Homeschooling Preschool: The Complete Guide
So, you’re considering homeschooling your preschooler. This is an exciting decision, but it’s often a confusing one too. It can be hard to know where to start and what to do when you’re getting started with homeschooling. This complete guide to homeschooling preschool will give you a starting place. Here’s what you need to know about homeschool with a preschool-aged child.
Why Homeschool in Preschool?
Preschool is not legally required. Families usually choose preschool for kids who are 3 or 4 years old, and the legal requirements for homeschooling don’t usually kick in until kids are older. This means that how, and even whether or not, to do preschool is up to each individual family.
But, studies show that there are many benefits for kids that receive a high-quality preschool education. A good starting place for families who are considering homeschooling preschool can be to think about their reasons for homeschooling in preschool and why they are making this choice. Here are a few reasons to consider.
Homeschooling preschool prepares kids for kindergarten.
The reason that most parents give for sending their kids to preschool is to help them prepare for kindergarten. For homeschool families, preschool can be a great way to prepare kids for kindergarten, too. Preschool can be a helpful way to introduce academic skills that will help kids be successful in kindergarten. Preschoolers can also develop gross and fine motor skills through their preschool lessons.
Homeschooling preschool helps kids develop a love of learning.
Preschoolers are naturally curious. With the right preschool program, parents can encourage their kids to explore topics they are interested in. Preschool is also the perfect time to set the tone and expectation that school, and learning, is fun. When parents can make homeschooling a special bonding time with their kids, kids can learn to love school and love homeschooling. This makes it easier to continue homeschooling in the future.
Homeschooling preschool is a great way to practice homeschooling.
The preschool years are the perfect time for families to experiment and learn how homeschooling works for them. Parents and kids can use this time to practice working together as teachers and students. Parents should be intentional to teach their kids good habits around their schoolwork. This is the perfect time to set up a simple homeschool routine. It is also a great chance to practice planning lessons for your child.
Parents should also spend time observing their preschoolers. Preschool is the perfect time to learn about your child’s learning style and to figure out what kinds of curricula and activities are a good fit for them. At the same time, parents can explore different homeschool philosophies to find out what resonates best with them.
Preparing Your House for Homeschooling Preschool
Whether or not you choose to create a separate homeschool classroom, there are several factors to consider when preparing your house for homeschooling.
Do I Need a Homeschool Room?
The truth is, it is very possible to homeschool without ever having a dedicated homeschool classroom. Many preschool families choose not to have one, for several reasons.
- Families with small homes may not want to dedicate a whole room to homeschooling.
- Not having a specific room helps kids see that learning can happen anywhere, and at any time.
- Kids can do their schoolwork anywhere in the house.
Families that choose to create a homeschool classroom do so for several reasons.
- It helps to create a clear boundary between school time (which happens in the classroom) and everything else (which does not).
- Some families find it helpful to keep all their homeschool supplies in one place, so nothing gets lost.
- Some homeschool philosophies require specific materials that have their own space.
What about Educational Toys?
When you are homeschooling preschool, it can be really helpful if your child has access to educational toys and educational board games that reinforce the concepts they are learning. If you are intentional in choosing the right toys for your preschooler and putting them in places where your child will find them and be inspired to play, a lot of the learning will happen naturally. Preschoolers often learn best through play, so having the right toys for them to explore is really important.
Choosing a Preschool Curriculum for Homeschooling
The idea of preschool curriculum for homeschooling can actually be very controversial. Here’s what you need to know about preschool homeschool curriculum.
Do I Need to Follow a Curriculum for Homeschooling Preschool?
The short answer is, no. If you would prefer, you can choose play-based experiences for your child and not use a formal homeschool curriculum at all.
Families who homeschool in preschool without a curriculum usually rely on a list of skills that they want their kids to develop. They try to work on those skills naturally while kids are playing and going about their daily routines. Intentional learning through play is definitely a valid choose for homeschooling in preschool, and many families prefer to homeschool this way without a curriculum.
When Can a Curriculum be Helpful?
Even though a curriculum isn’t necessary, many families find that it can be helpful to follow a curriculum when homeschooling their preschool aged kids. The biggest benefit to following a curriculum is that it will give you direction about what to cover. Comprehensive preschool curricula include activities that are arranged sequentially and designed to make sure that kids learn necessary skills. A curriculum can also be a good source for activity ideas for preschoolers.
The decision about whether or not to use a curriculum when homeschooling your preschooler is one that will need to be made by each family individually. It is important not to compare your homeschool, or your curriculum, to anyone else. Each homeschool will be unique, just like each family is. What works for someone else’s family may or may not work for yours, and that is OK.
What to Look for in a Preschool Curriculum for Homeschooling
When choosing a curriculum for homeschooling at any age, it is important to spend some time looking through the curriculum to make sure it will be a good fit for your family. Here are some things to consider when choosing a curriculum for homeschooling preschool.
First and most importantly, you should choose a curriculum that will be fun for you and your child. Preschool is a great time to encourage your child to love learning, develop their curiosity, and explore their interests. Since this is your child’s first experience with homeschooling, you want to show them that school is fun. As much as possible, choose a curriculum that will help you share fun bonding moments with your child while you learn together.
2. Hands-On Activities
Most preschoolers learn best through exploration and hands-on activities. It’s important to find a preschool curriculum that has lots of hands-on activity options in the lessons. However, it’s also important to be realistic. Do the activities look like things your child could do by themselves, with minimal help from you? Do the activities use common household items, or will you need to purchase a lot of unique supplies? Will you be excited to try the activities with your child, or do they seem too difficult or too messy or too boring?
Some of the best preschool homeschool curricula are play-based. That means that the curriculum gives suggestions for games and activities for kids to play that will help them learn. Because preschool-aged kids learn naturally through play, a play-based curriculum is usually a great fit for this age group.
4. Teaches Important Skills
Another important factor to consider is what your preschooler will be learning from the curriculum. Most curricula will include a scope and sequence. This is a list of what broad concepts the curriculum covers, and in what order. Spend some time thinking about what you would like your preschooler to know, and make sure that the curriculum you choose covers those topics. A suggested list of skills for preschoolers is included below.
5. Organized and Sequential
When choosing a homeschool curriculum, it’s important to make sure that the curriculum is organized in a way that helps kids learn. The easiest topics should be presented first, and information should build on things kids have already learned. The lessons should get gradually more difficult as the curriculum progresses. This is important so kids are always learning, without getting frustrated that it is too hard.
Tips for Homeschooling Preschool
Once you have your house prepared and your curriculum chosen, it’s time to actually start homeschooling. That first day of homeschool can be intimidating. Here are some tips to help you get started.
I know this is easier said than done… but try not to stress about homeschooling preschool. The amount of actual academic knowledge that most kids learn in most preschools is actually pretty small. And, chances are your child will learn all those things this year just from playing and reading books.
The first year of homeschooling is a great time to practice. Try new things. See what works for your family and what does not. Remember that not everything will work, and that’s ok. You are learning valuable information about your child’s learning style and your teaching style that will pay off (literally) the next time you need to choose a curriculum.
Also, remember that it will take some time for you and your child to learn how to work together as teacher and student. Studies show significant benefits to students when they have the same teacher for more than one year. But, the benefits don’t show up until the second year and beyond. So, if this is your first year homeschooling, remember that you are still getting used to teaching your child. Benefits will come when you stick with it.
2. Make Preschool Fun
If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this. Our goal as parents homeschooling a preschooler is to make preschool, and homeschooling, as fun as possible. We are laying the foundations for our child’s school career. We want to make learning something awesome that kids beg to do all the time, even on weekends. Don’t teach your child that school is something to dread. Make it fun.
3. Encourage Your Child’s Curiosity
Preschoolers are naturally curious. Make sure you encourage your child’s curiosity. This will help them to develop a love of learning that will continue as they grow up. An easy way to do this is to take their questions seriously. When they ask why something is or how it works, make sure to answer. And if you don’t know the answer, take the time to learn alongside your child. Visit the library and check out a book on the subject, or search the internet together.
It can also help to consider choosing subjects to study that your kids are interested in during your homeschool time. People learn best when they are studying topics they are interested in. Following your child’s interests can be a great way to make sure that your preschooler is excited about and engaged in their lessons.
4. Use All the Senses
Preschoolers learn through their five senses, so make sure to incorporate as many of them as possible into their homeschool lessons. Go on a nature walk to listen for birdcalls, or taste and smell new foods. This will help your child develop their senses too.
5. Incorporate Play when Homeschooling Preschool
Preschoolers often learn best through play, so make sure to include a lot of time for play in your preschooler’s day. Playing with your child is often a great way to have lots of teachable moments. Instead of a formal lesson on colors, for example, consider asking your child what color their toys are while you play together. Or, you could play a game where you hunt for items in your house that are a certain color. Kids will learn more and better when they are playing too.
6. Be Intentional with Educational Toys
Make sure that your child has access to fun toys that reinforce the concepts you are studying. If you are working on fine motor skills, for example, make sure your child has access to blocks to stack and playdough to squish to help build hand muscles. Kids can learn a lot through fine motor activities and play when the right toys are available to play with.
7. Some Structured Lesson Time is OK for Homeschooling Preschool
Although the majority of a preschooler’s learning will happen through play, it is OK to include some formal preschool lessons too. You probably won’t need much time for formal lessons in your homeschool schedule for preschool. Many families find that an hour each day is plenty of time to complete all their homeschool lessons, and some families need even less time than that.
8. Keep Lessons Short
A good rule of thumb is to limit the length of each lesson to no more than 2-5 minutes per year of your child’s age. So, if your child is 3 years old, lessons should be between 6 and 15 minutes long at the most. For a 4 year old, lessons should be 8 to 20 minutes long.
After no more than 15 to 20 minutes, plan a break for your child to do something different. Try to incorporate some movement or give your child a chance to go play. Consider spreading your lessons out throughout the day so that your child has plenty of time for breaks between lessons.
9. Create a Routine for Homeschooling Preschool
One of the most important things you can do during your first year of homeschooling preschool is to establish a routine for homeschooling. Plan your lessons at the same time of day each day, so that kids will know what to expect. Preschoolers need routines to give their day structure and consistency.
It also helps to set expectations around how you will use your homeschool time. Will you do your lessons at the kitchen table, on the couch, or in your homeschool room? How do your expect your child to behave during lessons? The more you can create routines around school for your child, the more successful you will be long term.
10. Don’t Compare Your Homeschool with Others
When you are homeschooling it is important not to compare yourself or your homeschool with others. Your family is unique, and your homeschool will be unique as well. What works for someone else’s family may or may not work for yours. That doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong- it just means your family is different.
What Does Your Preschooler Need to Know?
When homeschooling preschool, it is important to know that your child is learning the right things. Here are some benchmarks to consider that your preschooler should know before kindergarten.
- Know the names of the letters
- Recognize capital and lowercase letters
- Associate capital letters with the corresponding lowercase letters
- Recognize letters in words they see, notice written words throughout the day
- Start to know the sounds that each letter makes
- Be able to write some capital letters, especially those in their first name
Fine Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination
- Hold a pencil or crayon with the correct grip
- Hold scissors correctly and use them safely
- Know how to cut, glue, fold and trace
- String beads, lace a lacing card
- Practicing coloring and drawing
- Develop fine motor muscle strength with playdough and other fine motor activities
Math Skills and Number Sense
- Know the sequence of numbers to count to 20
- Count groups of items up to 5 with one-to-one correspondence (count each item one time and get the correct number of items)
- Know what numbers come right before and right after the numbers up to 10
- Recognize the written numbers up to 10
- Exposure to measurement, patterns and graphing
- Begin to use simple logic to solve problems
- Sort and compare objects
- Recognize things that are similar and different
- Match and classify groups of objects
- Use comparison with other senses as well (sounds, textures, smells…)
Calendar and Time
- Recognize the days of the week, months, of the year, and seasons
- Exposure to telling time
- Understand past and future concepts like yesterday and tomorrow
Shapes, Colors, and Vocabulary
- Recognize and identify colors
- Know shapes and recognize their sides/corners
- Know the names of animals, body parts, etc.
- Know how to hold a book, open it, and turn the pages
- Understand that text is read from left to right
- Answer questions about a story they know and retell the story in order (reading comprehension)
- Predict what will happen next in a new story using cause and effect
- Exposure to beginning and ending sounds (rhyming words)
- Recognize their name when they see it written
- Spend lots of time reading out loud to your child
Other Subjects to Include when Homeschooling Preschool
- Music- Sing songs, play instruments, dance
- Arts and crafts
- Outdoors and nature
- Identify and express their feelings with words
- Be able to wait for their turn
- Be able to follow simple rules
- Listen to and follow verbal directions with more than one step
- Be able to share with others
- Clean up after finishing an activity
- Able to focus on a lesson for up to 15-20 minutes at a time
- Know their full name
- Know their full address and phone number
- Distinguish left and right
- Get dressed independently, including buttons, zippers, and shoes
- Recognize cause and effect
Gross Motor Skills
- Balance on one foot
- Walk on a line
- Jump with two feet
- Hop on one foot
- Jump rope
- Throw and catch a ball
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