The ABCs of How to Home Preschool
Today I’m sharing with you Day Five of the ABCs of How to Home Preschool series! Today I’ll be sharing with you letters P-T.
Before I get started today, I just want to remind you this is really the ABCs of How WE Home Preschool, as there is no definitive guide that can tell you what will work in YOUR home and with YOUR child. This is just what we do and what works for us. Hopefully you can use parts of it, or at least gain some inspiration from it. If you want to home preschool, you can!
There is no way to cover all the ins and outs of our daily lives as home preschoolers, but I’ll do my best to show you through these ABCs a good glimpse into our day-to-day. Feel free to ask questions.
P is for puzzles.
I have already mentioned puzzles a time or two in this series (see letter F for tips on how we use them), but I’m still going to devote a whole letter to them because I think puzzles should be a daily or at least several times a week activity in the home preschool. You can Google “Why are puzzles good for children?” and you’ll find a whole host of articles explaining their merits! Jigsaw puzzles are great for hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, providing opportunities for social and language skills, problem solving, logical thinking, cognitive skills, self esteem, shape recognition, memory, setting small goals, reasoning, analyzing, sequencing, deducing, and developing a good working sense of spatial arrangements. In other words, I highly recommend you get some!!
When it comes to wooden puzzles, I’ve found the Melissa & Doug brand to be the best by far in terms of quality, durability, and function. Walmart and Target do carry wooden puzzles now, too, but they have been a mixed bag. I’ve also bought used puzzles off Craigslist when possible. We easily own 20-30 chunky and peg puzzles.
When your child has graduated to doing 24, 48, and 100 piece puzzles, I highly recommend the ones at the Dollar Tree. They cost $1 and the quality is fine. They come in a box. I normally cut the picture off the box, and put that along with all the puzzle pieces into a zippered plastic baggie and keep all the puzzles in a single bin. They just store better that way in my opinion and the kids can use them independently much easier than when they’re in the box. Plus, by the time they are old enough to do these more advanced puzzles, you can find ones that fit their interests — princesses, fairies, Avengers, Lightning McQueen, Mickey Mouse, Curious George, Toy Story, etc.
Here’s the rough timeline of puzzle progression we’ve used:
- Starting around 18 months, introduce chunky and peg puzzles.
- Around age 2-1/2 to 3, advance to pegless puzzles with around 12 pieces and a frame.
- Around 3-3-1/2, start having them put together the 12 piece puzzles without the frame.
- Around 3-1/2 to 4, move on to 24 piece puzzles without frames.
- Around 4 follow with 48 piece puzzles, and around age 5, move on to 100 piece puzzles.
Even as we have added more challenging puzzles as the kids get older, I always keep all the puzzles available. My 4 year old still loves to do the chunky and peg puzzles as much as he likes the 48 and 100 piece puzzles. I think they’ll all beneficial in different ways. Sort of how I like to read novels, but I enjoy a good picture book, too!
In addition to jigsaw puzzles, shape sorters, the Montessori pink tower and brown stair, and the Melissa & Doug geometric stacker, ring stacker, the stack and sort board, the beginner pattern blocks, and any sort of block puzzles are all good additions to your “puzzle” collection.
Q is for quiet time.
If you start home preschool when your little one is around 2 years old, they will likely still be napping. For us, nap time was usually around 1pm-3pm once they were down to one nap per day. While my kids will occasionally still nap at ages 3 and almost 5, it is becoming a very rare occurrence that one does and nothing short of a miracle when both do. Still, we have kept the ~1pm-3pm time frame as quiet time, and since it evolved from a normal time they were used to being quiet for naps, they don’t seem to mind it very much. The kids don’t have to nap, but they do have to stay quiet and in their own rooms. It gives them the opportunity to rest and relax, and to nap if they choose. Usually they spend their time reading books on their beds or playing pretend with toys in their rooms. Even if they don’t nap, they do seem to emerge somewhat rested and rejuvenated. And it gives us all a little personal time, which I think everyone can use since we’re together 24/7.
I use quiet time to do my work — whether it be cleaning, cooking, paying bills, blogging — or for a little down time of my own — having a cup of tea and browsing Pinterest doing mental lesson plan research. Quiet time is my time.
Maybe you don’t need this quiet time built into your day. It’s up to you. I have my two children pretty much 24/7. They’ve never had a baby sitter other than family and that only happens a few times a year. It’s exactly how I want it, but I do think it’s good for all of us to get away on our own a little bit each day to refresh and reset. It gives my nerves and patience some time to build back up on trying days. As the kids get older, I can see quiet time becoming a more official independent reading time, or a time to do some independent Bible study and prayer time. I want to work that in to my quiet time, too!
And as with anything I do sometimes make exceptions. Sometimes we’ll watch a movie together instead. Or sometimes we’ll do one of our book marathon reading sessions. Or sometimes I’ll let the kids play together in the bonus room as long as they stay quiet and calm, while I get some work done. Or sometimes we’ll go the park to enjoy a nice afternoon if we’ve been stuck inside for days.
But the norm is quiet time, and it works for us.
R is for rhyme and reading. Try as I might, I couldn’t choose just one, so I’ll give you a semi-condensed version of both.
“Children who have lived in book-filled homes prior to going to school are known to be scholastically advantaged for the rest of their lives. And children who have memorized eight nursery rhymes by the age of three, so I have been told, are always the best readers by the age of eight.” –Mem Fox
Ways I teach rhyme to my children:
- Read, recite, sing, and/or play audio/songs for lots of nursery rhymes. Memorize lots of them for fun. Recite them in the car. You might try to introduce one new rhyme per week as a focus. See our nursery rhyme books here.
- When reading picture books that rhyme, leave out the 2nd part of the rhyme for kids to fill in. This works especially well with familiar books for starters, but eventually can work with new books, too! Great for comprehension as well. Here is a list of strategies to use when reading with a child.
- Sing the “Banana Fana Fo Fana” song a lot. My kids LOVE to call out names and even objects for me to use in the song. (It’s kind of a hard song for kids to be able to do but mine love to listen to it. It’s a great song for the car as long as you don’t mind inquisitive glances from other drivers.) If you don’t know the song, it’s worth learning because it’s so great for practicing rhyme and the kids never seem to tire of it.
- Make up nicknames for your kids using rhymes. We have a Lukie Ba-dukie, and a Lilah Bedilah.
Just using these methods, both of my children were able to generate their own rhymes for any given word as early 3 year olds. My youngest often walks around spouting streams of rhymes built off of the last word of what others’ have said. It can get quite comical at times.
A few things to note about rhyme:
- When learning rhymes, anything with the same ending sound counts, so made-up words are A-OK!
- As a teacher, rhyme was one of the assessments we’d do with kindergarten and first grade students. For one part, we would give the child two words and ask if the words rhymed (the answer was yes or no). For the other part which was a little more advanced than the first, we’d give the child a word and ask them to tell us a word that rhymed.
A “Batty” Pocket Chart Poem: Teach Rhyme Using Kids’ Names and other Pocket Chart Tips
When a child has learned letters and sounds and knows them very well, they might be ready to begin reading if they seem interested. There’s no “right” age to start, but it’s not something you can or should force; it’s more about the child’s understanding of letters and sounds and their interest level than about their age–at least when we’re talking about preschoolers, and you want the experience to be a positive one so that they will enjoy reading.
I started beginning reading practice with my oldest when he was about 3-1/2 years old; the child could hold his books right side up and turn the pages one-by-one by the time he was 9 months old, and by 3 he knew his letters and sounds up one side and down the other. He was already spending several hours a day looking at books independently and/or using his Tag Reader. He was ready.
On the other hand, my youngest is almost 3-1/2 now and is no where near ready to start. They are very different learners with very different personalities who currently excel in different areas. I have no doubt she will learn to read…when she is ready. With her, I’m just going to continue on with learning the ABCs and their sounds. When she has mastered them, then we’ll start with reading.
At this age, my best advice is to follow the child’s lead. Most children will learn to read during the kindergarten year, some a little earlier and some a little later. Often kids who start reading early (~3 years old) will initially progress a lot slower than kids who start reading when they’re older (~5 years old).
To teach my son to read, I’m taking a balanced approach to literacy, teaching him to read by sight and by sounds; we work on both phonics and sight words. Sight words are those that are very common but often can’t be figured out by their sounds because they are irregular. You can see part of how we work on sight words here. We also sometimes use the Scholastic sight word readers.
You probably know phonics as “sounding it out.” For phonics, we use the BOB Books for beginning readers. We started with Set 1, Book 1: Mat. It was VERY slow going. Learning to read is HARD work; it’s mentally taxing. Follow your child’s lead and take it slow if you need to. If it’s especially hard, take a week off and try again. I also suggest starting at your child’s best time of day (aka probably not right before they go to bed when they’re worn out).
We started out by maybe doing half a book at a time. Rereading goes somewhat faster. We’ve moved slowly over the past year, doing only a book a week or so. If he wanted to do more, we’d do more, but this pace has worked for us. He honestly loves books and would rather hear ones with great plots read to him than read the really simple ones he’s capable of. A year later we’re at the beginning of BOB Books Set 3 and the reading comes so much easier for him now. We could easily pick up the pace. Set 3 is at an end of kindergarten – beginning of first grade reading level. Still, books at this level are VERY simplistic with only 1 or 2 sentences per page.
(I also am part of a group of bloggers who are making free printables to go along with the BOB Books for beginning readers. See here for links to download.)
I tell you this just so you understand that for most kids, reading is a very gradual process. Most are not going to pick up a chapter book and just start reading for quite a few years! Undoubtedly some will; one of Luke’s friends who is exactly his age is already reading chapter books like Magic Treehouse, and I did know of a kindergartner (who spent most of his day with the Academically Gifted teacher) who was reading The Hobbit during my teaching days. It’s awesome, but those kids are the exception. In my teaching experience, most kids start kindergarten unable to read, and a large number start knowing few if any letters or sounds. By the end of kindergarten, almost all of them are beginning readers!
The best thing you can do during the preschool years is to ensure your child has a strong foundation in letters and sounds. Reading will come when they’re ready, either during preschool or after. I wouldn’t sweat it.
S is for sensory play.
Sensory play is important for preschoolers. It offers them a chance to use their 5 senses to explore and thus, to learn. Even babies are capable of sensory play. You can read more about why sensory play is important here.
We do lots of sensory play at our house. Setting up sensory play activities is something I find lots of fun, too! Here are a few examples of sensory play: finger painting, rolling out scented play dough, exploring a sensory bin filled with rice, playing in a sand box, knocking over block towers, drawing in shaving cream spread on a table, and jumping in puddles after a rain. You can google sensory play activities for tons of examples.
You can also check out some of my sensory posts:
Monsters & Creatures Play Dough
Homemade Sensory Bin 101
A Sensory Bin for Two
DIY Cooking Bin
Antarctica: Learning Through Small World Play
DIY Sensory Bottles: Rain Stick
*And there’s a ton of others, so try searching my site using the word “sensory” for more!
T is for time.
Time has two meanings in the home preschool. For one, it’s something you need to devote to it. How much time you choose is up to you, but it is something you should really think about prior to making the decision to preschool at home. There will be hands-on time working with your child, and time behind the scenes when you’ll probably be planning lessons — whether you write them down or not — or reading up on what they should know.
One possible solution is to figure out how much time other children of a similar age go to preschool and devote a similar amount of time in your own home over the course of a week. Remember your preschool time can be broken into sections throughout the day and not an all at once sort of thing. Most kids at preschool get play breaks and snacks, too! They aren’t “working” the entire time they’re there.
Another idea is to plan out what things you want to cover daily or weekly and decide roughly how much time you’d like to spend on them. For example, we do at least two All About Reading pre-reading lessons per week for a total of about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on how long we spend on the letter crafts. We do some type of art project or exploration every day, usually around 30 minutes each. The kids have gym class once a week for an hour. We try to spend at least 15 minutes outside every day. We read for 20 minutes to up to 2 hours most days. During play times, I often set up a special sensory bin or activity for the kids to use independently, which might take 5-15 minutes of my time. We also usually work in at least a few extra alphabet or reading activities, some math, science experiments, Bible studies, educational videos, “field” trips, and more during our week. It is a commitment, and you will need to figure out how to also fix meals, wash dishes and laundry, and have a little time for yourself (and your significant other if you have one) in addition to all your new duties as parent-teacher. It can be done; you just have to find the balance that works for YOU, but definitely consider TIME when you are thinking about home preschooling.
The other meaning of time in the home preschool is teaching your children about it. Most kids won’t learn to tell time until about 7-8 years old, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to start teaching about it.
Here are some ways we work on time:
- Teach numbers and counting for starters.
- Add terms like morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night, sunrise, sunset, and dusk to your daily conversations with your child.
- Mention times in relation to things your child knows. Start these types of conversations as early as possible. ”You wake up every morning at 7:00.” ”It’s 12:00 noon. Time for lunch!” ”Gym class is at 9:30 in the morning.” ”Grandma is coming over at 3:30. That’s right after you wake up from your afternoon nap.”
- Start a daily calendar time (or at least once or twice a week). Look at a calendar and also talk about what season, month, day of the week, and date it is.
- Talk to them about digital clocks (ones with only numbers). Have them practice reading the numbers from left to right. After they’ve read them, repeat the numbers but in time form. (i.e. “8-1-2.” ”That means it’s eight twelve.”)
- If the child is interested, get them a watch. We recently got my almost 5 year old an analog watch (a watch with a face) that has numbers 1-12 but also has the minute numbers written out in 5s. He really enjoys wearing it and I’ve talked to him here and there about the hour hand and the minute hand. Not too long ago, he came up to me looking at his watch, and said, “Is it 11 and 10?” I looked at the clock on the stove and said, “No, you’d say 11:10, but it’s actually 10:10.” I took his arm to explain to him why it was 10:10, and then I realized his watch was an hour off due to the fall time change!! He had read it correctly!
Continue reading this series with Part Six:
- Books for Preschoolers from Mommy and Me Book Club
- Building a Home Library from Ready Set Read!
- Early Language Learning from Playing with Words 365
- Early Literacy from Playdough to Plato
- Exploring Books from JDaniel4′s Mom
- Graphic Novels from Pragmatic Mom
- Learning to Read Through Play from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas
- Learning to Write from NurtureStore
- Reading Comprehension for Pre K-Grade 1 from The Wise Owl Factory
- Storytelling from A Mom with a Lesson Plan
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