Tag Archives: unschooling

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’ #13

We have been engaged with several family gatherings and celebrations over the past two weeks or so, hopping from my parents to my in-laws to my brother and sister in-laws who live five hours from us to back home again. It’s funny how after an extended hiatus from normal life, however, the body decides its time to let down its defenses and go ahead and get sick. Anyone else experience an internal system crash when you’re supposed to be on break?

While we and the kids are working on getting back to full speed, I’ll share some pictures with you from our holiday hullabaloo.

The kids, excited about my family’s generosity:


December 2014 050

Fascinated with his new magnifying glassDecember 2014 053

Matching pajamas from a friend. Of course we couldn’t get them to smile at the same time!December 2014 073

Loving his new train village. The best part? It all goes back in one box pretty easily. December 2014 080

Four cousins in a tub. What could be more fun? cousinsNow that you’ve gotten to see all that, I’ll give you some Saturday reading material:

Learning to Live Without Walmart– One family’s list of current self-sufficiency accomplishments, projects, and future endeavors.  This family is a bit further down the homesteading road than we are, but their goals inspired me to continue down the path a little further ourselves!

Teaching Kids the Value of Work- I desperately want my children to understand their place in the family- they are loved, they are valued, and they are equal contributors to the household- and that means in chores too! Allyson at All Our Days shares a relevant book review that hopes to avoid giving your kids a sense of entitlement and encourages them to be cheerful workers in their household. I may have to check out the book Cleaning House myself!

How to Render Lard– Cooking with lard! I have to say, I have never tried this before. (Though we do save and cook with our bacon fat frequently.) But we have a local butcher down the road, who I am sure, will give us some fat if we ask for it. Have you ever tried this?

We Don’t Need No Education- Unschooling. Depending on who’s hearing it, the term can rattle up intense jealousy or complete scorn. Though I myself am uncertain whether unschooling could be The Right Choice for our family, and I can’t say to what extent I endorse it, I must say that this beautifully written article from Ben Hewitt is a striking account of freeing his own children from institutionalized schooling. Thoughts, anyone?

Hope you have a happy and healthy Saturday, to go along with your New Years. 🙂

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