The Kitchen Table Classroom
What You Need to Know before Homeschooling Your Preschooler or Kindergartner
Before you begin schooling, investigate and select a curriculum or lesson plan—or build your own multi-faceted learning plan from several different teaching styles. To get you started, Homefires suggests the following options:
- Recreate traditional schools at home: Some parents are more comfortable with mimicking their own school experiences, complete with schedules, textbooks, and even play time, music class, and recess.
- Public school–run home study programs: Your local school district may offer a home-study program. Often parents and teachers work together to teach children at home. Teachers assist in developing course studies and supplying materials, and parents then teach at home and report back regularly to the school district.
- Charter school–run home study programs: Charter Schools can be a good source for curriculum and teaching support. Some provide families with $1,000 per student in credit to put toward the purchase of educational materials.
- Private school independent study programs: Check with your area private schools to see if they offer these programs. Although they vary widely, most programs supply record keeping, guidance, support, and curriculum counseling.
- Tutors: Look to your area learning center, university, public school district, or local online message boards and hire a tutor or older student to instruct your child at home.
- Educational software and the Internet: The Internet offers you the ability to have a reference librarian, science teacher, mathematician, or historian, in your home, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can watch pandas eating bamboo (www.smithsonian.com), learn about space and watch the stars at (www.nasa.gov) or travel to different cultures on a virtual expedition (www.questconnect.org). You can also purchase educational software and curriculum packages. From pre-K activities to complete curriculum packages for grades K–12, to online interactive homeschool classes and college courses, to audio and video courses—there are countless opportunities.
Making It Work for You
“There is no one-size-fits-all mindset and no one right way to homeschool,” says Flynn Keith. “Most homeschool parents want their children to become capable, responsible, competent, compassionate, independent, happy adults—and the ‘schooling’ part of that equation is a rather small part of the whole.”
If you are concerned about where to begin, never fear—there are a wealth of learning resources for parents exploring the idea of homeschooling their preschool- and kindergarten-aged children. Everything from ready-made curriculum packages to online courses and formal lessons. But keep in mind that it can be a mistake to offer anything too structured or academic for young kids. “Young children learn best through play and exposure to the bounty of life,” suggests Flynn Keith. “Play is their work and it does produce ‘academic’ readiness.”
The best course may be to combine a collection of learning-through-play activities with some loosely structured time for looking at books or software together, playing with number and letter blocks, or going over workbooks. This is the case for Rebecca, a stay-at-home mom homeschooling five children under the age of seven. For Rebecca, unschooling, or teaching outside of the traditional perimeters of school (without textbooks, assignments, and so on), is an important tool. “We have been homeschooling for three years now and have loved our experiences,” she explains. “We are a very eclectic family, and use a combination of unschooling, some curriculum, and some classes in the community. Our autistic daughter learns best through unschooling, songs, and physical movements.”
Preschoolers and kindergartners are at a distinct advantage for homeschooling. “At this age [children are] eager to learn and have fun learning,” explains Lewis. But she adds an important caveat: Young children can often have difficulties sitting still for a long length of time. So be sure to incorporate lots of breaks into your homeschooling schedule.
Parents can initiate activities with their children that will inherently provide a lesson, and build a foundation of life-long learning and success. “Children can learn life skills along with some science and readiness skills by helping Mom and Dad cook and clean, or plant and harvest a garden,” advises Flynn Keith. Learning through doing is a wonderful way to enjoy and share the process of learning with your child. Take nature walks together; utilize games of make-believe and role-playing; visit your local park, swimming pool, or rec center for good experience with social interaction, development of gross motor skills, and sharing. The possibilities are endless—let your imagination be your guide.
Help and Support
Homeschooling parents seeking information, advice, support, and resources will find homeschool advocacy programs in every state. “There are also homeschool support groups within almost every community that also provide information and resources, as well as co-op classes, field trips, social and academic events, and much more,” says Flynn Keith. In addition, most of these groups also publish newsletters and e-lists for their members.
Parents of preschoolers can join many free online lists, such as the Unpreschool list at Yahoo Groups. Each day, Monday through Friday, parents receive one fun, educational idea, resource, or activity, as well as inspirational stories and messages of encouragement that enhance their parenting skills and enrich their learning environment. “The list is especially for those who don’t want to send their little ones to preschool,” says Flynn Keith. The list includes information and tips for preparing young children (ages two to six years) for school or homeschool (without attending a preschool). To join, send a blank email to email@example.com.
At this age, your child is naturally filled with curiosity and the desire to learn. Whether you are planning to forgo traditional school in exchange for an alternative educational path, or just exploring educational possibilities, homeschooling can provide a wonderful experience for you and your child. “This isn’t rocket science,” Flynn Keith aptly points out. “You don’t need a laboratory, a classroom, or a teacher. Simply live your lives and by virtue of including your children in your work and play they will acquire knowledge of the world, all of the skills needed for enrollment in Kindergarten or elementary school, and they’ll be confident and happy.”
For More Information
Diane Flynn Keith recommends the following as suggested reading for parents interested in homeschooling:
- Homeschooling the Early Years, by Linda Dobson
- The Unschooling Handbook, by Mary Griffith
- Fundamentals of Homeschooling, by Ann Lahrson-Fisher
- The Ultimate Guide To Homeschooling, by Debra Bell
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