You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or experience to help introduce your 3- or 4-year-old to the joys of learning.
Does this sound familiar? You’re delighted with your decision to homeschool your preschooler—until panic hits, and you wonder how you’ll ever be able to teach your child everything she needs to know to graduate high school. Your first instinct is to start searching for the perfect curriculum, but the truth is, you don’t need a curriculum to teach preschool. So how do you do it? That’s easy, but only if you love exploring the world and learning new things at least as much as your child does.
YOUR TEACHING INSTRUMENT IS YOUR VOICE
Talk to your child. Be patient. Tell her all the simple things you take for granted. “Tree.” “Green leaf. Isn’t it pretty?” “Do you like carrots? I like carrots.” As kids get older, your conversations will get more sophisticated. Ask your child questions. Answer their questions. Teach them everything you know through conversation and story. (Don’t worry about what you don’t know. As the questions get harder, teach your child how to find answers by letting them watch you search for answers in books, at the library, on the Internet, and by talking to others.)
YOUR TEACHING RESOURCE IS THE LIBRARY
Take frequent trips to the library. At least once a month, let your child pick whatever books he likes. Let him explore the library, play with the toys there, and take him to story times. Letting kids explore and play at the library will teach them it’s a fun place.
Reading, arithmetic, and all those other fundamentals can be learned by any child (or adult) who has a desire to learn. Don’t worry if your 4- or 5-year-old isn’t reading yet. Some children learn to read early; others aren’t ready until they’re 7 or 8. This has no bearing on their intelligence. It’s simply how they’re developing.
When you think about it, there are more important things young children should be learning. You may want to write a list of what is most important to you to impart to your children. It may look something like this: A love of learning, tenacity, kindness, and creativity.
Foster a love of learning by exploring the world with your child and being fascinated by it. Every child is delighted by those small things we take for granted—flowers, butterflies, a beetle on the sidewalk. If you don’t delight in these things, neither will your child.
Help your child find answers to his questions. If he asks a question at an inconvenient time, say, “That’s a great question. We can look it up later. Remind me, OK?”
If you show your children how you plan, set goals, and carry out your daily tasks, you will be a wonderful role model of tenacity. As your child takes on a project, be there with him. Don’t take over, but help him when he gets stuck.
To teach children how to be kind, we must be kind ourselves. Kindness is more than being kind to people. Teach children to be kind to animals and even bugs.
To foster creativity, let your children play and create. You won’t need to do any planning for this; just don’t squash their natural creativity!
Chances are with this formula, they will learn more than they need to know to pass traditional preschool, but you probably won’t need to worry about that. Enthusiastic parents don’t offer a child a curriculum—they offer them the world.
THE ULTIMATE PRESCHOOL TOOLKIT
- Read together
- Spend time in nature
- Visit interesting places
- Share your own work with your child
The best toys require a child to use his imagination.
- Toy animals
- Any kind of building set
- Pretend food
- Different kinds of paper
- Crayons, markers, pencils
- Scissors, glue, and tape
- Air-dry modeling clay
- Other art materials from craft stores or the recycling bin
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.