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Preschool | Where do I begin!?



First, let me start by saying that I am not a professional of education. I've simply learned our way of doing things through our experiences, trials, and research in the past 3 years.

Over the past few months I've had a lot of friends and readers ask me how on earth I do preschool with my little guy and when/how did I start. I often reply, "it's really easy", but then I remember that I had to remind myself of that very quote when we began homeschooling.

A lot of mother's (and father's!) don't have the confidence in themselves that they desire when it comes to homeschooling. I question myself all of the time, to be quite honest. Even with preschool. Often times I feel like my son isn't listening or catching on. I have felt overwhelmed or confused as to what steps to take next, what to teach next, what to ask him next. I'm a first time mom (and first time home schooler) after all, and I certainly don't know it all. But in those moments, or soon there after, he completely surprises me with something he says or starts doing that...somewhere along our homeschool journey....he has learned from me. Click here to

I'm certainly not the smartest tool in the shed, and I'll never claim to be. But I can't allow my child to see that, and I know that, through Christ, we can do this homeschooling thing.

For the first two years, I have to give 100% of the credit to my amazing mother-in-law with teaching my son. I did not start working from home until my little one was almost 3 years old, so for the first 2 years I learned a lot from her and followed a lot of her lead. We of course did our own thing as well on the days I was home or in the evenings/on weekends. So, I learned a lot through research and online freebies (and just pure common sense)

Cost and Materials
This is the part that parents freak out about. You don't need to spend a ton of money on preschool. Almost everything that we purchase for homeschool comes from the dollar store or the dollar bins at target. I'm serious -- they have amazing stuff, and it's only $1 per product! I just went there today, actually, and bought some note pads and new dry erase flash cards. You may have seen the DIY dry erase flash cards on pinterest -- it's actually cheaper to just buy them at the dollar store! :)

Here are some basic materials you should have on hand at all times:
spiral notebooks
notepads (small)
pencils & pens (I always use a green pen for making 'teacher' markings/corrections. In the future, he will use a red pen to correct himself when scoring himself, and I will use a green pen. But that is wayyy down the road)
crayons
markers
scissors (regular and safety)
tape
colored pencils
glue (sticks and liquid)
construction paper
blank paper
doodle pad (blank paper in a booklet)
hot glue gun (for crafts)
folders (manila filing folders and regular school folders)
portable filing bins (2 should be fine)
stickers
pom-pom's
uncooked beans (for counting and gluing)
paper plates and brown bags (for crafts)
some type of preschool workbook(s) (more below)

Here are some places that have great inexpensive homeschooling products.

Walmart (preschool work books, calendars, pencils, pens, markers, crayons, drawing pads, pencil holders)
Dollar Store/Dollar Tree (preschool work books, calendars, pencils, pens, markers, crayons, drawing pads, notebooks, lined prewriting paper, posters, flash cards, crafts)
Target (go to the dollar aisle -- every target has one. Great for crafts, holiday items, posters, pencil holders, flash cards, other odds-and-ends)
Pinterest (FREE printable worksheets, crafts, lined prewriting paper) Visit the Boogers & Jesus Homeschooling Pinterest Board for more ideas and info.

We get all of our preschool stuff from these places in exception to actual curriculum based products such as:

Abeka
Saxon
ACE (Accelerated Christian Learning)
More links below.

Homeschooling (especially preschool) doesn't have to be expensive. And in many cases, you can probably get away with only spending $50 for the entire year (for preschool). Don't over think it -- it's simple for the first couple of years!

Monthly Age Schedule
Here is our schedule that we began around 14 months (including many of the things my mother in law did with Jr as well). Some of these things sound like a lot, but please know that all of these activities and subjects should not be taught every day. They should be spread through out an entire week. Do not (I cannot stress this enough) overload or overwhelm your child or yourself. They will lose interest quickly, and it may take awhile to gain that interest back. Do different subjects on different days, rotating and alternating. Some days you can do multiple subjects, but don't do the same exact thing every day -- they will lose interest!

10-14 months: begin nursery rhymes and songs such as ABCs, twinkle twinkle little star, the B-I-B-L-E, and other nursery rhymes and children's bible songs that they can start memorizing by repetition. You may also introduce Montessori type methods to grow sensory skills. This is a good time to teach them (indefinitely) hands, feet, toes, eyes and the anatomy of the body. These are things you have most likely seen them take interest in already and have picked up on themselves. But it is best to start teaching body anatomy early (even at 6 months). These are also great months to start reading to your little one. Try reading 2 books a day, one being in the evening at bed time. Bible stories are also great -- we use children's bibles with bright photos and short stories.

14-18 months: begin flash cards. Start with colors and animals. Then continue with colors and shapes (including tough ones such as rectangle and oval). In the beginning, it will simply be you showing the flash card to your child and telling them what it is. In a couple of weeks, they can start doing it on their own (they will need some help). Continue rhymes, songs, and sensory skill building. Many parents also take this time to introduce potty training. Keep in mind, potty training can take just a few weeks or several months. The key is to never ever get angry and to be extremely patient. However, never "give up". It is much easier to train an 18 month old than it is a 3 year old. Potty training at this age also helps them learn to take directions from mommy and daddy.

18-24 months: (time: sporadic, no set amount of time) introduce counting/number flash cards. This does not mean that your child will know what the number 2 will look like -- that will come around age 3 (age will depend on the child). You are simply introducing what the number looks like so that they can "envision" the number or the amount of objects on the flash card. Your main goal is to teach them how to count to ten, not to tell you what the number 10 looks like. Continue with rhymes, songs, sensory skills, and other flash cards. This is also a wonderful time to begin spending a lot of time outside, depending on the season. If you are in warm months, be sure to get outside daily (unless it is extremely hot) and learn simple things, such as where ants live, how worms wiggle, and to feel the ground, dirt, leaves and wind. Take this time to do your activities outside -- it's a great source of Vitamin D for everyone as well!

2 years: (time: 30-60 mins per day, sporadic) Once children hit the 2 year mark, a lot of parents start thinking about homeschooling and preschool. The key is to NEVER rush your child or overwhelm them. You should especially not want to overwhelm yourself! The 2 year mark is a great time to start researching different curriculum's and homeschooling products. This is also a great time to request catalogs from various homeschooling programs and to research local homeschooling groups in your area. In the meantime, continue with flash cards, songs, rhymes, and other various activities mentioned above. Introduce new flash cards with new illustrations, animals, as well as new songs and activities. Memory games and puzzles are a must. Don't forget that exercise and 'having fun' is also an activity! Encourage drawing and doodling, playdoh activities, and block building. Allow your child to be a "child" and enjoy this final year before starting actual "preschool". Allow your child to watch educational videos such as Leapfrog movies. Allow your child to help you in the kitchen or with daily house chores (such as folding wash rags or putting socks together).

At some point during the 2nd year, if you haven't done so already, create a 'learning wall'. This wall will change over the next several years. In the beginning, start with letters, numbers, shapes and colors. At age three, you can take away the shapes and colors (they should know these by now, but each child is different), and replace them with sight words and sight pictures.

Below you'll see our current learning wall with letters ($1 pack of leapfrog flash cards from target), sight words ($1 pack from the dollar store), numbers chart with counting (again, dollar store), a white board for drawing and scripture memorization (age 3), and behind the door is a calendar (from the dollar store). When possible, label things, such as the door, with sight words. They will not know how to spell these words immediately (most likely not until age 5), but they can associate the letters, sounds, objects, and words as a whole.



You should also start doing interactive activities such as the Thankful Tree we did for Thanksgiving last year, or other interactive activities that is fun but educational. It doesn't have to be about letters or numbers, it can be about character traits or daily life.

When do I begin teaching preschool?
We decided that beginning limited (only 3-4 days a week) preschool at age three was appropriate for our child. That doesn't mean that it will be appropriate for every child. Please keep in mind that every child has a different learning style and learns at a different pace. You will need to understand your child's learning style  in order to be an effective teacher -- do they learn by hands on training, by sight, or by reading/lecture? However, if no one is teaching a child the things that they should be learning, then they most certainly will not learn them efficiently. Never ever expect your child to just "know" something. We must be taught and continuously reminded and refreshed of what we've learned, otherwise -- as I sit here wishing I could still remember french from high school -- our mind will push out the things that we've learned and not needed in order to add new things that we've learned and do need. If we don't constantly refresh our memories (or in this case, our children's memories) then we cannot expect them to learn efficiently.

From age 3 to 4 you can go by a lesson plan or simply do freebies from the internet. We choose to do daily crafts from the Abeka Craft BookAbeka Letters and Sounds, and Abeka Learning Numbers booklets. We also use our learning wall for abc's, numbers, etc. I use many of the free printables you can find on pinterest as well. We like to change things up every day.

3 years:  (time: 45-80  mins per day; can be sporadic but should have at least 30 mins of sit down time to learn. By 3 1/2 they should be able to sit still for a full 30 mins of school work, not just crafts. By age 4, they should be able to sit for at least 45 mins at a time.Introduce the learning of individual letters. Begin with the letter A. We choose to go in order so that we are keeping a constant, after all, we've already learned the ABC song, so why would we not go in the same order. You can use beans or glitter to trace out letters. We also enjoy using finger paint in the beginning so that he can learn how to trace the letter with his finger before learning to write it (pre-writing with a pencil may start closer to the mid 3 yr mark). Your child will find it entertaining and retain more when the activities are more interactive. It's also great to prepare for pre-writing.

Spend about 1-2 weeks on each letter. In the beginning, you are training your child to learn the actual letter (upper and lower case) as well as the sound that the letter makes. This does not mean that you are learning the same letter every day of that particular week. Remember, you will have other things to teach your child for preschool, so take two days to learn the letter and the remainder of the days to review it. You'll also be teaching other things during the week such as a new number, puzzles, art, science or crafts. Make sure you are spending a total of 3-4 days for preschool, spreading out different subjects for different days. At 3 years old, you'll also need to teach them left to right, pre-writing (again, around 3 1/2), bigger/smaller, same/different. There is a wonderful preschool book made by Mead that you can get at walmart for these daily lessons (big/small, numbers, abc's, left to right, science)....yes...walmart! It's that easy!

Keep in mind that most preschoolers do not begin preschool until age 4, so there is really no pressure for your child to rush into too many subjects at one time. At age 3, they are a learning sponge. Make sure you answer their questions, all of them. Make every opportunity a learning opportunity.

Example: We ate lunch at a Chinese food buffet the other day. While Jr and I were sitting at the table waiting for daddy to come back from the buffet, Jr quietly asked me "mommy, why do they look like that...their eyes..." Instead of hushing him and saying "shhh, don't say that, that is rude!". I took the opportunity to show him China on my phone (thank goodness for iphones!), and explained to him that they lived in a different country, therefore, God created them to look different. I explained that not everyone is white like us, and it is simply because they have a different heritage. I also took this time to show him different animals from China, their flag, and other things that he found to be interesting. He was satisfied with the answer and did not ask again when he saw another person of Chinese heritage at the store a few days later. While he probably doesn't completely comprehend what China is, he knows that being different isn't a bad thing, but a completely normal and interesting thing. He also knows that there are hundreds of other places in the world that he has yet to see.

Another example: 
When the meteorite hit Russia just last week, he was intrigued by it and had plenty of questions. Instead of me saying, "well, you won't understand that right now so there's no use in me explaining", we took the time to sit down and watch videos of the meteorite. I showed him maps of outer space, of our planet Earth. It completely baffled him at first, but the longer we talked about it, and the more questions he asked (and I answered) he slowly started to understand. I could see his eyes light up with amazement.

Which brings me to my next point: never underestimate the knowledge of your child. Children will take interest in different things at different points in their life, but they will always be full of questions and wonder. Never brush them off when they have questions about, for example, the meteorite, simply because you think they are too young to understand. They are not. They may not fully comprehend it, but they understand it.

At age 3, you should also make it a practice to read them one short Bible story per day or every other day. They should truly have a devotional time everyday, but sometime's life doesn't allow us that time in our busy schedules. Whenever you read them their story, talk to them about it and ask them who the characters were and what happened. It is a great memorization skill builder. You may have to read it twice.

Continuing with age 3:
So, brief run down,
-Teach a new letter (upper and lower case) every 1-2 weeks. Stay on the same letter until you know your child understands the letter and the sound it makes. If it takes more than 2 weeks, move to a new letter and come back to that one a week later (along with a new letter). Don't be afraid to make letter learning fun, like this.
-The same with numbers -- learn a new number every week, but more importantly, learn how to count. By age 4, they should know how to count to 20.
-Grab the Mead workbook and teach them different things each day such as "left to right", bigger/smaller, tall/short, tracing, pre-writing etc. You should also review their shapes and colors once a week. At this point, they should be able to draw a circle and you should teach them how to draw the other shapes as well.
-Memorization: give your child a bible scripture to memorize every month (we started small in the beginning and then went larger, such as John 3:16). When they say their Bible scripture, reward them with something, such as an ice cream cone from the store, or a toy they've been wanting. Make it fun! Or, you can make a sticker chart -- once they say 3 months worth of scriptures, they get something special!
- Tangram blocks: they are a must have in our household. You can print free puzzles from pinterest. Just type in "tangram pattern cards". You can find the blocks online or at your local education store.
- Pre-writing: this will come more towards mid to late 3 (depending on the child). My child did not show an interest in drawing letters until recently (he won't be 3 until August). I feel that now, since he is showing an interest in drawing letters, this will help him learn the letters much quicker. Make sure you buy a packet of letter drawing/prewriting paper (you can get it from the dollar store). This will help you teach them how to stay in the lines and write properly. Prewriting is necessary before actual writing. What is pre-writing, you ask? Pre-writing is teaching them how to draw on a dotted line, using playdoh mats to create letters, showing them how to trace a letter with finger paint, cutting on the dotted line (with safety scissors) and hole punching. It's also important to teach them how to properly hold a pencil at this age.
- Daily Devotionals: read them a short story with pictures out of a trusted children's Bible. Have them tell you who the characters were after reading the story and ask them what happened in the story. You may have to read it twice -- it is a great memorization skill builder for them.
- Science: by this I mean GET OUTSIDE. Learn about the things your child see's every day -- how trees grow, what birds eat, how they fly etc. Teach them about the weather, what rain is made out of, what snow is made out of, and why the ground gets muddy. If it is almost time to start a garden (like it is for us now!) grab a bin and plant some starter seeds inside -- involve your children in everything you do!

Start teaching everyday life. Teaching them daily life skills at an early age will allow them to be independent (to a point) and in all honesty, it will cause your child to have more things that they are responsible for (to a point). It is a great character builder, and a necessity. It's time for chores. But I really dislike that word. In modernized America, we've been told that in order to get our children to do their "chores" we must pay them. Absolutely NOT. Chores are responsibilities that they are responsible for. Do you get paid to pick up your mess or make your bed? No. So why should your child. Create a "daily chart" of things for your 3 year old to do (this can even start at 2). Such as making their bed (you'll first need to show them how to make a bed few times), cleaning their toys up before lunch and bedtime, brushing their teeth (with help), washing windows (when necessary), sweeping the front porch, or saying bedtime prayers. You can create a sticker chart as an incentive or you can create a chart just so they know what they have left to do that particular day. I don't think rewarding your child for doing their chores is a bad thing -- but I believe you can do it with things other than money. Believe it or not, they'll probably enjoy helping mommy and daddy most of the time! It makes them feel "needed" and "important". Never handicap your child by doing everything for them.

4 years: (time: 60-120 mins; should sit a full straight hour to learn, 1.5 hrs at 4 1/2) At 4 years old you'll still be learning/reviewing letters and numbers. There are hundreds of numbers, after all. Depending on your child and what they've learned at age three, you may start to introduce them to other kindergarten activities, such as measuring, number sorting, recognizing/counting and identifying money, social studies (presidents, history of your state and country, etc), dig deeper into science (talk about solids, liquids, space, earth, animal anatomy), and other things that you may have already been teaching....but just a little more in depth. They will start writing letters properly without much help and will eventually (towards the end) write words on their own and recognize them. At the beginning of the school year of age 4, briefly recap what you learned at age 3 (what numbers and letters did you learn? recap shapes, sizes, colors, etc). Introduce other new activities such as real art (not just finger painting) and music (drums, guitars, singing, recorders, etc), and the history of those things.We will most likely go with the Abeka curriculum again at age 4, as well as Saxon and ACE. Don't be afraid to use multiple curriculum's at one time. There are also plenty of $1 booklets at the dollar store for Kindergarten, however, I feel that Kindergarten should be more organized and structured. I have found that some kindergarten materials at walmart and the dollar store look very much like preschool materials, in exception to learning and writing words.

Towards the end of age 4, you should certainly put in place a much more structured schedule. By age 5 you should take your homeschooling times and schedules very seriously. They should be structured, to a point, and repetitive. Once your children get older (middle school) you can ease up on the schedule a bit, as they'll have more time and desire for extracurricular activities and should be better self disciplined.


What about preschool apps?
You'll notice that I haven't once mentioned using a tablet or computer. I've only mentioned my iphone once, since we were on the go at the time -- it comes in handy. We do use a tablet and computer, but Jr is only allowed to play/work on the tablet when it is educational -- no unnecessary games, he has an innotab that has more educational "game" type programs on it. We limit him to twice a week for an hour at a time on the tablet. No more than than 2 days a week, 2 hours a week. I am a firm believer in proper education, and while there is nothing wrong with allowing your child to work on a tablet or computer, I feel that they learn better and are less "spaced out" when they can concentrate on something that's real (a pencil and piece of paper). Keep in mind, I'm speaking of a toddler, not a 10 year old. I've also seen how my child reacts to me when I take the tablet away, and that is NOT the way that my child normally acts and reacts. I do not like it one bit, and therefore, I will not allow him any longer than the amount of time we have set. It's as if he gets completely sucked into it and that, to me, isn't necessarily a good thing!

We do enjoy the Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app and various other free apps (prewriting, matching letters, etc). He chooses which app he wants to learn on that particular day. And most of the time he'll switch back and forth between them. Tablets and computers are great for first grade and up. Many of the modern day homeschooling curriculum's require a computer, and we will certainly enjoy that. However, at the ages of 3, 4 and 5, children can be quickly sucked into things such as video games and tv. We limit these things. In fact, we don't allow our child to play video games at the age of 3 unless it is a racing game with daddy. And even then, it is only on for an hour, tops. Our child is not allowed to play video games by himself, and its monitored at all times when playing preschool games on our tablet (notice I say our tablet, not his tablet). I will not tolerate a child who is attached to an electronic -- therefore, we limit it. Is he suffering from it? Absolutely not. In fact, it challenges us to do more hands on activities with him, which in return gives him more one on one time with mommy and daddy. I'd say he's actually benefiting from not using the tablet all of the time.

Enough of my rambling...


What if I haven't started any of this yet?
Your child might already be 2 or 3 years old. If so, don't worry. If your child is already 2 years old, you can still start with the songs, rhymes, flash cards, etc. Mainly flash cards and crafts -- and switch up the flash cards each week. Do colors and shapes a few days a week and then after a couple of months, add your numbers and animals. Don't rush them. When you feel as though they have gotten the hang of colors and shapes, slow down on those and push the numbers and counting more.

If your child is already 3, you can start with the flash cards (shapes, colors, counting), science and songs, as well as bible memorization. Don't completely overwhelm them. You'll need to slowly ease into the alphabet -- it might be best to start with the learning wall and flash cards. After a couple of weeks, start the introduction of individual letters and numbers and see how they respond. The key is to never give up, but to also never give in. Don't push, but always keep trying. Don't get angry, even if they refuse to show interest. Even if you only spend 20-30 mins a day on it, it is better than nothing at all. After about 6 months, you can start prewriting materials unless you feel that your child is ready for them sooner. Sometimes you don't know until you try!

Recap
This is a lot of information that you've been handed. And to me, it seems almost scattered because we fly by the seat of our pants all of the time. That's the best thing about homeschooling, to me at least. We don't necessarily have a set curriculum that we do every day or week right now. I get to learn his learning style and likes, his basic learning needs and growing skills. These are important to look for in the first years of 'school'.  We know what we want to learn each week (letters, numbers, math and bible are the four basics), and then build from there (prewriting, science, crafts, social studies). The first few weeks of preschool might seem scattered and overwhelming, but that's normal! Some people think that it's easy since it's "just preschool", but it can be challenging at times, especially if you're a newbie or have multiple children.

The key to it all is to seek Christ in all things. You need to realize that you are teaching your child the skills and knowledge that they will need to use for the rest of their lives. I'm not saying that to scare you, but I am saying that because you need to take homeschooling seriously. It's not just a luxury or a fun social status. You are taking on the role of a teacher. And you will be greatly blessed for doing so. However, every great teacher in the Bible sought after God's strength and wisdom, and we should do the same! We can't do it all on our own -- peace, patience, and understanding come from above. Patience, you will definitely need. And peace will be needed to reassure you that you're doing it right! Guidance is also another big thing we should pray for.

You're going to mess up, you're going to question yourself, you're going to want to throw in the towel. But don't give up. Seek God in everything, only then will understanding and peace come -- I promise you!

Don't over think preschool. Start out small, don't overwhelm (your child or yourself). Spread your week out, don't try to teach the same things every day. And have fun!!! Learning (and teaching) is so much easier when you have fun with it! You'll probably learn some things from your kids too ;)

Make sure you get involved with other local homeschooling families and groups. They can be a great support system when you have questions or concerns, and your child will receive social interaction with other children outside of church and play groups.

Through it all, remember this:
"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

With the busyness of homeschooling on top of daily life, we can forget the most important reason that we've been given our children -- to teach them the gospel and the love of Christ, so that they might show it to others as they grow up. A friend of mine recently said "why do you think radical Islam is so popular? It's because they keep having children, daily, and each and everyone one of them are trained and sent out", how true is that statement? I truly feel that, as a nation, we have failed to teach our children in the way that they should go. People say "there's no guarantee that they won't stray away", maybe not. But this promise is real, Proverbs 22:6 is true, and to me....it is a guarantee  Children might rebel, they are going to make mistakes and bad life choices -- but in the end, they will always remember their teaching, they will never forget Christ within them. And if properly taught, they will not turn from Him when He calls to them.

I would love to elaborate more in this blog, but I honestly feel like I've rambled on enough. There is SO much more that I could add, but each of you will have a child with a different learning experience, and what has worked for us may not work for you. The more you get involved with homeschooling your children, the easier it will become to find your own teaching style (to go along with their learning style). If you have multiple children, you'll most likely have multiple teaching styles! Remember that each child is different and learns at a different pace. Don't be scared to place one child on one curriculum and another child on a different curriculum. That's the beauty of homeschooling -- you and your children can tailor to your own needs, desires, and extracurricular activities in your home without having someone dictate what you can and can't do. You can celebrate the way learning was meant to be while not only teaching them their basic reading, writing, and arithmetic; but important skills that will help them with their daily lives.

Feel free to email me or message me on facebook with any questions you may have!

xoxo

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