I wrote a post last fall on our preschool resources for 2014-2015. Halfway through our school year, I’ve had some time to reevaluate what works & what doesn’t work for us- both in terms of curriculum and general philosophy.
We have continued to use some of my favorite kid’s websites for seasonal activity ideas, like Wee Folk Art, No Time For Flash Cards, and a couple of new ones I’ve discovered recently like Mom Inspired Life and Quirky Momma. I’m constantly filling my Pinterest boards with activities for my kids from around the web. We homeschooling mamas are certainly at no shortage of free and low cost ideas for our little ones. (Sometimes I think there’s too much, actually- it can all get overwhelming!)
While we still use many preschool workbooks, I’ve found myself loosening up on which ones we have to do more and more. In fact, I quit our main “textbook” this past December! Why? This particular curriculum was too contrived to be of much real learning use for my son. Both he and I grew tired of playing busy work games centering on topics like eggs and bears when we have real chickens laying real eggs in the backyard- and real bear spottings occasionally too!
I found that J and I butted heads the most when I tried forcing our way through artificial and overdone preschool exercises. Flipping through our homemade word flash cards was tedious. But picking out words in a favorite book to practice reading was enjoyable! I began noticing a pattern:
J learns the most when we explore all aspects of a real life interest. We visited a science museum with an outer space section… and suddenly we were bringing home books on the moon and planets, and going outside to observe the night sky, and discussing the turning and the orbit of the earth and what makes the seasons and what keeps us from flying off the ground. We rode a train last summer… and then came home to check out tons of books on trains from the library. He needed no external motivation to learn all about how trains work, memorize the foreign vocabulary of train parts, and draw and play and dream trains.
I’ve found that schooling is far more effective, thorough, and enjoyable at this stage when I “teach” from real-life scenarios. In fact, I find that I need to do very little teaching at all, because J is so curious and interested that he absorbs the information like a sponge. When I simply give him access to what he wants to learn, he eats it up. When I force an unnatural curriculum on him, he resists the mandated activities with fervor.
And who can blame him? Who, if given the choice, would prefer dull workbook exercises over well-written stories with beautiful illustrations? Who would prefer sitting inside practicing counting when he could be going outside and exploring which apple tree bears more fruit (and why is that so)? Who wants to spend time sounding out words in exasperatingly slow “reader” books when a world of excellent literature lays at his fingertips?
Obviously, my child still needs to learn to read and write. But I am becoming increasingly convinced that what he needs right now is not so much phonics or tracing practice, but a fuel for his natural curiosity and desire to learn. Fostering this attitude, this joy in learning, will get him so much further than meager repetitious exercises. Killing his joy in learning early on will only set him up for an attitude of frustration towards future schooling.
Will we still do preschool workbooks? Yes! Of course! I am not poo-pooing them entirely. J still enjoys doing them (so long as I don’t push too much). Of course we will work on counting, reading, writing, etc. But will I make completing a typical preschool curriculum my sole goal for these early years? No.
I will try (imperfectly, I am sure), to seize the opportunities of wonder that the world around us presents at every turn. I want to let J do his own learning by soaking up these opportunities- and use them as springboards for practicing other important skills as well. It makes it harder to plan practically, of course… but if it works well for J and helps him most, I think it’s worth it!
I’m such a newbie at all this- I’m sure I’ll be working to figure out effective schooling for years to come. Experienced mamas: what works well for your kids? I would love your feedback!