Friday, April 13, 2012

Homeschooling a Preschooler

When I'm asked what is the best curriculum for a child, and I'm asked quite often by new Homeschooling Mom's, I always respond, "It depends."

First, you have to know what kind of mother you have and the amount of time and money that you have to put into the effort.

Second, you have to know your child and what kind of time and effort you can expect from him or her.

For instance, after figuring up the cost of printing the "free sheets" available on the internet, and factoring in the time it was taking to hunt and print them, I realized that it was far cheaper and far less stress to purchase a basic curriculum book.  Plus, it forced me to cover subjects that I would have otherwise overlooked.

Workbooks work very well for me, and have worked well for my children.  But they are NOT right for every mother or every child.

What should a child know that is entering Kindergarten - an average, normal 5 year old?

This is a very rough list based on 20 years of working with 3 - 5 year olds.  It is not all inclusive, and many kids can do far more than this by their 4th birthday.

1.  Count to 10
2.  Count object to 10
3.  Know the basic shapes, triangle, square, rectangle, oval, star, heart, diamond, circle
4.  Know the 10 basic colors
5.  Tell Time to the hour
6.  know the difference between penny, nickel, dime, and quarter
7.  The alphabet names from A - Z, both upper and lower
8.  Write their first name ... or a nick name if they have a long name (6 or fewer letters seems to be the normal average)
9.  Recognize their name when they see it - and know when a similar name is not theirs - this doesn't mean that they will recognize their name in cursive or fancy script.
10.  Do very basic arithmetic  (2 bears + 2 bears is 4 bears ... with pictures or counters and help)
11.  Cut a bold line, straight, zig zag, and gentle curves
12.  Hop 2 or 3 times and stand on one foot for 5 seconds.  Most 4 year olds show a preference for one foot over the other.
13.  Jump forward 5 times without falling down
14.  Jump over a beam or rope held straight and still, and close to the ground.
15.  Basic climbing skills (like up a slide ladder taller then themselves)
16.  Run 50 yards
17.  Sit still for 5 - 10 minutes.  (This takes practice).
18.  Be able to trace words, shapes, and lines and pretty much stay on the line - not perfect, but you should be able to tell that they were trying.
19.  Draw a stick man with a head, 2 arms, 2 legs, eyes and a mouth.
20.  Identify common animals and objects by their correct common name that are not in their daily life.  Like the words in the baby word books.  Finding a basic child's first picture dictionary is ideal for this as well.

There are many simple things you can do with your child to build these skills without ever opening a book.

1.  Using scratch paper and a highlighter, mark shapes and their name on a page and have them trace it.  Use different colored highlighters so you can say, "Today we will trace the blue lines.  First let's do some squares."  (Draw 2 or 3 squares and let them trace.)  "Very good!  You tried so hard!  Now let's do a few circles.  Trace over these blue circles."  (Draw 2 or 3 circles.)

2.  Using the method in 1, write their name 2 - 5 times each day.  After they are really good at tracing, start dropping off letters, one letter per week, until they can write their first name.  You can then start teaching their last name.  Have them say each letter of their name as they write it.  You may have to hold their hand and teach the correct way to write their name for a few weeks.

3.  Play with blocks and other shaped toys ... constantly look for ways to add the names of shapes and colors into your conversations.  For instance, "I need 2 white oval eggs."

4.  Play outside - a LOT.  This helps build muscle, which will help them with balance, eyes and ear function, and so much more.  Encourage, running, jumping, climbing, and balance.

5.  Read.  A Lot.  The public library is wonderful for this.  But in our age of Mp3's and Books on tape, don't hesitate to to put on a nice classic novel for your baby to listen to during nap times or bed times and even play time.  I can't tell you how many dozens of times Story and Song have looked up while reading a novel for school and commented, "I think I've read this before, it seems familiar."

6.  During play time, avoid mindless cartoons on the TV.  If you want the TV on, stick to things like Baby Einstein, Signing Time, Nursery Songs, Moving Around Songs, Toddler exercise and dance, Classical music with pictures, and Educational items.  Avoid commercials.  It's quite alright if they watch the same 30 minute ABC video for 10 times straight.  But try to mix it up with Audio Books, and CD's of Classical music, and even white noise.  My mom use to put on a Fish Tank DVD that played a short classical tune over and over.  One day my nephew commented, "I like that fish there, because it always comes up and gives me a kiss on the TV."

7.  Art Projects ... especially from recycled things you normally would throw away.  The internet is full of wonderful ideas.  My favorite is The Crafty Crow.

8.  Make every moment a learning moment.  This doesn't mean you school all day, but that you try to put as much experience into everything you do.  Are you making supper?  Let your preschooler help, let them get out 3 cans of peas, 4 plates, the green cups, fold the napkins into a rectangle, place the fork and spoon above the napkin, and so on.  If you do it right, they will not have a clue that they are learning, beg for more, and it will get to be so much of a habit, that you will do it without thinking.   ....   This is how Sunshine has learned up to this point, and sometimes I'm astonished at how much she knows.

9.  Provide your child with open play toys ... blocks, kitchens, balls, shovels, legos, doll houses, riding toys ....  toys that force the child to use their brains and think to play.   Good old dirt and water and a spoon can provide hours of learning.  Shaving cream and a few pieces of a tea set in the tub - Scholar loves to play with his sand toys and cars in the tub.

10.  People.  Take the child out in public and let them observe other people.  Even if they sit on your lap at a park (for a very shy child) while you talk about manners and safety rules while they watch other kids play.  Let them hand up the items at a grocery story, or pay for something.  Help them learn to shake hands and say "How do you do, My name is ...." to people that they already know.  Adults have to teach children the proper social norms of their society - some can be learned from watching their parents and older siblings, but most of it will be learned watching older adults interact with each others in public places like grocery stores, malls, parks, church, and the like.  I have yet to see any child learn a social skill from another child.

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