Preschool these days seems to emphasize the “school” part without taking notice of the “pre” part. It is possible to provide a natural beginning — while still developing a love of learning.
Did you ever notice that homeschool moms and their children play School, while good teachers at school play Home?
She goes on to explain that the homeschool mom’s idea of school can be rather “grim.”
I had a hard time sticking with it every day and sometimes took the day off. Now I’m behind and I have to teach five days a week through the end of the school year to complete the curriculum. The first week back after Christmas was torture for both of us. I tried my best to be upbeat, positive, and fun. My son tried his best to be grouchy, whiny, and impossible. By Wednesday I was convinced I should send him to school after preschool. But by Friday I felt selfish and decided I’d better keep this up at least through Kindergarten.
And that’s preschool!
Then there are those preschool mothers who run themselves ragged taking “field trips” to every location possible, pulling together units, and finding reading materials that fit in with all of their excursions.
There IS a better way — and Dr. Beechick referred to it in the quote at the top of this post: “Good teachers at school play Home.” Guess what? You have the advantage of already being home!
Very young children are ALWAYS learning. And they learn best by watching you and speaking with you. You likely already provide the best learning environment that your child can have (unlike the good teacher mentioned above who tries to create a home-like environment to adequately teach her very young children).
I know what you are thinking — so what do I do?
Here are 9 helps that promote a natural start to learning:
- Work on you first.
If your child needs you most, then you need to be the best you you can be! Stay creative. Enjoy life. Model the things you will expect from your child.
- Establish a learning environment.
This (particularly at a very young age) does not mean a “schooly” environment, but rather one where learning is a natural thing to do. For the very young, it means providing a warm and affirming environment.
Bring your child along with you in your everyday activities. Explain what you are doing as you go about your day.
Reading is so vital in the life of a young child. It is through books that he begins to learn about the world. By following along as we read together, our children begin to learn how to read. By establishing a reading habit they become excellent readers themselves!
- Get outside.
Fresh air. Physical activity. Exploring nature. The possibilities for learning are endless!
Crafts, Playdoh, bubbles, building kits, blocks, paper, and crayons to scribble with. All of these things develop small motor skills and develop thinking skills. But remember, an evaluation isn’t required. Just let your child explore!
- Provide thinking time.
For the very young child this can be rather short in duration, but each child needs time to just be. Let him spend time enjoying his own company.
- Provide service opportunities.
It is never to early to start encouraging our children to think of others. What are some things your child can do to serve around the home?
Make memories. Remember, everything is a learning experience. What will your child remember?
Somebody, please tell these mothers to relax and enjoy their young children. If you know either kind — the workbook slave or the see-everything mom — go rescue her. These moms need to know that what the children need most is their natural, loving, peaceful home environment. They learn more this way than with School.
365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child by Steve & Ruth Bennett
I remember starting a routine when my oldest child was two or three years old where we began enjoying a special time each day with a just-us activity. One day it might be music-related, another day artistic or craftsy, other days we would talk numbers, learn about clocks, or get messy. Every day we would read…and read…and read. I used this book as the basis for many of the ideas I came up with. I still have my very well-loved copy. Lots of dog-eared pages. Highly recommended.
Slow and Steady Get Me Ready by June Oberlander
Eventually you’ll be ready for something just a tad bit more formal. This is another one of those books we made good use of in the early years. Subtitled, The How-To Book That Grows With Your Child, inside are “260 weekly developmental activities from birth to age 5.” Many times you will find that you and your child are already enjoying these activities, or conversely your child simply may not be ready for some of the activities. Always pick and choose what fits you, your child, and your family!