Two down and one to go… preschoolers, that is. I think preschool is more of a kindergarten. Kindergarten year one. I consider it to be anyway because I’m prepping my child to read and do simple math. I am going to write about what I’ve learned with my first two and what I plan to do differently with my third in pre-home-schooling him.
Most primary curricula I’ve seen has required far too much handwriting. In a young child’s mind reading and writing are not combined, yet as they learn a sound they are required to write the letter over and over and over again. I have boys. Boys statistically take longer than girls to write their letters correctly. I am not going to stress out so much over handwriting if my three year old can read a letter, but not write it. My oldest didn’t write nicely until he was 7. I should have never pushed him so hard because now he hates to write “formally” for a school lesson. He says he “just can’t do it” yet I find stories and little books he wrote all over the playroom upstairs. I am going to allow my little bird to write as he’s ready, not necessarily when we are learning the letter sounds.
Something important we’ve learned as a family is how we “do school” best. I am thrilled with Charlotte Mason and The Well Trained Mind style of learning. In carrying these styles out, we do not separate our grammar from our spelling, from our vocabulary, from our reading, from our writing… once phonics are learned. Language arts skills are practiced in the context which they are learned, as my little one is ready. One year we used a program that fragmented these subjects and it didn’t go well for Big Man. We switched back and now spelling naturally progresses as he copies great works of poetry and scripture. If I notice we need extra practice we play games that focus on spelling and play spelling games on the computer. I am not against formal spelling programs at all, Rod and Staff makes an excellent and inexpensive program and I drool over Spelling Power in my teacher catalogs, it’s just not our style. Vocabulary words comes from literature we read, science, or history we learn about. When a child asks “what does that word mean?” it becomes a vocabulary word. We begin vocab lessons when my child learns to speak. Vocab is no different later on in “homeschool” except the words become bigger and more complex just as our reading does.
Reading is so important. Daily, progressive practice with phonics based programs(rather than whole word recognition) consistently yields fruit. Everyday we have a time of reading in our house. We began at 10 minutes and have already worked up to half an hour. I hope to one day have an hour or two of independent silent reading time. I get to read also during that time. My youngest has a choice. He can either lay down and rest or look at books filled with art and nature pictures. Guess what he chooses? For a while my oldest became fond of a certain children’s author. I found her work to be dumbed down, twaddle-ish, and as addictive as television. I continued to check these books out from the library and buy them for him because I was just so happy he was reading. I thought that if I didn’t settle for these books he wouldn’t read at all. Well, I was not doing him any good. Stooping to that level began to dull his senses. I took a chance one day and decided that from now on we were only going to buy, check out, and read quality books, that will produce an intelligent reader. I love Thornton Burgess and Dr. Suess for preschool. As they get older, I use Sonlight and Heart of Dakota’s annual catalog as a guide. The literature those curriculum writers choose are in line with what we want and what we’ve learned to like. Notice I said “learned” to like. No, my children didn’t completely understand these words and stories as we started out. Sometimes I would have to read the same short story twice in order to get a narration from them, but it’s worth it… to us.
Math. Ah, my old nemesis Math. The only thing I can say for sure that I know about math is this. Before my kids move to higher mathematics, they need to know and be able to rattle off their math facts without thought. For preschool, that includes shapes, colors, the concepts of more and less, over and under, shorter and longer. I LOVE cuisinaire rods for hands on math. It readies them for addition and subtraction when they play with these as toddlers. Eventually they always make the staircase and say “this one is one more than that one”. Music to my ears.
Since this blog entry is about preschool, no need to go into history or science. I do have some ideas that I would love to share, promise to keep it short!… I have little boys and we are constantly dealing with sanitary and germ issues. Teach your kids about washing their hands. Do germ experiments with oil and glitter and have them wash with just water first, then with soap. This teaches them why it’s important to wash hands. People today don’t wash their hands and we need to teach this coming generation that it’s important to be clean. Other than that, collect things, grow things, and observe things(birds, weather, insects, and seasons), make recipes together and allow them to make their own. This is especially great for my middle child on the autism spectrum… he loves the feel of “goo” when working with water and cornstarch. Man, science is so easy in preschool!
That’s all for now. Another time I’ll share what I’ve learned about elementary homeschooling. Thanks for reading!
Have a wonderful Tuesday!