The following is a guest post written by Carletta Sanders of Successful Homeschooling.
A note from Jamie: Enjoy this repost from last summer. It originally published on July 6, 2011.
I absolutely love reading blogs written by well-organized, energetic moms who are creative enough to dream up fun activities for their preschoolers, and disciplined enough to follow through with their plans.
However, for all my reading… and dreaming… and planning… I’ve learned that I’m just not one of those moms. In the haze of multiple pregnancies, post-partum fogginess, regular household duties, and everyday life caring for four children ages 18 months to 10 years old, I’ve never consistently taught preschool at home.
The good news for those of you who are like me is – you can set your guilt and fear aside. My older children are excelling academically despite their mama’s shortcomings.
I’ve finally relaxed and embraced the truth about preschool – preschoolers can learn everything they need to know in the school of life.
Preschool in Our Home
If you peek into our home on an average day, you won’t find my preschooler doing circle time, reciting the days of the week and months of the year, charting the weather, exploring sensory bins, or playing with carefully crafted learning trays.
You’ll probably see him running around in a super hero cape or jumping from the couch to a beanbag to avoid the hot lava floor. You’ll see him helping mom with chores and making hot dogs in his toy kitchen. You’ll see him comforting his baby brother, pestering his sister and complaining that his big brother is cheating at Candy Land.
And, somehow, after a couple of years, he’ll just know all of the letters, numbers, shapes and colors. He’ll know how to write his name and count past 10. He’ll know that dark clouds mean rain is coming and tadpoles turn into frogs. He’ll know how to stand in line and take turns, and he’ll know it all without having been in preschool at home or otherwise.
Once again, I’ll be amazed that in the joyful mess of our lives together, my child managed to learn everything he needed to know.
How Children Learn
In a society that emphasizes early childhood education, it can be easy to forget that children are curious, inquisitive and wired to learn.
If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, guilty or afraid your preschooler will be behind, consider the following ways children learn naturally in everyday life:
You don’t have to use worksheets to teach shapes, colors, comparisons, counting, addition and subtraction. Even the youngest preschoolers know how to figure out who got the most M&Ms or the biggest piece of cake. They scramble to be first in the line for ice cream. They only eat sandwiches that are cut into triangles. And they wear the same red shirt 5 days in a row. Math is, quite simply, everywhere.
Words like yesterday, today and tomorrow are a natural part of everyday conversation.
“Mom, what are we doing today?”
“Honey, tell grandma what you did yesterday.”
“Time for bed, kiddo, we’ll read the rest of the story tomorrow.”
You don’t have to use elaborate charts and graphs to teach your children about the weather. Just open up the blinds and take a look outside.
Weather is another topic that’s easily addressed in daily conversation. “We better take the umbrella with us. It looks like rain.”
Children see firefighters, policemen, postal workers, and medical professionals as a part of everyday life in a thriving community. They have moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins. Why rely on worksheets and projects when you have access to the real thing?
Do the crafts we plan for our preschoolers really encourage creativity? Or are our kids just cutting what we tell them to cut and gluing where we tell them to glue?
Don’t succumb to the pressure to micromanage every activity. Make paper, crayons, scissors, glue and other craft materials available, and see what your children can do on their own.
If you live in a literate household where books are available and children see others reading, your children will WANT to learn to read. Read to your children because reading is useful and pleasurable – not because you’re afraid they’ll be behind.
And remember, you don’t have to run to the library for stacks of books about every topic you discuss with your children. Out of all the books I’ve brought into my home, my preschoolers have always tended to gravitate toward a few favorites.
Learn from My Mistakes
I spent way too much time hovering over my oldest child, pushing him to do more, to know more, to be more.
And when my second child was a preschooler, I was too busy teaching my oldest and nursing a baby to do much of anything other than feel guilty about what we weren’t doing for preschool.
However, by the time my third child became a preschooler, I think I mostly figured out the winning formula – love, laugh, encourage, and get out of the way.
What does preschool look like in your home?