Tag Archives: early education

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

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!


Good Pickins #11


December 2014 011This cute little munchkin is 18 months old today. My little girl is getting less and less like a baby each day with her ability to climb, say a small collection of words, and wee on the potty. I’m amazed by how much faster she seems to be growing up than her brother! I guess second children will do that to you.

Speaking of children growing up, my son is constantly wowing me with everything he’s learning and comprehending. My hubby and I were talking about whether or not we should try for home school kindergarten next fall (J will be five), and our discussion led to research. While we didn’t make a hard decision about how we will school him, we had some interesting discussion on the matter. Enter the first of the “pickins’.”

Much Too Early! by David Elkind, Ph.D. I often struggle between allowing my children to have a less structured early education (one where they do learn naturally through interacting in depth with their world) and encouraging them to do as much as they can as early as they can (pushing for academic rigor at a young age). This article, while not all-encompassing, piqued my interest and helped me to think through some of the implications and problems of imposing formal academic study on children who are not yet ready for it. I’d say this is an appropriate read for all parents of young children, regardless of your schooling choices.

Sourdough Pizza Crust– When you’re unsure of big decisions in life, like schooling for your children, pizza is a easy choice to make for dinner. 😉 This was my first time trying sourdough pizza crust, and boy, did it turn out well! The dough was stretchy and malleable- though it did want to keep springing back on me. It was fun to work with and cooperated when given periodic rests. And once baked? Bubbly, airy, beautiful pizzeria-style crust- all because of a little help from a starter.

Fun and Simple Advent Activities– Trina provides some low key ideas to keep you and your little ones merrily occupied between now and Christmas. If I get ambitious, I may try out her Christmas wreath tutorial too!

How to Feed Your Hens for Best Egg Production– Our hens are of laying age, but the days are so short and cold now that we think eggs will be unlikely until early spring. However, we are hopeful, and providing good nutrition for the girls throughout the cold months will help to keep them healthy and (maybe???) give them a head start for egg production. Now, even if they don’t actually lay, at least we’ll know they’re getting what they need. 🙂

I hope you have a marvelous Saturday! Happy reading!