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Our First Year Homeschooling Preschool with Curriculum Suggestions

PreK Activity: painting our treasure box

PreK Activity: Painting our Treasure Box

By the spring of 2011, our daughter was four.  Kindergarten was just one year away and I needed to make a choice as to whether or not I was going to send her to preschool.  I was living in New York at the time; a place where preschool is not only encouraged, it is expected.  Our two options were to send her to a private preschool or teach preschool at home.  The town we were living in had plenty of preschool programs available, but they were all too expensive. A private preschool would have cost us approximately $5,000 a year for a part time, five day program ($4,000 for a part time three day program).  Homeschooling preschool would cost us a fraction of the price.  After talking it over with my husband and weighting all of our options, we decided to teach preschool at home; and as it turned out it was the best decision we ever made. Our daughter learned everything she needed to and more.  By the following year she was kindergarten ready and I had the assurance I needed to become an official homeschooler.

Here are some of the reasons why the year went so well.

Positive Learning Environment

Our home is warm, loving and cheerful.  It is also open 24 hours a days, 365 days a year.  The student to teacher ratio wasn’t 8 to1 or 6 to 1, it was one on one. Learning never had to start and stop at a specific time, it was constant.  Our schedules could be as rigid or as flexible as we wanted.  Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend “classes” were always a possibility.  A large playroom housed a train table, a craft table, dolls, an easel, cars, puppets, castles, Legos, blocks and more.

A large backyard offered year round exploration and play.  We swam in our mini inflatable pool during the summer and built snowmen and igloos in the winter.  We conducted flower, worm, and mushroom hunts in the spring; and gathered acorns in the fall.  We built forts, gardened, flew kites, and played in the sandbox.   If pants were too muddy after gardening with grandma, a new pair was just upstairs.  If a nap was needed, the couch or bed was just a few steps away.  Ice cream on summer days and hot chocolate on cold ones were never out of the question.  And playmates were never in short supply.  Other than her brother, who was always a constant source of entertainment, there were cousins and local neighbor children galore.

Field Trips

Not only did learning take place inside the home, but outside as well.  This provided a lot of hands on learning for my daughter.  Throughout the year we went on a number of educational and fun field trips.  We visited many local Long Island (New York) beaches, where we learned about the ocean including: geography, sea animals, bugs, and plants. At our local parks we learned about animals, trees, plants, Native Americans, weather, the seasons and more.  We  played on the playground and fed ducks.  We studied goats, chickens, roosters, cows, horses, rabbits and pigs at our local farm.  We visited with cousins, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles and grandparents, who gave my daughter gardening, cooking, baking, sewing, crocheting, computer and Spanish lessons.

PreK Field Trip: Alice at the farm

PreK Field Trip: Alice at the farm

Great Supplies

After a quick inventory, it was obvious that we had more than enough resources to effectively homeschool preschool.  Over the years we had thoughtfully purchased high quality educational toys and lots of art supplies. This, as it turns out, would  be our saving grace.  Since we already owned most of the “recommended” preschool supplies, the cost of homeschooling preschool was going to cost us almost nothing. These were some of the items that we already owned:

  • books and audiobooks
  • writing materials: handwriting paper, pencils, colored pencils, markers and crayons
  • art supplies: an easel, colored chalk, watercolor paint, tempera paint, crayons, pencils, markers, play dough, clay, scissors, construction paper, beads, etc.
  • puzzles
  • pretend play: dolls (of every size, shape and color), doll accessories (to go with every type of doll),  dress-up clothes (and accessories), puppets, cars, trains, fisher price little people (castles, garages, zoos, airplanes etc.),
  • blocks: wooden blocks, large Legos and many other various construction toys
  • outdoor play: balls, kites, sandbox, bikes (and helmets!), outdoor chalk, bubbles, etc.
  • electronics: a children’s camera, a computer, children’s education software, like jumpstart and Fisher-Price Fun-2-Learn Computer Cool School
  • a library card (no purchase required)
PreK Activity: Homemade Christmas Ornaments

PreK Activity: Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Custom Curriculum

Homeschooling also allowed me to tailor our curriculum to my daughter’s needs. This is something that really appealed to me.  I used the following two resources to put our curriculum together.

  • What Your Preschooler Needs to Know: Get Ready for Kindergarten (Core Knowledge Series) by D. Hirsch Jr. and Linda Bevilacqua.
  • “Preschool Curriculum: What’s In It for Children and Teachers” by the Albert Shanker Institute. ERIC (2009).

Our curriculum covered a variety of topics including:  the alphabet, letter sounds, word recognition, phonics, reading comprehension, storytelling, handwriting, number concepts, basic arithmetic, shapes, patterns, science, geography, social studies, art, and music.  We also studied personal hygiene, fire safety, health and holidays.  We explored different art mediums, such as watercolor paint, tempera paint, acrylic paint, drawing, and modeling clay.

The Library

Being a former librarian, we were no strangers to the library. Armed with our library bags, we visited the library several times a month.  We checked out books, magazines, dvd’s, music cd’s and audiobooks.  What we couldn’t find at our own library we had inter library loaned.  We also participated in a variety of library programs including their summer reading program.

Here is a list of our favorite resources from the year, so that you too, can have a great preschool experience.

PreK Activity: playing in the snow

PreK Activity: playing in the snow

Websites

  • Starfall.com:  This is a free site that teaches children a variety of prekindergarten through second grade skills.  This is a great site to learn the alphabet, letter sounds, word recognition, phonics and reading.  My daughter especially loved the song section.  I still hear her singing the songs she learned at Starfall.com.  For $35 a year, you can purchase a membership which gives you full access to their site.
  • PBSkids.org:  Access all of your favorite games and videos at PBSkids.org.  Sesame Street, The Cat in the Hat, Wild Kratts, Cyberchase, Super Why can all be found here.  Educational games and videos help reinforce essential prekindergarten/kindergarten skills.
  • NickJr.com:  Learn prekindergarten/kindergarten skills along with your favorite NickJr characters.  Play games, do activities and watch videos with Dora, Diego, Bubble Guppies and Team Umizoomi.
  • DisneyJunior.com:  Join Mickey Mouse, Sofia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and more, on their education adventures.  Sing songs, match patterns and color online.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine (Thomasandfriends.com):  This the perfect website for any child that loves Thomas.  There are plenty of coloring pages and online games and puzzles to keep any young child busy.

Workbooks

  • Kumon: My First Book of Cutting (ages 3 – 5):  Fun Cutting Activities for young children.
  • Kumon:  My Book of Numbers 1 – 30 (ages 3-5):  Teaches and reinforces the numbers 1 – 30.
  • Mead Writing Fundamentals Dry Erase lowercase letters: PreK – 1st Grade:  A reusable workbook to practice lowercase letters.
  • Mead Writing Fundamentals Dry Erase upercase letters: PreK – 1st Grade:  A reusable workbook to practice uppercase letters.
  • Mead Preschool Workbook: We used this workbook with my son.  It has a lot of coloring, which my son doesn’t like.  If you have a child that loves to color, this would be a good book.
  • Get Ready for Kindergarten by Heather Stella: A bright and colorful workbook that teaches your child the basics.  This book has simple and easy to follow activities.

Videos

  • LeapFrog: Letter Factory (2009):  This DVD was the most effective.  She loved it so much that she watched it over and over again, thus reinforcing letter names, capital and lowercase letters and letter sounds.  
  • LeapFrog:  Phonics Farm (2011)
  • LeapFrog:  The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park (2011)
  • LeapFrog:  Numbers Ahoy (2011)
  • LeapFrog:  Lets go to School (2009)
  • LeapFrog:  Math Adventure to the Moon (2010)

Leaning Programs

  • “Hooked on Phonics” Boxed Sets Level 1 – 5 (2001): I picked up this box set at a local thrift store.  We began using it in preschool and continued with it throughout the first grade.  This learning program teaches both phonics based reading and some whole language.  We did not use the tapes that came with the set (we did not own a tape player), nor did we use the phonics cards frequently.  What my daughter did enjoy were the stories, the charts and the textbooks.

Teaching Resources

  • What Your Preschooler Needs to Know: Get Ready for Kindergarten (Core Knowledge Series) by D. Hirsch Jr. and Linda Bevilacqua.
  • ERIC (Education Resources Information Center): an online digital library of education research and information
PreK Activity: painting our treasure box

PreK Activity: painting our treasure box

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