Welcome to the Starting Homeschool Preschool Series. This is post #2.
1.Peaceful Days with a Child-Led Homeschool Preschool
2.Is Project-Based Preschool For You?
3. Typical Day in Our Child-Led Homeschool Preschool
We switched from Tot School to Homeschool Preschool over the past few months as Sicily turned 3. During Tot School, we kept everything child-led and play-based. I followed her lead to choose themes. I waited until she showed me signs of readiness before officially teaching a skill. And most importantly, I used an encouraging environment to motivate her.
Related: What is Tot School?
Now that she is 3, our days haven’t changed much as we switch to homeschool preschool. There is a tiny bit more structure, but I am still following her lead and keeping everything play-based. But now, we are doing projects.
A Brief Overview of Our Typical Project-Based Days
We start our day with a structured morning meeting and learning activities where she can choose between 4-5 math or literacy activities. She has to choose at least 2 learning games every day. Some of the activities are child-led whereas others are more structured.
Usually she chooses to do more than 2. I follow our learning games with free play so she has the power to choose when to stop the learning games and move on.
Then the rest of our day is dedicated to project-based learning where we explore her interests through projects. This is also her free play time. I have child-led invitations set up around the room that relate to the topic she is interested in and the questions she has asked.
Related: What are Invitations?
Some invitations are completely child-led. I just provide materials and observe as she interacts with it. I take those observations to plan further.
Do I need to add anything to the invitation?
Does she need a different invitation?
I make tweaks to our weekly plan to make sure I am following her lead and giving her the resources she needs to answer her questions.
Some times the invitations are more structured. I’ll set them up and wait until she discovers them before stepping in to help guide her. These are usually science experiments or cooking activities. In between these invitations she does her own unstructured free play.
Related: The Adult’s Role in Child-Led Learning
Sometimes she doesn’t have an interest in an invitation that I set out. And that’s 100% a-okay. The Preschool Experience Curriculum has easy to prep activities with minimal materials. So if she doesn’t do the activity, I don’t feel like I wasted my time or materials.
The Goal of Project-Based Learning
Yes, the goal is for Sicily to learn about the things she is interested in as well as skills she needs to learn. But just learning these facts is one small goal of project-based learning.
The ultimate goal is to develop an independent child who loves to learn. I want Sicily to seek out her curiosities and know exactly where to look to find the knowledge she desires. I want a child who loves to learn and knows how to learn. A child who finds enjoyment in learning.
Why Project-Based Learning?
We started our project-based homeschool preschool with me choosing the activities. Throughout our days, I give her plenty of time to explore materials and activities. I make sure I offer her a variety of activity types like art, dramatic play, science, cooking, and constructing.
All of this exploration and exposure to different types of learning helps her figure out how she learns best and what she enjoys most. As she gets older, the goal is for her to lead the projects on her own.
She will have a strong foundation and a diverse skill set to base her own projects off of. She will know how and why she wants to learn about something. And she will be able to seek out the opportunities and create the projects on her own.
Your Child is In Charge
That’s right! It’s time to trust your child to take charge of their own learning. If you’ve been following a child-led toddler approach then this will be simple.
I know during the preschool years more academic based concepts are introduced and expected. This can make it really hard to follow your child’s lead and trust in their own unique learning timeline.
Project-based doesn’t mean everything your child learns has to be a part of the project. I have separate literacy and math activities because I think these skills deserve a bit more attention. I still keep it child-led by waiting until Sicily is ready for each particular skill. But when she is ready, the lessons are more structured.
Related: What to Teach My Child and When to Teach It
The project part takes the majority of our day and this is where she is in charge. She decides which activities to do and how far to take each activity. I use the preschool curriculum I designed as a guide for activities, but ultimately she is in charge of the direction we take. And the curriculum provides multiple activities that you can use depending on the direction your child goes with their learning.
Learning is Slow and Un-Pressured
Children need time to explore. That exploration phase of learning is where deep, complex learning happens. This is where your child will begin to fully grasp the concept and put pieces together to FULLY understand the topic.
When following a structured program, many times our children just skim the surface of a topic, even if it’s an interest of theirs. But with project-based learning, the child decides what to learn and how far to take the learning.
And the best part is you never know where the learning will take you. One day you could be learning about habitats which could lead to animal adaptations where you could spend months learning.
The child decides when she has learned enough to satisfy her curiosity.
And just because the child chooses to move on doesn’t mean you are completely done with that topic. Project-based learning is not linear and a topic may be revisited several times over their learning journey.
Projects Incorporate Multiple Skills
Think about this…How many times have you, as an adult, learned about a topic and split it into subject areas?
I’m going to guess probably never. In the real world, subject areas are all connected which is what happens in project-based learning. Your child will be using math, reading, writing, science, and social studies to learn about their interests without having to dedicated specific time to each subject. It prepares them for real world situations.
As I said before, I do structured math and literacy lessons, but Sicily will also be learning math and literacy skills through her projects.
You Rely on the Environment
The environment is your best friend. The way you set up 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. And when your child sees you use everyday math and literacy skills, 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
As I mentioned before, with project-based learning you are not just skimming the surface of topics. You will be delving deep into the topics your child is interested in and learning things that you wouldn’t particularly think a preschooler would want to learn. And I bet you’ll learn a few new things as well.
Project-based learning sets your child up for complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Which in my opinion are the most important skills we can teach our children.
Are you ready to start homeschool preschool? Join the Homeschool Preschool Quick Start today.