Wednesday, October 7, 2020

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Homeschool Preschool: What Preschoolers Need to Know

This is our first How to Homeschool Preschool class! The topic for today is: What Preschoolers Need to Know! And, as you read through the "lesson," you will find a link to get this fantastic little checklist for free! Before we get started, it's really important to point out a quick definition here: I consider 2-6 year old children "preschoolers." 

This definition is important because this list of skills is NOT one that I'd expect a 4-year old (or even many 5-year olds) to have completed. I think the "kindergarten" year should be spent playing and using every-day learning opportunities to teach these skills.

Finally, please read all the way to the end of this article! There is A LOT of good information, and I couldn't just stuff it all in the first few paragraphs!

So, let's get started...

Homeschool Preschool

What Preschoolers Need to Know

Preschoolers are delightful in a way no other age group is! Their excitement and energy are contagious, so it's no wonder that parents want to make sure they are guiding them correctly when they decide to homeschool preschool.

The good news is that it is not nearly as complicated as we sometimes make it!

When you begin to make plans to homeschool preschool, there are 3 "big picture" goals that you should consider EVERY single day!

BIG GOALS for Preschool Homeschool Teachers:

#1: Grow a love of learning.

#2: Encourage a broad range of experiences for your preschoolers.

#3: Help your preschoolers develop the skills to learn more.

Let's look at these closer:

#1: Grow a love of learning.  Nothing you do will have a bigger, long-term impact on your child than helping them love to learn. If they see books as treasures and questions as great adventures to be solved, they will be motivated to learn to read, research, and so much more!  Can you imagine trying to teach a child to read who doesn't like books? Perhaps you've already tried to teach a child math who doesn't like numbers. Or science to a child who has already decided it's too hard.  

This is more important than ANY other bit of information your preschooler might learn! There is SO much time for your child to learn little things like phonemes and addition. There is very little time to help them develop an attitude of excitement toward learning!

Since this is the #1 most important goal for teaching preschoolers, we want to avoid making learning feel like a chore or something that must be rewarded if they stick it out. Choose fun books that are rewarding just to be read! Do science experiments that make them laugh and get them excited about trying! If they love letters and numbers, practice writing and spelling! But if they burst into tears every time you pull out a reading curriculum, be willing to put that curriculum on the shelf for a few months or years, and pull out an exciting picture book (or chapter book) to read TO your preschooler.

#2: Encourage a broad range of experiences for your preschoolers.  Young children (like older children), learn new information best if they have already learned something related to the new information, and can make the connection between the new and the old. (Read this article for lots of details on how preschoolers' minds work!)  What you will discover is that the more life experiences and things that your children know, the easier and more exciting it is for them to learn new things.

I like to imagine "closets" in my kids' minds. Preschoolers' minds are not designed to learn separate, little pieces of information (like the sound "d" makes). But if you give them "closets" to "hang" that information in, they remember it better (like if you associate the letter "d" with "dogs," they might "hang" the "d" sound in a closet with "dogs," or "animals I like." The more "closets" you help them build as a preschooler, the more places you help them create to store new information! Eventually they might hang "homeostasis" with "dogs" too, since they know that dogs pant when they are hot and grow extra hair for the winter!

#3: Help your preschoolers develop the skills to learn more as they grow.  We know that you cannot learn to read before you know that letters represent sounds, and you cannot learn to add before you know how to count. Preschool is a great time to develop these "first" skills, mostly through play and hands-on activities!

==> Since I have had MANY parents ask me what those basic skills are that preschoolers need, I have developed this checklist. It is based on my observations of children in group settings (in schools, churches, and community classes), state standards from Texas and Virginia, and NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) recommendations. Please take note of the four points (marked by arrows) below!

==> All these "goals" can be accomplished through play and every-day activities! Be sure to read the next article in this series for more details about preschool activities!

==> I encourage parents homeschooling preschool to achieve these skills BEFORE beginning a formal math or reading curriculum. Usually this is either by the time your child turns six years old OR (if you plan to enroll them in a public or private kindergarten) before they begin kindergarten.

==> I know 3-year olds who know and can do everything on this list. That's great! If that's your preschooler, then just keep learning what is most interesting to your child. Remember that there are two other BIG PICTURE goals during these years, and the world is full of things that they can learn!

==> There are some children who will NOT be able to do all the pre-reading skills before they are six. If your doctor has confirmed that there are no developmental delays or learning disorders that need addressing, DO NOT stress about this! Notice that pre-reading skills account for less than 1/4 of all the skills that your preschooler can be working on! Like walking and learning to use the bathroom, the physical and neural development needed for reading happens at different ages for everyone. (And like walking and using the bathroom, parents of early readers usually let everybody else know just how early it happened--do not let this overshadow the #1 goal {love of learning} for the preschool years!!)  Studies actually show that most children's reading skills equalize around 3rd or 4th grade, and if you take a classroom of 4th graders, you generally cannot tell which children learned to read when they were 4 and which learned when they were 7. Interestingly, Finnish teenagers generally outperform American teenagers in reading, math, and science...and children in Finland do not start formal reading lessons until they are 7. In fact, they engage in play-based preschool from 3-6 years old!  

SOooooo... would you like this checklist?

If so, just CLICK HERE! You can print, save, or download it!

I hope it is helpful to you!

NOW that you have the checklist in hand, let's point out a few things on it:

#1: You can "teach" everything on the list through play. There is no need for formal lessons during preschool (2-6 years old). Part 2 in this series includes nine common activities that "teach" these skills for preschoolers! 

#2: Notice that pre-reading skills account for less than 1/4 of the entire list. Please do not become so pre-occupied with pre-reading and writing skills that you miss out on othere fun adventures of the preschool years. If your child especially loves letters and numbers, definitely spend more time with them! But if your child loves being outside, digging in dirt, building train tracks, or mixing vinegar and baking soda over and over and over... do those things too!

#3: I separated the skills into categories because it is easier for our minds to process things that are "chunked" or broken into groups, but the fact is that each item in every group actually helps develop skills in other groups. For example, I listed "skipping" and "rolling" in the "Physical Skills" category. These two physical skills also train your brain to send neural impulses across both hemispheres, which helps develop Reading and Math skills. These activities also require the eyes to focus on a quick succession of objects, which prepares them to read fluently. These same activities help develop a sense of spatial awareness that helps develop observation and prediction skills ("Science & Reasoning" category). These same activities strengthen core muscles, which allow children to sit longer and develop "Material Skills." And, if they are doing these skills at your suggestion and with siblings, they are working on following instructions, working with others, taking turns, solving problems, and other "Personal & Social Skills." Similarly, other skills overlap in different categories!

#4: Remember that children develop different skills at different times. Do not get stressed out if your child isn't ready for all these skills when you are! Review the fourth arrow point above. The best way to know what your preschoolers are ready for is by following their lead--what are they interested in? Remember we want to introduce a variety of experiences, but we need to pay attention to how our preschoolers respond to those activities.  If an experience is creating a lot of stress in our young children, we need to "shelve" it for a little while and try coming back to it after our preschoolers have had a chance to grow and develop a little more.  Interestingly, when we are stressed, we actually create hormones that literally make learning difficult! It is better to let our preschoolers learn and experience something different than to create a sense of dread and stress associated with school time.

#5: Finally, working through this list one topic at a time is a very boring way to set up preschool!  Play is the best way to "teach" these skills! During the next few lessons in this How to Homeschool Preschool series, I will be sharing fun ways to learn and engage your preschoolers as well as ideas for organizing your lessons, days, units, and more! Bookmark THIS PAGE to get links to all the lessons, and "join" THIS EVENT on Facebook to see me deliver everything "live" as it is ready!

As always, thank you for being here!

Let me know if you have any specific questions you'd like me to cover, and...

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

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