One of the biggest questions that veteran homeschoolers often receive is what to do with your little ones who aren't quite ready for formal schooling. This is known as PRESCHOOL. I know that when I first started researching and reading about homeschooling that was one of my questions. The more I asked the more I was told, don't do it!! That was rather frustrating to me because I really, really wanted to apply what I was learning in all the reading I was doing. I wasn't too far out of having worked in a classroom setting and I was pretty determined NOT to repeat those mistakes that I observed as a classroom teacher.
Life has a way of simply taking over, though, and preschool never really happened for my three older children. That wasn't for lack of trying though. I bought curriculum designed for preschoolers. I made copies and bought supplies. I had three children 3 and under and we just simply lived in survival mode. I couldn't keep up with all that AND preschool work. Part of this was simply that I was unmotivated and sick alot. Part of it was simply not knowing what in the world to do with a preschoolers. I was trained and gifted to work with teenagers. I wasn't one of those mom's that spent alot of time playing with my children. Perhaps I am bit old school in that attitude. I am not designed to be a playmate for my children. I spent time with them but not playing and doing crafts.
I have come to the conclusion that preschool is simply a means of making parents either feel that aren't doing enough for their children. Children learn best by playing, period. Providing toys with a purpose is one of the best educations you can give a preschooler. Play kitchens with felt food is perfect for boys and girls. Dress up clothes allows them time to escape into other worlds. This helps them make sense of the somtimes confusing world around the. Baby dolls gives little girls (and boys sometimes) the opportunity to learn to love being mommies and practice being keepers at home. I have never given my girls bottles to play with their babies. They never needed it. . .they would "breastfeed". (And there is nothing more funny than finding your 3 yod boy breastfeeding as well. hehehe!!!) Cars make great toys for boys (and girls, as if the case with my 18 mod right now.) Blocks of all kind give constant entertainment to all ages. My older kids still play with duplos with their siblings. Even my 3 yod builds with Legos (but he does during reading aloud times so I am supervise him.) And outdoor play is very healthy for children. They can explores not just the real world but can create their own world and adventures. Yesterday my 3 and 5 yod boys were delivering food to Haiti. Precious play and yet they were learning to be servants during that time. Sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and playing the sprinkler I far better for children (and safer) than going to a pool all the time. Hunting down bugs and following them through the grass does wonders for all children in their education. Natural curiosity at it's best and not stifled by sitting at a desk.
One of the most important things you can do for a preschool is to read good, living books to them. What is a living book? According to Simply Charlotte Mason website, a living book is. . .
Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.”Reading books to your children is the most valuable time you can spend in these formative years. I may not had done alot of workbooks and such with them but we read alot. I regret that I have missed some reading time recently with my younger children. One of my goals this summer is to get back into reading with them, along with continuing the practice of reading aloud to my older kids. Pick books that are living and challenging challenge their vocabulary. My boys love the Beatrix Potter books. I have even read Charlotte's Web and the Narnia books to my preschoolers. Chapter books challenge their minds and pull them up to levels of thinking that some of the silly preschool books do not do. I have discovered that most library books written in recent decades are nothing but twaddle. What is twaddle? Again from the Simply Charlotte Mason website:
I included most of the article from the link above so you didn't have to jump over to their website at this point. The comments at the bottom of that link are well worth a visit though. Ultimately, twaddle talks down to the child (baby talk) and assumes that they aren't intelligent enough to understand higher concepts. I have observed with my own children that they can understand more. My 11 and 9 yod use words in their speech now that I don't even use much as an adult. They also both read on very high levels. My 9 yod is currently reading a book called Doctrine by Mark Driscoll which is a very thorough explanation of different aspects of Christian doctrine that we should all understand. He's getting it. This summer so far he's read two different Civil War books that were designed for adults to read. . .and he understood them. We don't use baby talk with our children and we don't give them baby books that assume they can't fully understand what is being said to them.
Twaddle. How would you define it? Here are some key thoughts taken from Charlotte’s comments.
Talking down to a child“Grown-up people who are not mothers talk and think far more childishly than the child does in their efforts to approach his mind. If a child talk twaddle, it is because his elders are in the habit of talking twaddle to him; leave him to himself, and his remarks are wise and sensible so far as his small experience guides him. Mothers seldom talk down to their children; they are too intimate with the little people, and have, therefore, too much respect for them: but professional teachers, whether the writers of books or the givers of lessons, are too apt to present a single grain of pure knowledge in a whole gallon of talk, imposing upon the child the labour of discerning the grain and of extracting it from the worthless flood” (Vol. 1, p. 175).
Diluted“. . . the sort of diluted twaddle which is commonly thrust upon children” (Vol. 1, p. 176).
Undervaluing the intelligence of a child“. . . greatly undervaluing the intelligence of her children. I know a person of three who happened to be found by a caller alone in the drawing-room. It was spring, and the caller thought to make himself entertaining with talk about the pretty ‘baa-lambs.’ But a pair of big blue eyes were fixed upon him and a solemn person made this solemn remark, “Isn’t it a dwefful howid thing to see a pig killed!” We hope she had never seen or even heard of the killing of a pig, but she made as effective a protest against twaddle as would any woman of Society” (Vol. 1, p. 187).
“I am speaking now of his lesson-books, which are all too apt to be written in a style of insufferable twaddle, probably because they are written by persons who have never chanced to meet a child. All who know children know that they do not talk twaddle and do not like it, and prefer that which appeals to their understanding” (Vol. 1, p. 229).
Reading-made-easy“As for what are called children’s books, the children of educated parents are able to understand history written with literary power, and are not attracted by the twaddle of reading-made-easy little history books” (Vol. 1, p. 281).
“They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told” (Vol. 2, p. 263).
Second-rate, stale, predictable“It is not possible to repeat this too often or too emphatically, for perhaps we err more in this respect than any other in bringing up children. We feed them upon the white ashes out of which the last spark of the fire of original thought has long since died. We give them second-rate story books, with stale phrases, stale situations, shreds of other people’s thoughts, stalest of stale sentiments. They complain that they know how the story will end! But that is not all; they know how every dreary page will unwind itself” (Vol. 3, p. 121).
Goody-goody story books or highly-spiced adventures of poor quality, titillating“What manner of book will find its way with upheaving effect into the mind of an intelligent boy or girl? We need not ask what the girl or boy likes. She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure. We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature” (Vol. 3, p. 168).
Scrappy, weak, light reading“Many who would not read even a brilliant novel of a certain type, sit down to read twaddle without scruple. Nothing is too scrappy, nothing is too weak to ‘pass the time!’ The ‘Scraps’ literature of railway bookstalls is symptomatic. We do not all read scraps, under whatever piquant title, but the locust-swarm of this class of literature points to the small reading power amongst us. The mischief begins in the nursery. No sooner can a child read at all than hosts of friendly people show their interest in him by a present of a ‘pretty book.’ A ‘pretty book’ is not necessarily a picture-book, but one in which the page is nicely broken up in talk or short paragraphs. Pretty books for the schoolroom age follow those for the nursery, and, nursery and schoolroom outgrown, we are ready for ‘Mudie’s’ lightest novels; the succession of ‘pretty books’ never fails us; we have no time for works of any intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes” (Vol. 5, p. 214).
If we throw in a few adjectives from modern dictionaries, we round out a pretty comprehensive list of what constitutes twaddle:
So as a more experienced homeschool mom I would say that preschool is simply madness. It can become a trap that the enemy uses to on moms to cause them to fret and worry over things that take care of themselves in other ways. It can also distract them from doing the job that God has called them to. We should definitely be available for our children during this time but it's doesn't have to look like what the daycare centers have turned into education. Preschool is a new concept created by socialism. Socialisms goal is to take the mom out of the home and give the kids to the state to educate. This is NOT what God intended for education for our children. Consider Deuteronomy 6.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."Now THAT is a curriculum for all ages. Educating preschoolers should be about training them in the ways of God. They should be learning obedience and respect of parents at this age. There is nothing worse than a preschooler that thinks they are in charge and won't obey. Those preschoolers turn into teenagers that think they are in charge and are no fun to be around. None of us is truly in charge. Ultimately, God is the one Who rules. He is Sovereign. He has placed parents here to lead their children in this concept and it starts with learning to trust and obey parents. If a child can't learn to trust and obey their parents, they will not learn to trust and obey God. Mom's particularly should be spending their time during the day training their children in this way.
Memorizing God's word is another things that should be included in curriculum for preschoolers. Don't think a preschooler can memorize much scripture. Several summers ago my family learned Psalm 1. Several weeks after we mastered the whole psalm, Pee-Pooh, who was 3 1/2 at the time, quoted the whole thing to his Sunday school teachers unprompted. They were blown away (as was I to realized it stayed with him.) These little ones are sponges and can take in so much scripture. What a better way to spend our time than teaching and learning it with them.
The ABCs and 123s can be learned "along the way". Count the forks you put on the table. Better yet, teach them how to put away the silverware and count the forks they put away. While they are taking a bath, sing with them. When you read, take some time to run your finger under the words as you read. Children will not learn to read until they begin to associate the symbols (read letters) with the idea that they make words. For some that happens before 5. For a majority of kids, it will happen between 5 and 9 (sometimes older.) Colors can be learned when you get dressed in the morning. All of learning in preschool is an "along the way" type of learning. It isn't necessary to have a curriculum.
Cooking with preschoolers is also very important. Not only can it get them excited about what they are eating (think of the preschooler who hates veggies), but they learn valuable skills. My preschoolers cut our black olives for salad and nacho night using plastic knives. They help me make pancakes, bread, count beans (there is the counting again), and many other skills that little hands can do.
Now I am going to shift something here and mention that I do, indeed, use preschool activities for my children. I have a "curriculum" so to speak. But the reader must understand, I have older children that need me for school. Although our philosophy of education is to lead to independence in learning, I am still not absent from that. My older children are fairly independent in their work. I have two children that are currently learning to read so they requires a lot of my time. I need activities for my preschoolers during this time to occupy them. But this doesn't change what I said above. The best education for my preschoolers is time with mom for reading and learning as we walk along the way. And I will still maintain that their best time will be spent with me. The "activities" I have for are meant to keep them occupied while I give my older kids their education. It's not designed to teach them (although some learning will take place.)
That said, in coming days I will be posting more about what we're doing for "preschool" with my 18 mod and 3 yod. There are different resource that can be use in just the ways I have described above. I also want to be sensitive to the fact that there are some who are just better at working with younger children than I am. They simply need the ideas to get them started so they can work with their children. There is no condemnation in that at all. What I have mentioned above is my opinion based on experience. I have recently witness a tremendous amount of mommies online who are very purposeful about their preschool and they love doing it. It is possible to do preschooler type work with your children and there is nothing wrong with it.
I want to finish with a testimony for those skeptical about simply skipping what we know as preschool. I had two friends in whom their oldest children were one month and 3 weeks older than my oldest child. Both of these moms had only two children at the time and were doing "preschool" work with their children. At this time in my life I was tremendously guilty of comparing myself to others. I would beat myself up so much because I just wasn't doing enough with my oldest. I was so afraid she would be behind. Both of these children were already starting to read small words and JB had nothin'. I stayed the course and didn't start school until after she turned 5. Even the concept of kindergarten is questionable to me now, but we did start her. It took her three months to finally learn to read, making my kindergarten curriculum obsolete by the time we go tot November. The funny thing is that the other two children mastered reading at about the same time. The mom's worked longer to teach reading and we ended up at the same place. This fact gave me more confidence as a homeschool teacher and in God's leading.
Preschoolers are so enjoyable. We don't want to waste their formative years trying to make them sit at a desk coloring, writing (especially when they aren't physically ready), and attempting to learn concepts that are so easy to pick up if we are simply BEING with them. That is why God clearly commanded us to teach along the way. Formal academics really aren't necessary for quite a while.
Please check back over the next few days. I will be posting several different resources for preschool for those interested. There are some great books related to what I am discussed today. There are several great blogs that I will include as well.