Although we plan on continuing to educate our boys at home, my husband and I are still trying to decide whether or not to send G to preschool next year. The poor kid is just dragged along to whatever big brothers are doing. He might need a place that is just his. Regardless of what our decision is, what does preschool look like at home?
As a task-oriented person, I often feel the need for productivity. For example, I never just listen to music, although I may listen to music WHILE folding laundry. My constant need for [the sensation of] productivity can, at times, strip the days of their natural joy. Attempting to force this on my naturally joyful three (almost four!) year old son would be devestating.
My mother-in-law taught preschool-handicapped children largely overseas through the Department of Defense for nearly 30 years. She loved her job and was fully committed to it. She often said, “I love teaching preschool. It’s just like being a mom.” The unexpected order of her statement was not lost on me. I would think someone might say, “Being a mom is like being your child’s first teacher.” But no, mothering is the primary occupation. Ultimately, we should set down our agendas, and be their guide.
WHAT TO DO FOR PRESCHOOL
1. Playing is the same thing as learning. The oft repeated mantra is true: a preschooler’s job is play. He makes sense of the world around him through testing, experimentation, and through imaginative play. Play with beans and noodles, water and sand. Play with crayons and play dough. Play dress-up. Play with their toys, and let them play with sticks and rocks. Follow your child’s lead. Play outdoors. Play with light sabers and swords, or other weaponry that might maim. Play with them. And leave them some time to play alone.
2. Life skills: getting dressed, brushing teeth, pouring juice, taking turns, picking up toys, dusting furniture, sorting laundry, helping bake cookies. Mastering tasks that are age appropriate will fill her with confidence to achieve the next challenge.
3. There is no need for a set curriculum. Read stories while he is cuddled up in your lap. Take turns telling each other stories. Play games with the neighbors, or friends from the community. Work on gross motor (ride a tricycle, swing a bat), fine motor, (crumple up pieces of paper, cut with scissors, or draw outdoors with chalk. If she is really ambitious, she can write letters on the sidewalk.) Count. How many ducks are in the pond? Cars in the driveway? Dots on the ladybug?
4. Talk…..Tell him about the new recipe you are using for dinner, about the book you are looking for at the library, what the sky reminds you of, your favorite movie when you were little, a funny dream you had last night, how you calm down after someone is mean to you… Talk…and Listen. Listen to her retell the dream she thought was so hilarious. Even if it is painfully long and tedious for you. Listen to her ideas on how to build a giant robot, or the world’s largest cupcake. Listen when she disagrees with you.
5. “School” doesn’t have to be from 9:00am to 12:00 weekdays, or whatever the local preschool schedule would be. There are many days I feel G is largely neglected, left to play alone, or sporadically tended to during “school” hours. However, just like any home school schedule, learning should not be relegated to certain parts of the day. Preschool education can take place before breakfast, right before bed, or on Saturday afternoon. It probably will not entail doing a worksheet at the kitchen table, but it will always be learning.
Isn’t this what moms do, homeschooling or not? Isn’t this what all little ones love to do?