From the time our babies are born, we spend time teaching them to sit up, crawl, walk, wave, say their names and so much more. Then they get a little older, and it’s time for preschool. Sending your child to preschool at age 3 can be a great thing, but it is not the only option. Choosing to homeschool preschool is a great alternative and can be very attainable. Before making this decision, consider these things:
Schedule: what would work best for you, your child and your family? Are you a full-time, work-out-of-the-house person? If so, then a Monday through Friday program may not work the best. Does your child lose attention quickly, making short bursts of activity mixed with free play best? When it comes to schedule, there are no rules. Spend 20 minutes every morning, one hour every evening, lunch time twice a week or one longer session every Saturday morning. Or break it up into 10-minute sessions whenever the time presents itself to you. Listen to your child and follow his cues.
When to start: There is no right or wrong time to start teaching your child. Many people may start at 18-24 months teaching the alphabet, while others may wait for their child to show interest in wanting to learn. Children begin kindergarten at all different levels. “For us, preschool is just a natural continuation of how parents teach their children from the time they are born. We choose what to teach based on three things: what they know, what interests them and what they need to know,” Patty Brewer, Merriam, says. “Homeschool preschool for us looks just like life before preschool. We play lots and just have fun with learning.”
Where to begin: While it may sound too basic, read. Reading to a child is the most important thing that any caregiver can do. Reading is the starting block for just about anything in life. Traditional preschools work on letter recognition, counting 1-20, writing and recognizing the child’s name and understanding basic concepts, such as weather and days of the week.
What to stock: There is no right or wrong, because every child learns differently. “We have workbooks that Jack can do for fun. He loves educational computer programs, and we have a cabinet full of art supplies for painting, coloring and drawing,” says Kelly Schwatken, who kept her 3-year-old home to do preschool.
“My children learn best through doing and experiencing, not listening to someone talking about something. So we look for ways to incorporate letters and numbers into play. ; We look for experiences all around that will spark wonder,” Brewer says. "A trip to the zoo or Deanna Rose becomes a science lesson, a math lesson and a letter lesson. We name animals, talk about what they need, count animals in pens and look at letters on the animal signs. For us, workbooks, desks and tons of structure just don't work.”
Knowing your child and that homeschooling is not for everyone are important, too. "Just because we chose to keep Jack home doesn't necessarily mean we will with our next kiddos. It depends on their personality, skills and needs,” Schwatken says. “We want to do whatever is best for each child, and we realize that their needs may be different.”
Olathe mom Jessica Heine spends her days with her two young children and continually looks for learning opportunities.