This year I am home preschooling my 2 youngest, not something I ever thought I would find myself doing but my reasons for making this choice can be found in a previous post Why I am Home Preschooling my Children.
I get a mixed reaction from people, some give me a glazed expression as if to say really? Can’t you just send them to preschool like the rest of us? Others wonder why on earth I would want to. Some look at me as if I am some kind of Supermum and others as if I am denying my kids a normal social life. Some however, just want to know how it all works and what exactly I do with them – this post is for you.
It really isn’t rocket science, I don’t follow a rigid schedule and home schooling allows us loads of flexibility. My 5-year-old said today
I’m glad we are doing your preschool because it means we can go to the zoo whenever we want.
It isn’t entirely without structure though – I plan for the learning environment and have a timetable . I suppose it is a little like having a plan for how you spend time with your children. It isn’t an academic preschool, we play and explore together, sometimes they play alone and we share interests, questions and ideas.
What about interaction with other children?
One day a week we have no preschool the girls go to ballet class, meet with friends and help me with normal everyday things like grocery shopping.
Two days a week we attend a local membership based playspace, it’s a little like a toddler group in the UK except that it is a purpose-built space and is open all day. Some of the music and language games we play at home don’t work very well with only 2 children so I run music and movement, craft, sensory play or storytelling sessions here which gives us an opportunity to do activities in a larger group. The rest of the time I allow them to free play but take their learning diaries to record what they may be interested in or achieving in a different context. The girls get chance to play with other children and use different materials than those we have at home.
The other 2 days are home based but sometimes we will use one of them to go out on a trip.
One of the things I have disliked about many preschools is the rigidity of their schedules. There seemed to be little time for the children to become absorbed in a project or flexibility about what they might do each day. I did however feel it was important to have some schedule in place. I created a visual timetable using printed symbols. Certain symbols are always present – Snack, lunch, free play and others I add in based on what we might do that day. The symbols can be moved around and often if we don’t have time for an activity I move it to the bottom of the timetable to be saved for next time. Sometimes I let the children plan the timetable although they don’t exactly have a realistic understanding of time so we usually end up with far too many activities to get through in one day. It is also a really good way of regulating screen time, this usually goes into the timetable for after lunch followed by outdoor choosing time and if they ask for it earlier in the day I point them to the timetable. I’m surprised at how well the timetable works , the girls really respond to it and look forward to knowing what they are doing next.
How we Plan
I plan, building on the children’s interests to provide next steps in their learning. If I observe the children following consistent patterns of play, enjoying particular materials or asking questions, I record them and consider what I might plan next to enable the children to use this skill or interest in a different way or to extend their learning further. For example, my youngest daughter has just learned to cut with scissors and loves to snip paper into tiny pieces. She also loves gluing so I suggested they use the pieces to make a collage. As an extension to this we are going to look at pictures of mosaics for further inspiration and play with wooden pattern tiles. Only having 2 children to observe means that their learning experiences can be truly individualised in a way that might not be possible in a bigger setting.
Planning for the Learning Environment
In addition to this I also have a plan for the environment. How often this changes is fairly flexible. Using information from the observation into planning, I might decide to include particular materials with the sand or water, put a particular craft activity out, lay out particular toys, set up a new role play area or display materials in a certain way. For example the girls were playing cafes at the play centre so at home the next day I gave them notebooks to take orders and a chef’s hat. I laid the table and I was the customer. This also allowed them to build on some of their other current interests like emergent writing and playing picnics. Sometimes we may just try something new and see if they like it and how they play with it – they are usually good at making suggestions as to what we might do next.
The Learning Environment
There are certain materials I like to always have available to the children
- sand (outside)
- water (outside)
- craft materials
- paper and pencils
- loose parts
- small world toys
- role play and dressing up
In an ideal world clay and paint also but this is a little messy even for me especially in the winter when we don’t use outside as much.
All these materials however are difficult to manage. I have recently reorganised our playroom but I still feel that there are too many things on view.
It isn’t as easy to have the environment you would like when it is your own home but I’m constantly re-evaluating how we display things and adding new ideas to the outside area.