Thinking about teaching your preschooler at home? Here are 10 important things that you need to know about how to homeschool a preschooler.
1. The majority of learning doesn’t take place at a desk. I have no idea who started the hideous rumor that worksheets are the only way that children learn. Preschoolers especially learn through play and hands-on activities. There will be plenty of time left in their educational career for desks. Now is when things can be messy and loud, and just overall fun. More importantly, that set-aside time for formal education is hardly the only time your child is learning. Every minute of every day, that little brain is taking things in and processing. Get that formal block of time out of your head and take advantage of every opportunity. When your kid wants to count his grapes at the dinner table. When your child asks a question about feelings. When folding the laundry, you can talk about colors and textures. When making dinner, you can allow your child to help you count. When building with Legos, you can work on patterns. These are all perfect moments for an impromptu lesson and great practical applications.
2. It really doesn’t have to be expensive. I have seen so many adorably optimistic new preschooling Moms who shell out a few hundreds (or even thousands) buying chalkboards, desks, curriculums, website subscriptions, learning DVDs, workbooks, specialized learning devices, craft kits, and the list goes on and on. While these things can be helpful, they really aren’t necessary. You can easily accomplish the same goals with things from around the house (and a little help from pinterest doesn’t hurt). The internet is full of fantastic (and free) activities and even formal curriculums for those that like that sort of thing. There are even specialized units and ideas for just about every topic under the sun. Oh, and my go-to place for school supplies? The dollar store. Basically, you don’t have to break the bank if you don’t want to.
3. It doesn’t take hours and hours. The amount of active learning time that is appropriate for a single preschooler is roughly 30 minutes. Yes, 30. Too much information can be overwhelming. More importantly, if your child is not having a good day, sometimes you just have to call it a day. Sometimes it just isn’t going to happen and that’s okay. Here’s why you can’t get mad at yourself: your kid is still learning. Every hour of every day. Just because your set-aside half hour for you to direct that learning didn’t work out doesn’t mean that your child isn’t still taking in things. Relax. Don’t be hard on yourself. Learning is supposed to be fun.
4. Your child probably won’t be in exactly the same place educationally as other kids their age. And that's totally okay. They might be ahead on some things, behind on others. They might even be behind on everything and that’s totally okay. That’s why it’s called “learning.” One of the biggest benefits of homeschool for this age or any other is the ability to teach to your child’s individual learning pace, style, and interests. Now is the time where pushing is absolutely not necessary. If a topic is too hard, they might simply not be ready for it. It’s okay to put it on the back burner and return to it later. At this age, the real goal is exposure. Expose, expose again, then expose some more. They will get there, I promise.
5. It’s okay to veer off course. This will probably be hard for you if you are the scheduling type. However, if your kiddo is interested in a particular topic, this is absolutely the time to take a short break and explore it. Research. Go on field trips. Have your child talk to an expert in the field. Don’t miss out on a great learning opportunity because you don’t think it will fit into your schedule. Kids will always respond better to topics that are of interest to them. Use that. And if you can find a way to tie in these topics to other things (letters, numbers, etc) more power to you!
6. You are going to spend a lot of time repeating yourself. Preschool is about exposure. REPEATED exposure. It can get a little monotonous for us parents, to be honest. But it is absolutely necessary. Review, review, review. Review with a craft. Review with a game. Review with a project. Then review some more. It can be frustrating when it seems like they just aren’t getting it, but I promise, it will click. Even if it seems like they do, if you want the information to stick, review anyway.
7. If you are doing it right, it won’t feel like learning. Learning can and should be fun. Make messes, play, explore! These are the best ways for your child to learn at this age and having fun with you will make it even better.
8. While it is about learning, it’s also about learning to love learning. If your kid is miserable with his or her preschool experience, it’s time to reevaluate. Are you doing enough hands-on things? Are you matching their learning style? Are you finding things that interest him or her? You get the privilege of being your child’s first taste of learning, which is a wonderful gift. Make sure you aren’t pushing so hard that you are destroying their enthusiasm.
9. No, your child will not grow up without social skills unless you make that choice. “Homeschooling” in any capacity doesn’t mean that a child has no social interaction. However, if you choose to have your child learn at home, it is important to find other places to practice social skills. If you are fortunate enough to be able to co-op with other preschooling parents, great. If not, playgroups, play dates, Bible clubs, and sports are all good options too and each offer valuable learning.
10. Successful preschool homeschool involves lots of snuggling. Okay, I am only sort of serious about this one, but it’s certainly my favorite part.
Here is an important fact that you need to remember: you really can’t mess this up. Every single minute of every single day, your child is learning. Your job is to direct that learning when possible. The trick is not to stress! Learning is supposed to be fun, not just for the child but for you, too. Relax, and tell yourself “I am doing the best I can” and have fun!
Follow Killeen Stay-at-home-Moms Examiner, Brooke Dunbar. Click the "subscribe" button above to receive updates via email.