The wonderful preschool years
Preschoolers – what a challenging time in one way and easy in the other! I don’t think there is ever another time that one is so tired physically with all the ‘little’ things of the ‘little’ children, but to homeschool these little fellows is actually so easy… Usually all it requires is the creation of a rich learning environment, and their own inquisitiveness will lead them to explore, with a little guidance from you. Preschoolers also love to be involved in your life, so take them along with you wherever you go, talk to them about it, show them the world and they will learn!
Now one may ask: "What is a rich learning environment"?
Start by creating 3D spaces for your child to move up and down, left and right in. It is relatively easy to create a rich learning environment if one has a large house and garden – as it provides 3D space in trees, sand, mud, soil, water, a climbing frame, swings, slide, grass, places to hide and run and play ball, stairs, water pools, etc. In South Africa we are very fortunate to have good weather nearly all year round, so the children can play outside nearly every day of their life. I do so much agree with Charlotte Mason in the importance of taking your children out in nature very often – daily if you can. Then with a little bit of energy, projects like a vegetable garden, dogs, birds in a big cage, rabbits and of course a fishpond can all contribute to enriching the preschoolers’ exposure to living things and how to care for them. Of course, the projects in itself are also part of the learning process – do involve the preschoolers in these activities as well. If you are restricted on the outside, you can be creative indoors as well.
I do so much agree with Charlotte Mason in the importance of taking your children out in nature very often – daily if you can.
Whether one creates a 'play/learning' room or just play/learning corners, these can again be made very interesting and preschooler-friendly. In our house I am very lucky to have a big room called the Learning Room where all the toys are. These toys are organised with the preschoolers' stuff on the bottom within easy reach, while the bigger children’s stuff is stored higher up. This room has a nice big carpet so that we are comfortable doing things on the floor (as one often does with little ones), shelves packed with books, puzzles and games for their size. Boxes filled with blocks, soft toys, 'kitchen stuff', balls, animals, cars and tractors, dolls, etc are also always available at their level on the ground. Of course, in a normal home, the kitchen with its usual cupboard full of plastic stuff and pots and pans is an ideal environment for the little one to keep him/herself busy when you are preparing meals.
As mentioned before, just living and involving your little ones will all be learning for them. We as a family view all outings - shopping, library, holidays, camping, visits to people and hikes - as learning opportunities for especially the preschooler. It is not even necessary to keep a log of what has been learnt – by just keeping all the photos you took, you will be able to refer back to all those things you did.
We as a family view all outings - shopping, library, holidays, camping, visits to people and hikes - as learning opportunities for especially the preschooler.
Since language development is really related to how much a child hears and talks when young, we focus specifically on building a rich vocabulary for our children by reading to our children often and talking to them all the time about everything. We love to spend a lot of time together as a family and therefore have enough time for reading and doing things together.
If you want to do structured learning activities with your preschoolers, it is just as easy. One can even buy ‘curricula’ for these early years, but I personally do not think these are necessary. Doing things like reading age-appropriate books together, discussing what we have read, singing together, playing some game (even if it is just throwing a ball to each other), reading and discussing other books (whether stories or non-fiction) are all learning activities. If you want to add a 'formal activity', play simple educational games (e.g., Smile Education products), build LEGO or Fischer Teknik or put puzzles together. These are all things that help develop their understanding of the world, together with the language associated with it. Even colouring books, card playing, Dominoes, baking cake, assisting you in the garden by harvesting and counting those vegetables (you’ve planted previously), feeding the pets and helping you in and around the home can all become ‘formal’ by viewing it from another perspective.
Remember that the focus is on building character, instilling a sense of responsibility, exposing them to life and trying to just get them to ‘do their part’ in the home on their own. It has been said that at the age of 3 years your child should just know that Yes is Yes, and No is No, and then you can start teaching him/her the 'what' of Yes and the 'what' of No after that.
Remember that the focus is on building character, instilling a sense of responsibility, exposing them to life and trying to just get them to ‘do their part’ in the home on their own.
By having this focus, it helps me to not force anything with a preschooler that he/she is not happy to do (unless it is a character issue). One needs to have discernment sometimes. Learn to ‘see’ the learning taking place in everyday situations. Look out for when they are busy developing those fine motor skills (when picking up rice from the floor), gross motor skills (running, jumping, climbing), intellectual skills (thinking what to say) and language skills (talking and listening). Remember that they are obviously part of the ‘homeschool environment’, but in a much more relaxed way than the older ones are.
Sometimes one wonders what to do with the little ones when the older ones are busy with their table work. Even though I do not use a specific curriculum (apart from the 'preschooler' part in the toy cabinet where I just go each morning and choose something - one thing - to do for the day), I do have some table work things to do to distract them when my older one needs attention. In our home, my second child 'loved' to 'do school', as he saw his older sister doing school. This ‘school work’ for him is then actually only the table work part and may involve colouring a page in a colouring book, sometimes doing a page in a workbook called 'Bridging with a Smile', having all sorts of preschool activities or sometimes simply building something for me out of blocks or with LEGO. This way, the whole day is actually school without him knowing it!
Little ones are always welcome to join in the older ones’ ‘school’ - for example during reading time - and I always involve them in all art and music activities. I have found that if I have given the little ones the attention they needed/wanted first, they continue playing on their own much more easily. As a result of this realization, my oldest one’s schedule is organised such that she can continue on her own first thing in the morning while I attend to the little ones. That way when they are finished, the littlest ones usually go outside and play, giving me time for the older one again.
I have found that if I have given the little ones the attention they needed/wanted first, they continue playing on their own much more easily.
The preschool years go by so quickly and I believe it is important for us to make an effort of showing little ones how loved they are, with hugs, kisses, telling them how cute they are and laughing with them – a lot!
This article was contributed by Willemien Kruger.
You can find more articles like this here: www.homeschooling-curriculum-guide.com