We are halfway through May and as schools are wrapping up the academic year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on our own experience homeschooling preschool plus take a look ahead as we prepare for kindergarten.
As I anticipated, preschool with Elle was a good test run for homeschool. Although I had the best intentions to schedule school time from September through May, after the holidays, we did “school” more sporadically and without planned lessons. I quickly realized that many of the activities I found were too basic. Perhaps I could have tailored her school time to include kindergarten level lessons, but I was less interested in structured school and more interested in letting her play, explore, and learn organically. We did spend a lot of time learning to write letters as well as her name. She also really enjoyed workbooks, my letter and number worksheets, and art.
The year may have ended differently than I had planned, but I accomplished exactly what I wanted to accomplish- finding answers to the following questions:
- How does Elle respond to my teaching?
- What subjects or methods interest her?
- How well do I handle organization and time?
- How does homeschool impact other areas (such as finances, family, home management)?
- What areas do I need to improve to be an effective teacher?
Knowing how to answer those questions is invaluable to me moving forward. I feel better equipped to continue homeschooling and more confident about our decision as well. Not to mention Elle is excited about school and has matured quite a bit over these last few months. She is kindergarten bound!… er… home-bound?
Next Steps: Preparing for Kindergarten
Preschool was a fun experiment and there was not a lot of pressure or expectations to go along with it. Kindergarten won’t be much different with just an hour of school for at least 4 days. However, I do want to find a curriculum to use and am in the process of researching my options. Not surprising, this step is a little overwhelming! I know that if I choose something that doesn’t jive, I can return it and try something else. But I tend to debate and agonize over decisions for what seems like weeks and months. Picking a curriculum and overall teaching method will be hard, especially with how many options there are. My main strategy: talk to other homeschool families and pray!
In addition to choosing a curriculum, here are a list of goals and preparations I have prior to starting homeschool:
Spend time with Ben.
Yes, Elle is the one starting school, but she is eager and ready. Ben (3) is my bigger challenge. He is curious, destructive at times, disruptive at times, and wants me to engage with him pretty much all. the. time. Even just the few minutes I spent doing preschool with Elle was a struggle for him. Many of the activities we did were ones he could also participate in, however he quickly lost interest or he created too much disruption. Even the 101 nifty Pinterest tricks for occupying toddlers were ineffective. What Ben needs is undivided, one-on-one time. When I give him that, he demonstrates amazing concentration and patience. I feel like if I plan that dedicated time with just him into our routine, school time with Elle will go a lot smoother!
Let the kids “help” more.
Both kids like to hover around me all day and it drives me crazy! I get frustrated that they ignore their toys and float around me whining, fighting with each other, and begging for snacks or for my attention. The constant interruption means I never make progress around the house. I spend more time attempting to get something accomplished and less time fueling my kids through quality time that they desperately need.
The solution? Let them help!
I find it amazing that my kids- most kids, actually- love to do work around the house. We have established simple chores which allows them to earn money, but when I say “let them help” I mean more than just chores. I mean let them help with whatever I’m doing: chopping veggies, rinsing dishes, switching the laundry over, fixing their lunch, etc. For example, Ben often melts down at my feet while I am cooking dinner. When I offer to let him help, he turns into a completely different kid: happy, excited, and teachable. I will even sacrifice a tomato (even if I don’t need one cut) so that he has a job. Elle has an easier time “finding something to do”, but when I offer to let her help me, she will always jump at the chance. Unfortunately, when I let them help, I have the urge to take over and finish for them, but I’m learning that how long it takes and how well they do does not matter. If the results are happy kids and quality time with mom, why would I ever stifle their natural desire to help?!
Meet People. Ask Questions.
Homeschool families are everywhere! I honestly didn’t know how large the community was until I started exploring it as an option for our family. Plus, I have been surprised by the response and encouragement I have gotten from people who don’t homeschool. It affirms that I have support. I feel that God has put people in my life specifically for this journey. And thank goodness for technology, social media, online resources, and of course, Pinterest! I am really looking forward to talking with more experienced and seasoned homeschool parents… assuming they don’t mind answering my lengthy scroll of questions!
Create a Visual of Our Expectations.
Our Rules: It’s slowly starting to occur to me that although we have verbally laid out rules, the kids need some kind of visual to help remind them what they are. They know the rules in our house, but in the moment, it is easy for them to forget. Having a list of rules that I can point them too is just another layer of reinforcement. It will also remind them that the rules apply to everyone and no one is getting special treatment over the other.
Our schedule: We also need a visual of our schedule. The kids usually know our routine and anticipate what to expect, but they are too quick to move on to the next thing. For example, right after we eat breakfast, the kids play with their toys. About ten minutes into playtime, I hear, “Is it lunch time yet?” While I am Type B and prefer not to lock myself into rigid time slots, the kids need to learn how to estimate time in addition to knowing the routine. I also want them to learn that during playtime, Mom is working. There are a few chores, tasks on the computer, lists I need to make, or bills I need to pay that I prefer to do without kids and without interruption. A lot can be accomplished in 30 minutes!
Time in the Word and Prayer
As practical as the above goals and preparations are, I feel strongly that I need to rely on God and spend more time studying the Bible and praying for us to be successful. Living this out in front of my kids is crucial as well. Homeschooling will by trying, emotional, and there will be times when I, or the kids, will feel like we have failed. Without any experience yet, I can confidently say that there will be hills and valleys. I want my kids to know that even I, their teacher, will make mistakes and I want to use those mistakes to demonstrate how God is forgiving, gracious, and can help me learn and grow.
What do you do to prepare yourself for school?
If you are teaching at home or in the classroom, what do you do to prepare for a new school year? What areas challenge you the most? Time? Organization? Patience?
Share your experiences, successes, and failures in the comments. Feel free to offer advice and suggestions, I am anxious to learn from my peers!