Teaching a Preschooler at Home

Our little guy will be three years old in a couple of months. I’ve been assessing what he has learned. No, I haven’t given him some standardized test or even some informal test. Those sorts of things certainly aren’t necessary at this age (or for several years to come) when the child is with someone with whom he is comfortable and who has time to observe him often.

So what does he know? Currently, he knows all the letters of the alphabet by name. He knows a sound that each letter makes. (We haven’t worked on long vowels, or soft consonant sounds, or other advanced phonics skills yet. “The Letter Factory” video has been a favorite for some time and has to be given most of the credit for this.) He can count to fourteen and tries to get up to seventeen, though he often forgets fifteen. He recognizes the numerals from one to ten, as well as seventeen. (Seventeen is the source of a lot of jokes in our house because of a character in the book “The Phantom Tollbooth” that my teens mimic. Thus he’s learned it and has been motivated to count that high.) He knows the names of basic shapes and colors. He knows basic body part names and the names of a variety of animals and can mimic the sound that many make. He can identify which object or shape is smaller (or larger or shorter, etc.). He can make somewhat recognizable smiley faces and can write a recognizable (though messy) capital M by himself. He can draw circles and can color somewhat within the lines of relatively small regions. He loves to sit and listen to stories–which is where a lot of his learning has come from. He tries to use safety scissors, though he generally ends up simply tearing the paper in order to “cut” it. He has several notebooks and likes to scribble in them–partly because of watching the older kids doing work in notebooks and partly because of viewing a few episodes of the old television show “Blues Clues.” He likes to play with other kids; he loves to play with some in the two to four year old range in our homeschool group, but he will also play with the teens when they’re willing to include him–which happens more with the homeschooled teens I know than with schooled teens I’ve known. He doesn’t yet know how to dress himself, though he has put on his own shoes when he really, really wanted to go somewhere. I know he’s doing very well for his age based particularly on conversations I’ve had with VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten) teachers in our area who’ve told me he’d be bored if he went there at age four.

We previously bought a few inexpensive preschool workbooks from discount stores and he’ll ask to do some pages when our teens are doing their lessons, but we don’t push  workbooks on him at this age.We bought them so he could feel included when the older kids do lessons. I don’t think the current push in our society to have kids be in school doing academic activities at younger and younger ages is necessarily a good idea. Instead, he comes with us almost everywhere and sees the world and has learned a lot this way. We talk about what’s going on and let him do a lot of playing.

But I’m considering our next step. With the younger kids, we went to story times at the local library a lot when they were his age. But the library’s story times at our library have become so crowded that they are too crazy for me. So I’ve been thinking about setting up some myself with others in our homeschool support group. Our little guy will love it if we can get some of the kids he already knows there. I’m thinking of setting it up in a park so I don’t have to worry about the kids making too big a mess in our house and siblings can run around if they aren’t interested in what we’re doing. (That’s part of the beauty of living in South Florida where parks are an option most of the year.) We’ll likely sing some simple songs (“Itsy Bitsy Spider;” “The Days of the Week;” “The Alphabet Song;” “The Months of the Year;” “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes;” some nursery rhyme songs with motions; etc.) and perhaps work up to including some I came up with for my older kids (like the version of “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” that I made for learning about bones; my version’s called “Skull and Clavicle, Patella, Phalanges”). We’ll likely have some simple arts and crafts, too, as well as some stories for them to listen to. Perhaps we’ll occasionally play some simple games and perhaps do some simple activities like planting seeds or figuring out what sinks and what doesn’t. I might plan out themes or might keep it simpler, depending on how much time and energy I have to invest in this. We’ll include children of a variety of ages, from toddlers to first or second graders or so–as their parents think appropriate. At least, that’s the plan I’m pondering.

One nice thing about having homeschooled teens, besides the experience and confidence they have given me with my littlest guy, is that they are a big help with him, too. In fact, my daughter even asked if she could run some story time sessions for him and his friends (before she knew that I was pondering organizing such events). She thought it would be fun for both her and her little brother, and I’m thinking that I could organize a Child Development course for her around this idea and kill two birds with one stone in the process.




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