I love being a mom, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I have to admit, there are days that I miss my career as a teacher in the public school system. So I was really excited when Little Man got old enough to be interested in doing more structured learning activities with me in a home preschool setting.
We started home preschool (or “Mommy School” as we call it) shortly after I had my second child. Little Man (age two at the time) wasn’t getting as much individual attention with a new baby around, and I wanted to make sure that he still got some quality time with me. So, during Little Brother’s morning nap, I started planning fun activities to do, just the two of us. Since then, we’ve adjusted and expanded our “Mommy School” to match Little Man’s changing needs and interests.
If you’ve been wanting to try doing preschool at home with your little ones, here’s everything you need to do to get started.
#1: Set your objectives
When I was teaching in public schools, there was a huge push for teachers to set and post clear objectives for every day of class. Why? Because it’s important for both the student and the teacher to know what they are trying to achieve. Now, I’m not saying you should post a daily objective for your three-year old, but I do think it’s worth it to take some time to consider what YOU want to accomplish in teaching your child.
These are the three main things I want Little Man to get out of preschool at home:
- Learn basic Pre-K skills. I want him to go to school with a basic knowledge of the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. I figure, the more he learns now in a low-pressure environment, the better off he’ll be when he gets into a more formal school setting.
- Get lots of real-world, hands-on experiences. Research shows that kids who are exposed to more real-world experiences do better in school (and life, which is even more important). Why? All the background knowledge created by visiting the zoo, the farm, the aquarium, the grocery store, or digging in the garden, provides a framework to which they can attach all the book-knowledge they will encounter in the coming years. Having little or no background knowledge on a given subject makes it much harder for the brain to hold onto information, because it has nothing to relate the information to, so it forgets the information, assuming it isn’t important.
- Love to learn. My experience in the schools taught me that those students who came from homes that fostered a culture of learning were so much more likely to succeed. I want my kids to know that learning is FUN! I make it a point to focus on topics Little Man is interested in and follow his lead on what activities he wants to spend more or less time on. He’ll have plenty of time to do formal schooling…this is my chance to personalize his education and get him hooked on learning!
#2: Decide how to structure each day
I’ve written before about our daily routine (which saves my sanity!). For a long time, Mommy School just happened whenever it worked into the day–and we’re still pretty flexible about it–but we usually start around 9:00 a.m. We’ll do school activities for an hour if we’re going on an outing, or longer if we have no plans and he’s interested. Sometimes, we’ll even pick back up after nap time in the afternoon and do extra activities if he asks (which he often does).
Once we start school time, here’s what we do:
- Calendar Time: I bought a cheap dry erase calendar at the dollar store and printed out and laminated a little picture of a train that Little Man moves each day as we discuss what month, numerical day, and day of the week it is.
- Weather Time: We look out the window and move the arrows on our weather chart. It’s a free download you can get here.
- Themed Activities: Each day I try to do at least one literacy based activity, as well as several other activities that relate to our theme, rotating between numeracy, fine motor, gross motor, science, culture and whatever else I think of. I keep it fairly free-form, and go with what Little Man seems in the mood for at the time.
In making your own schedule, use your objectives from #1 as a guide and ask yourself the following questions:
- What can I put into our daily schedule to achieve my objectives?
- How much time do I want to dedicate to schooling, and what kind of attention span does my child have?
- What skills do I want to focus on? (Literacy, numeracy, motor skills, religious education, etc.)
#3: Make a Weekly Plan
I plan week-long themed units, and I plan everything using a brainstorming sheet and a weekly “lesson plan” calendar (I can’t help being a teacher). After searching all over the internet for a planning sheet I liked, I finally just made my own, which you can download for free HERE. Once you’ve printed your brainstorming sheet and weekly calendar, you’re ready to plan!
- First, pick a theme and a letter of the week to go with it (Example: F is for farm).
- Scour Pinterest for ideas. There are SO many preschool themed boards out there. Pick any topic, and someone has probably already created a round-up of books, activities, crafts, and snacks that you can use.
- As you brainstorm, keep track of the ideas you like on the brainstorming sheet. The sheet divides ideas into activities, books, and songs/videos. I also usually go through and mark the activities with the category they fit into (L=literacy, N=numeracy, etc.).
- Lastly, create your “lesson plans.” Really, I just take my brainstorming sheet and plug the activities into my planning calendar in the places I want them. I always start with an activity on Monday introducing the theme for the week and the letter. We post the letter and an illustrative picture of our theme word on the wall to refer to it the rest of the week. I don’t worry about getting an activity for each category every day, but I like having my planning calendar split up into categories so that I can see if over the course of the week we are hitting a variety of skills and topics.
Download my FREE Preschool Brainstorming Sheet & Weekly Calendar
And that’s how we do school. Having Mommy School means that more often than not my walls are covered in construction paper, but it also means that I have a child who is developing a love learning. And that makes all the glitter and glue that gets stuck to my kitchen table worth it.
Do you do preschool with your kids? What has worked best for you?