lowercase, so focusing your learning here will make the transfer to reading and writing a lot smoother.
Your preschooler should be learning:
-Parts of a book
-Letter, space, word, punctuation identification
-Left to right awareness
-By mid-4: all sounds should be mastered
-Decode & encode CVC words (using movable letters)
-Isolate beginning, middle, and ending sounds
-Identify characters, setting, and major details of a story
-Compare adventures of main character between books
-Recall 1-2 details from a non-fiction book
Writing starts with learning the letter formation and sound in conjunction with each other. Reading and writing should be taught together.
Spend 2 weeks introducing each new letter through tactile cards, sound boxes, and books. Then spend the next month or so with hands-on activities that reinforce each letter.
Pencil writing is a 4.5-5 year old skill. So with writing, your child will be doing more sensory writing and building the letters with loose parts.
When your child has lots of opportunities to sensory write and when they are ready, they will begin to transfer to pencil writing automatically.
This just happened with Sicily. We have been working on the letters in her name for about 2 months. We’ve been doing the tactile letters and sensory writing at least once a week.
The other day, she was working with a piece of paper and markers. I thought she was drawing, but when I walked over I saw that she had written her name.
She transferred her knowledge from the sensory writing and tactile letters to writing with a pencil in her own time and without any help.
Get a list of all the preschool skills needed with this Getting Started Guide.
Science in the preschool years is all about testing theories. It’s not really about the science and how things work.
Science for this age is all about learning how to make hypothesis, test them out, use problem solving skills, and question the norm.
Yes, your child may learn some cool facts, especially if they are interested in the topic of the science experiment, but it’s not the ultimate goal.
You want to encourage your child to question their world and design a plan to figure it out.
There are two types of art: process and product.
Product art is those cutesy art projects you see all over Pinterest. You know the ones where they all look the same no matter who did them. And the ones that most likely take more effort from you than your child.
Product art has no benefits to your child whatsoever.
I encourage you to focus on process art. This is where you set out materials and let them create.
You can include images, samples, and objects on the table to encourage them and inspire them, but ultimately what your child creates and how they create it is up to them.
Process art increases self-esteem, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and of course creativity.
One word of caution about art:
Don’t ask your child “What’s that?”
Instead praise efforts by saying “You’re working really hard on that!”
If you’re curious about what they are creating, you can rephrase your question to “Tell me about your art.”
This gives them a chance to talk about their art anyway they choose without their self-esteem being hurt in the process because you can’t tell what it is.
How to Choose a Preschool Curriculum
Every preschool program on the market is unique in its own way. And each family who is looking for a homeschool preschool curriculum is unique.
The Preschool Experience is a completely child-led curriculum. It gives your child the freedom to learn what he wants to learn when he wants to learn it, but still gives you the structure you crave without taking a lot of time to plan & prep (Psst! It takes me less than an hour to plan & prep for the whole week.).
Here are a few tips when choosing your own homeschool preschool curriculum:
Understand Your Why
I think it’s super important to sit down and discover why you want to homeschool your preschooler. Knowing why you want to teach your little one at home can be a huge help in choosing a curriculum.
If you are choosing home preschool because you want your child to learn the things he is interested in, then you’ll want to look for a curriculum that is flexible and child-led like The Preschool Experience.
Or you may want to homeschool preschool for religious reasons, so you’ll want to look for a curriculum that includes your faith.
Every family’s why is going to be different, and being crystal clear on your why will make choosing a curriculum a lot easier and faster.
Know Your Overall Vision
What is it that you want your child to accomplish in their life?
Take a few minutes to think about their future. What type of person do you want them to be? What type of education do you want them to experience? How do you want them to feel about learning?
All these questions will help choose a curriculum that uses the right type of preschool lesson plans for your little.
There are 101 different educational philosophies and methods. Knowing what you want for your child for their future, can help you determine which philosophies and methods will work for you.
I like to sit down every year and create our yearly goals. I start by creating my vision, which looks like this…
My Vision: I want Sicily to be a curious individual that asks questions and seeks answers on a daily basis. I want her to know how to use different resources to creatively discover answers through problem solving and critical thinking. I envision Sicily being a person who loves learning and seeks learning opportunities.
With this vision in mind, I know that I need a child-led curriculum. I know I need something that has a variety of activities so I can choose the ones she will enjoy.
The activities must also focus on learning through play because that’s where children learn most of their problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Know the Development of a Preschooler
It makes me mad when I see all these bloggers promoting printable packs. Worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.
A child is not going to learn their letters by using a dot stamper to place dots on the letter or tracing it a million times. They need something hands-on like a salt tray or building letters with sticks.
Preschool lesson plans should only include printables that are an accessory to the activity. For example, using a counting mat to place objects on or clipart for a nursery rhyme.
Young kids, no matter what their learning style, needs to experience concepts with all of their senses. It’s important to research what is developmentally appropriate.
You should not be looking at an overall developmentally appropriate curriculum either.
Test the curriculum first. Every good curriculum should give you a free sample unit study to test out.
Every child develops differently, so you need to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s unique development.
Look for a Variety of Homeschool Preschool Lesson Plans
A child is not a one path wonder. Yes, they may love reading, but that doesn’t mean all the activities you choose must focus on reading.
You need to expose them to every learning domain, even if it’s not a type of activity they like.
You can find a way to include each domain into their interests which helps to motivate them.
A good curriculum will have a variety of activities every week that hits all the learning domains. You must work through each domain every week in order to develop the whole child.
Today’s society tends to put a lot of pressure on parents to focus on math, reading, and writing skills. But things like cooking, fine motor, and gross motor are just as important.
Plus, many of the “lesser skills” like those fine motor skills are important for the more important skills. Having strong fine motor skills is a huge indicator in how successful your child will be at writing.
Every learning domain should get equal attention throughout the week. A curriculum should not favor one type of skill over another.
Keep it Flexible
Every child and every family is different. A good curriculum is flexible and allows each family to manipulate it to fit their child’s unique needs.
This could mean that the curriculum is flexible in what you teach, how you teach it, and when to teach it.
Ready to get started? Test out a child-led preschool by downloading this getting started guide.
Homeschool Preschool Tips
Time Saving Tips
Tip #1: Prepare Ahead
I try to plan out a week in advance, but this plan is very flexible. Each theme we do is two weeks, but if Sicily isn’t showing any interest in the activities we abandon the theme.
On the flip side, if Sicily is really engaged, we extend the theme another week or two. It all depends on her interest level.
I use our weekly planner to plan out our activities at the end of each week (You can get a copy of my planner in the free getting started guide.).
We usually do our shopping on Friday, so the Friday before the planned week, we grab all the materials we need.
There usually isn’t a lot to buy and most weeks we don’t need to purchase anything because with The Preschool Experience, most materials can be found around the house.
Then my magic time is Sunday nap time and after I put her to bed at night. This is the time I switch out toys and prepare any materials I need for that week.
I lay out the materials I need in my daily baskets.
Then the night before we do the activity, I will prepare the materials during our family TV time. I lay out materials and set up invitations right after she goes to bed every night.
All this typically takes 45 minutes to plan & gather materials then 5 minutes every night to set up.
Tip #2: Use Daily Bins
I have a small bin for every day of the week. On Sunday, I place all the materials in these bins that I will need each day.
Sometimes I just lay the materials in the basket then prepare them the night before.
If I’m feeling really motivated, I will prepare all the materials (cutting, laminating, etc.) on Sunday then place them in the basket.
After she goes to bed, I quickly set up the invitations. This part only takes a few minutes every night.
Tip #3: Utilize Small Chunks of Time
I use small chunks of time to help prepare materials. After dinner, we usually go downstairs as a family to just relax.
My husband usually plays his video games, Sicily and Kade play with their toys, and I use that time to prepare materials for the next day.
Tip #4: Be Flexible
I’ve had to teach myself that her interests are more important than anything I’ve planned.
If I notice a theme isn’t working, I move onto the next one without finishing the first one I planned.
I’ll also extend a theme if it’s a big interest.
I’ve also learned to take advantage of new interests on the spot.
Having a flexible, easy to prep curriculum like The Preschool Experience makes this super easy.
If something happened one day that Sicily was really interested in, I will come up with something on the fly for the next day to assess how interested she is in the topic.
If she is really interested, I will postpone all our plans and create a new theme to start the next day. I want to make sure I take advantage of her deep interests.
For interests that are important, but not urgent, I keep a wonder journal.
This is where I write down all her questions and interests. Then when I need a new theme, I open the wonder journal to see what she has been interested in lately.
Tip #5: Have Materials On Hand
Think about the things you use most and your child enjoys using. This comes in handy when your child begins to come up with their own learning activities.
Tip #6: Have Activity Ideas in Your Back Pocket
Use a curriculum or program that is completely child-led and gives you an endless amount of support and activity ideas to save you time and money like The Preschool Experience.
Tip #7: Simple Materials
The most useful and eye catching materials are natural and loose.
Preparing printables are a waste of time when you can do the same activity with some sticks. Besides, sticks and rocks are more appealing to children anyways.
Get Them Interested
When your little one is interested in what you are learning in your homeschool preschool, your motivation to get it done will be easy to find.
Have a Flexible Plan
Know what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it to make things a lot simpler when it comes to getting it done. But a plan doesn’t just include your daily activity plans.
Take time to figure out all the tiny details to your homeschool preschool. Plan out how you will plan activities, goals for your child, a daily routine, and keeping things organized. You can do all that with this Homeschool Preschool Getting Started Guide.
Connect with Others
Have a group of mamas you can connect with, share ideas, or just vent. Join our Learning Their Way Facebook group to meet some online mamas.
Trust Your Child
When I trust Sicily, my days are so much less stressful.
When I follow her lead and wait for her to show signs of readiness, teaching skills comes so easily.
Trusting your child in their learning journey, reduces the stress of reaching strict goals or deadlines is eliminated.
Take Care of Yourself
This is a must Beautiful Mama!
When you are exhausted, hungry, or just feel blah you will not have the homeschool motivation you need to get things done.
Take time out of each day for yourself, even if it’s 10 minutes in a locked bathroom with a glass of wine and chocolate.
Look for the Small Moments
One of the first signs you see in my house says “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.” Look for those moments that take your breath away while you’re homeschooling.
The best part of homeschooling is the ability to take breaks.
We don’t do schools on Monday. We also take breaks during all the holidays.
Having regular breaks in your homeschool routine keeps you and your child from burning out.
I love coming back from a break because I always feel refreshed and ready to start.
Find Materials You Love
If you are using a homeschool preschool program, toys, or other materials you or your child don’t love, then you are going to resent homeschooling. (Check out The Preschool Experience Curriculum…you’ll love it!)
The same goes for your routine and the approach you are using. If your routine isn’t working, change it.
Who said you have to homeschool preschool in the morning? If your child is more alert in the afternoons, then do your schooling then.
Spend time figuring out what works for you and your family. Every homeschool preschool family is going to do it a bit differently.
Reorganize Your Homeschool Preschool Space
Having a new space for learning helps me and Sicily become more motivated to get back to our routine.
I want you to enjoy quality time playing, exploring, and building a love of learning WITH your little one.
Planning & prepping for homeschool preschool doesn’t have to take hours. And you don’t have to spend a lot of energy teaching your little to see true learning happen.
It’s all about simple, un-pressured learning.
Your little will explore what interests them while learning how to learn & find answers on their own.
You’ll help your kiddo gain a sturdy foundation for which to grow all future knowledge while becoming confident and independent in their abilities.
You can breathe easy knowing your kiddo loves learning and is actually learning everything important along with the things they love and want to learn about in your homeschool preschool.
Feeling overwhelmed with where to start? Click the image below to download our quick Homeschool Preschool Getting Started Checklist.
Top Tips from Top Influencers
MAKE CONNECTING MINDFULLY AND PLAYFULLY A DAILY RITUAL WITH YOUR PRESCHOOLER.
At a young age, focus more on creating a gentle, supportive rhythm. Follow the natural instincts of the body by creating a flow that mirrors an in breath, out breath. Eating breakfast (in breath), free play (out breath), morning circle (in breath) etc. The goal here is not to engage them in activities, but instead to hold a space where they can feel safe, free and loved enough to flourish and grow.
Filling your home with the right tools to promote lifelong learning and discovery is one of the best ways to support child-led learning. Providing your children with the time to explore, learn and experience new things builds their confidence and ignites their passion for learning.
I think the best tip I can give to parents in this situation is to gently remind them that “It’s NOT about YOU. It’s about their child. Set your adult expectations aside, and TRULY meet your children where they ARE, TODAY. RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Not where society thinks they should be. Not where you think they should be a year from now. Rather, where they are now.
Your child needs you to be patient. Adults tend to get excited about the “big stuff”, like writing and reading. Parents need to realize, that, IN THEIR OWN TIME, every child WILL do those things. Sure! You can force them, and make writing and reading an awful, horrible experience. OR…you can be PATIENT, and while you are being patient, provide opportunities that will develop those skills that must come BEFORE.
Let’s address writing.
Make it fun. Follow your child’s interest, and let them take the lead. My son was obsessed with vehicles as a preschooler. So I used a variety of toy cars, trucks, and other vehicles in our learning activities.
When I incorporated my daughter’s passion – animals – into our every day homeschool preschool activities, she was much more engaged and inquisitive. She used animals as math counters, writing prompts, and creative play acting out our science topics and reenacting read-clouds. This provided a much richer learning environment that I ever expected.
One way that I make my homeschool more engaging is to break up harder tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. That way, learning a new (more difficult) concept doesn’t look as overwhelming. Instead of writing letters on paper endlessly until she “gets it,” we use a variety of items and materials to learn this concept. For example, we use a sand tray to trace the letter that is being learned. We have a ziplock bag that has that letter written big on one side and smaller on the other side. I put some lotion inside or whipped cream and I have her trace the letter, moving the lotion around with her finger. Then we move on to other hands-on ways to learn to trace letters before we go to the paper and pencil approach. It has worked very well for us, especially for my youngest.
Go with what your children are interested in. Keep it short and simple and slowly add more when the child is ready. Make sure to include lots of hands-on activities that will encourage exploration!
Embrace the outdoors, for as the great Margaret McMillian said “The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky”.
No special equipment is ever needed in the outdoors, Mother Nature provides it all if you look carefully enough. Pause daily to notice the beautiful creations and curiosities around us and model an example of gratitude and wonder to your children.