Preschool, Revisited (Or, Trading Workbooks for Real Life)

2018 Holiday Sale on herbal courses!

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.

Preschool Revisited

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.

Wellsboro Trip Aug 2014 105

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?

James 2nd Birthday, Baltimore 021(J, two years old. He loved being outside then, and he still learns best there now.)

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.

May 2013 042(A backyard hands-on Luna moth learning experience.)

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!


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3 thoughts on “Preschool, Revisited (Or, Trading Workbooks for Real Life)

  1. Sarah @ The Life of This Mother

    I love this post {going to pin it}. My son is almost 2 and I am “starting” to homeschool him. He’s an adventurous and busy boy, has only recently been enjoying story books, and spends most of his time outside running about, playing with water, stones, his cars etc. I can tell, even when we sit down to draw, that learning comes more naturally to him when it is natural. So I can’t imagine doing “school” with him for a wee while yet. Our mutual friend Rachel sent me over – you’ve posted some of my posts before. I really like your blog!

    1. Abi Post author

      Thank you so much for stopping by Sarah! Yes, I found you on the “women of purpose” pin board that Rachel set up! I have been enjoying your posts too! I truly appreciate your thoughts. I’ve wasted too much time fighting over my son’s tracing and ability to sit still through tedious lessons… when he could be loving and soaking up all kinds of learning in other ways! I am confident that things like tracing and phonics will be less of a chore as he develops a little more maturity and patience over the next couple of years. Enjoy that little man of yours!

  2. Lisa/Syncopated Mama

    It sounds like you’ve discovered the beauty of unschooling! It really is amazing when we take the lead from our kids and let them follow what they’re interested in (not to say that that has to mean completely ditching any instruction in areas you’re wanting to make sure they cover). I can’t wait to read more about this journey!


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