Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homeschooling Preschoolers

Today I’m continuing my periodic review of what worked and what didn't in our homeschool journey. Last week I looked at something that didn't work (Classical Conversations); this week let's look at a few things that did.

When friends are considering homeschooling their little ones they’ll sometimes ask me, “What should I do with my four year old to get him ready for school?”  My response is always, “Play a lot. Build with blocks and paint with water colors and squish Play-Doh. And read, read, read.”

Often, though, parents don’t like my answer. They want to do something, something that feels more like, well, school. That makes me a little sad because four year olds have the rest of their lives to do school and I fear parents don’t understand the importance of play and giving a child the room to create and the time to simply imagine. Take it from a mom whose kids do school for many, many hours a day – let them play while they can!

While we felt giving our kids the freedom to play as four year olds was important, we did incorporate some more formal learning when they were kindergarten-aged, around five years old. And there were three books I really enjoyed using.

First, Five in a Row. Its weekly lessons are drawn from one classic children’s book.  You read one book five days in a row (thus the title) and do a different activity each day, from art to geography to history. It's amazing all the different things the kids pick up when you read the book five days in a row. Mine never got bored, even by the fifth day. I still remember how much we loved Ping, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, and Lentil. You can see the full list of books in the Five in a Row series here. And as an aside, I was shocked to see how the program has grown! There’s an on-line program and even a Bible study supplement now. I guess it has been a while since I had a kindergartener…

A second book I found helpful was Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It really was easy. One of my children was reading after 20 lessons; the other two took quite a bit longer. But after going through the entire book each child was reading. The directions are easy to follow and my kiddos found it enjoyable to do. The guide says each lesson takes 20 minutes, but we found some were more like five and others that included writing took longer. But do remember it is best to introduce this book when your child shows some interest in reading. Goodness knows you don’t want to frustrate your kid and have him decide he doesn’t like reading!  

My third suggestion isn’t one book but an actual reading program, Sing, Spell, Read and Write. We loved this program! I loved the singing and the way it put phonics rules in songs. I remember stuff so much better when it’s put to music, and since I wasn’t taught phonics I learned right along with the kids. It is a comprehensive phonics program that uses songs and games and rewards to encourage reading. And now I’m singing the phonics song. A, a, a, a, apple, b, b, b, b ball, c, c, c, c cat and d, d, d ,d doll.…

I still hold that play, self-directed and organized, is very important in the early years. But if your child shows signs that he’s ready to read, I hope you find these resources as helpful as we did.