Our First Three Weeks of Preschool at Home
I remember that the time after I had Liam was one of the happiest of my life because I started to relax more. I stopped worrying about getting everything done, stopped beating myself up, and stopped being a slave to the clock (which I had been my entire life up to that point).
So I resolved to have the same mindset after Walt was born (albeit with a toddler, too!). It worked great! Though I overdid it a bit the first few days, eventually I got back into the “I need to keep these tiny humans alive and just accomplish what I can” mindset. I actually felt better than I had when I was pregnant, and I discovered how much I loved having two kids to split my time (most of the time!).
As the hazy (fussy) newborn days began to lift and Spring came, I realized that we needed something to direct our days. I follow Lindsay on Instagram and saw her post about preschool.
The last time I tried preschool at home, we did ABC Jesus Loves Me, which could work great for some kids, but it was a lot of paper for us. I couldn’t find a way to make it creative and to make it fit within our lives, so eventually I gave up.
But this time, I saw Simply Learning’s Instagram feed and realized, “We could do this!” I chose a theme (construction), visited the Simply Learning Pinterest as a jumping-off point, and began pinning away. A construction theme seemed like a great start because Liam already loves construction, and we have tons of construction toys.
We got tons of books from the library, some old and most new. On Sunday night, I put out only construction based toys (and left his cars because there’s no way he would live without his cars). I made a sensory bin with rice, sticks, rocks, and a little bit of homemade Play-doh. He was so excited that first Monday! He calls it the “special bin” and seems to appreciate it is not available to play with all the time.
I love the idea of a theme-based weekly preschool at home. It provides the flexibility I need, while also giving me a toolkit of great activities and books to structure our lives. Liam is really good at playing with me—he’s so creative and verbal. But he also would love to play all day and gets bent out of shape when I have to take care of Walt’s diaper or feed him. Our theme-based activities give us something extra to accomplish besides just playing (though playing is great too!), so it’s a win-win. Plus he actually is learning.
Last week our theme feelings because giving him more vocabulary about emotions seems helpful. One of our biggest successes has been gross motor movement games like these flashcards for construction or playing musical monsters with these cards (when the music stops, he has to imitate the monster’s face).
Some of the activities have not been successful,but most require little time on my part, so that’s okay. I've learned not to let it ruin my day when he refuses to do an activity (or refuses to do it my way or the right way). After all, this is just for fun!
We do the activities and read the books when we can. Jon’s schedule has been crazy lately, so some mornings we have more of a formal circle time, but most of the time, we just try to fill in our circle time calendar at some point in the morning.
I think the biggest benefit has been adding some structure to our days. Liam asks for “more fun stuff” (meaning school stuff) often, which is encouraging. Sometimes he doesn’t seem very interested in an activity until later when he’s showing Jon what we were doing. It has made a positive difference in our relationship for me to have activities ready for him. He still wants to “just play” most of the time (which I totally encourage) , but he also loves these activities.
As we've been talking about sky and space this week, he's love learning about which clouds mean storms are coming. I bought some miniature planets (which were a huge hit!). We'll continue our sky and space theme through this week and then join up with the Simply Learning Little Blue Truck unit on May 9, which I am ridiculously excited about.
I feel better knowing we are working intentionally on skills like letter and number recognition, and I love having some control over our days. These activities often pull either Liam or myself out of a funk. And I can't overemphasize how flexible we are about this; some days we do many activities while other days we may just read themed books before bed.
As I reflect on it, I have two main goals: to open his eyes to new ideas and to make him want to know more. He probably won’t remember dropping a homemade parachute off the deck on a warm April morning or laughing as we read How Are You Peeling, but I hope that our school activities will stick in his mind by inspiring him to want to learn more. And maybe, just maybe, those planet names won’t be quite as unfamiliar when he encounters them in the future.
I've made an Instagram account to make it easier for me to document what we're doing and include some in our yearly family albums. Feel free to check it out: @tinyschooladventures.
P.S. I highly recommend starting preschooling/tot-schooling at home by looking at Kaitlyn's website, Simply Learning. It is beyond amazing and not at all overwhelming.