Teaching preschool at home may sound simple…at first. But then, as the time grows near, you begin to question your sanity. How can you possibly teach this little person all they need to know before they begin kindergarten? How can you teach them the skills they need to learn to read? Or add numbers? Or play nicely with other children? I’m here to tell you that you CAN. You can preschool at home with great success…as long as you have these ten ingredients (or at least a few of them).
Your preschooler doesn’t need you to give them worksheets or sit them in a chair for hours. What they need is creativity! If you’re planning on teaching math, skip the worksheets and bake come cookies together. Count out how many measuring spoons they need to fill. Write the number in the flour that spills over on the table. If you’re wanting to teach your child to read, read together! Then write the letters in shaving cream in the bath tub or take a walk and see how many words you can find to read. Preschoolers are active learners and getting active will help them successfully retain information.
What if I’m not creative?
Cheat! There’s this excellent site called Pinterest…I’m sure you’ve heard of it! There are thousands, possibly millions, of pins related to preschool on Pinterest. You really don’t have to be creative, you just have to know where to look to find someone who has already been creative for you! Just do a search on what you need to teach and you’ll be flooded with the possibilities.
2. Peer interaction
Remember back when kindergarten was the time when kids learned to share? Not so these days. Preschool is now that time. And to learn to share, you have to have someone to share WITH. Learning to play well with others is a valuable life skill, so finding a place where your kids can interact with other kids is essential. But the point of homeschooling is to have school at home! Of course it is! But there are many other places a child can learn social skills aside from school. Here is a little list of places we’ve gone in the past to have our kids interact with other kids.
- Church: It’s free and it’s great to know the parents of your children’s friends!
- A play group: I helped organize a play group where there were four moms and three kids (one of the moms was expecting). By the end, there were four moms and nine kids! It was great to have our kids grow up together and even though our schedules have filled up and we don’t meet anymore, our kids are still great friends!
- MOPS: Mothers of Preschoolers is a fabulous organization where the moms can go be encouraged and the kids can go to a preschool type environment. They meet twice a month. I know my three year old especially has gotten a lot out of being there. It’s helped her overcome her separation anxiety and learn to make new friends.
- Library story time: Our library has toddler and preschool story time once a week. The parents take their kids and sit with them. It’s a nice half hour of reading stories, making crafts, and singing songs. The kids interact during and afterwards.
- Co-op: This works well if you have older children as many co-ops only allow preschoolers with older siblings. My daughters love going to co-op to play and learn with their friends!
What if there’s nothing like this around?
If you live in a rural place where there aren’t options for peer interaction, you have to work extra hard to help your children develop social skills. In these cases, YOU need to be their peers! Take time to play with them on their level–not yours. Share with them and make sure they’re sharing with you. Spend lots of time with them and they’ll develop the skills they need.
3. Play time
Preschool aged children love to play! But not only is it fun, they’re constantly learning! The best kind of play is when you can give them some options for activities and then just let them go. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for learning through play.
- Invitation to Build: We called this treasure trash when I was a kid. So. Much. Fun! Plus, your child is developing fine motor skills, learning how things work, developing a sense of balance, and a host of other things!
- Indoor Bowling: There are lots of great ideas here about how to use bowling to teach math.
- Alphabet Ball: This active game will keep your child moving and learning letters and letter sounds at the same time.
4. A learning environment
Setting up your home as a learning environment is so important to homeschooling at any age. Since you aren’t sending your child into a classroom where they’re expecting to learn, you have to set the expectation of learning throughout your entire home. There are several ways to do this.
- Have a clean space for activities. This one is difficult for me as I’m NOT a very organized person. More about this below…
- Encourage participation in everything! If your child is helping you bake, they’re learning. If they’re helping you clean, they’re learning. If they’re helping you address envelopes, they’re learning. Doing any of these things may require more patience on your part, but encouraging your children to help you rather than rushing through tasks without them will give your children an opportunity to learn from real life.
- Ask questions. Asking your child questions encourages them to think. Ask them about everything you can. If you’re at the grocery store (yes, the grocery store can be a learning environment!) ask them how many cans of green beans you should get if you need four and you already have one in the cart. At dinner, ask them how many plates your family needs. When they’re playing with blocks, ask them the first sound of the word block. You get the idea. Encourage them to be be thinking and they’ll also be learning.
- Encourage inquisitiveness. Really? Does it need to be encouraged? My preschoolers are so, so, so inquisitive. In the space of three minutes in the car, I might hear, “when are we going to be home?” “Is fifteen minutes a long time?” “Tell me when we’re in our neighborhood.” “Is our street in our neighborhood?” “When are we going to be home?” You get the idea. All these questions just show the inquisitive mind that children naturally have. But are you encouraging them in this? I have to work really hard not to say, “NO MORE QUESTIONS!!!” some days. But when you answer those questions or help your children answer those questions themselves, you’re doing far more for their learning than you may realize.
5. Access to books
Books are fabulous tools to use in your homeschool for not only reading, but teaching math, science, and history. We have a LOT of books at our house and even with all of those, we use the public library to check out books we want to use for certain topics. If you have a library, be sure to utilize it!
Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers. And the wonderful thing is that once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open.
If you don’t have access to a library, there are some great online resources.
- Amazon: You can often get books for just the shipping when you buy used books on Amazon.
- Paperback Swap: This is a neat site where you can trade in your used books for other used books for free!
- Ebay: You can find all kinds of used books on Ebay for really good prices.
I’ve noticed though that my children learn so much better in a clear, uncluttered space. With things picked up, they can focus on the activity at hand. In addition, some of the active learning activities are nearly impossible to do in a cluttered area. It’s also important to have your schedule organized so that you make time for your children to learn. If you’re spending your days running errands, going to play dates, then coming home and quickly fixing dinner and then going to bed, your child won’t have time to do the learning activities they need. Keeping an organized home and schedule will ensure your child has the best preschool experience.
What if I’m not an organized person?
If I can do it, YOU can do it! I’m one of the least organized people I know, but when I make it a priority, it works! Don’t beat yourself up if every day doesn’t go smoothly or if the house is too much of a mess to play indoor bowling one day. Just start fresh the next day and keep plugging along.
7. Basic supplies
Your preschooler doesn’t need a lot, but having things like crayons, scissors, markers, construction paper, scissors, glue, and pencils on hand is important.
8. A basic knowledge of preschool skills
You obviously made it through preschool (and probably even elementary and high school), so there’s no question you possess preschool skills. The important thing here is that you have a knowledge of which skills the child should be learning. A kindergarten readiness list can give you an idea of the skills you should be teaching your preschooler. This is important for two reasons.
- So you don’t miss something important. It’d be a shame if your preschooler missed learning something important simply because you didn’t know they should.
- So you don’t push your child too hard. If you have in your mind that your child should be reading well by the time they start kindergarten, you may end up pushing them too hard and frustrating them. Knowing what they need to learn can prevent this.
Did you notice I didn’t mention curriculum? With all the resources available on the internet for free today, a preschool curriculum is fairly unnecessary. Not that you can’t or shouldn’t use a curriculum, it just isn’t a necessity. I have one I love (Little Hands to Heaven), but honestly, I only use it part of the time. I like that it keeps me on track and I could see how it would be really helpful if you had a large family with lots of children to plan for, but if you’re only homeschooling one or two children, you can absolutely teach preschool at home without a set curriculum.
This ingredient and the next are the two most important. Proverbs 25:15 says, “By long forbearing [patience] is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh a bone.” Your child may not be a prince, but they sure could use persuading at times! Stay patient and you will win over your children.
I have SUCH a hard time staying patient!
You are not alone. Here are some great tips for staying patient when it’s hard.
10. A teacher’s heart
The number one, most important key ingredient to teaching preschool at home is having a teacher’s heart. If you have it on your heart to teach your child at home, you can do it. Pray that God will strengthen that in you and He will. Pray that He will provide the other nine ingredients, and He will. Share your requests with us here at Homeschool Launch and we’ll pray over your homeschool as well.
Jessica is a wife, mother, and most importantly, a follower of Christ. She enjoys spending time with family, crafting, and finding ways to teach her little ones at home. She recently published the eBook, Kindergarten Ready in 40 Days and is enjoying going through the activities with her own preschooler. Learn more about Jessica by clicking here.