Our (Home) Preschool Day: Fill-in-the Blanks

I’ve been asked a few times what our days are like and how I fit things in.  I’m afraid you’re about to be very underwhelmed, but I’ll continue anyway to show you that it doesn’t take a ton of planning or forethought to make a big difference in your child’s life.  

I really started “working” with the kids on preschool type activities when Luke was about 2-1/2 years old.  He just turned 4 in February and Lilah is now 2-1/2.  I have changed the logistics of what we do and how we do it a zillion times already, but I’ll give you the basic methods behind my madness.  

Step #1: Set daily goals – see the post here

Step #2: Space the activities – see the post here

Step #3: Fill-in-the-Blanks
Okay, now that I have set up the 3 main goals to accomplish with my children for the day and planned out a basic time frame, the rest of the time is mine to fill in as necessary. 

Here’s a basic outline of a typical day for us:
(I am not a real stickler on exact times, so these are just approximations.)
7:30 Kids wake up
8:00 Breakfast & Breakfast clean-up
8:30 Reading Marathon – Goal #1 (10 minutes to 1 hour)
9:30 Snack 
11:00 Art/Craft/Fine Motor Activity – Goal #2 (10-30 minutes)
12:00 Lunch & Lunch clean-up
1:00 Naps
3:30 Snack
4:00 “Together Activity” – Goal #3 (30 minutes to 2 hours)
6:00 Dinner
7:00 or 7:30 Bedtime Routine
7:30 or 8:00ish Kids sleep

If you look closely at the times, there are lots of places between activities where we’ve finished one thing and it’s not time to start another.  That’s the time I get MY work done.  For example, between reading time/snack and art, I might unload the dishwasher, start a load of wash, and/or prep something for the crock pot.  After art is finished, I normally have about 30 minutes to get cleaned up and prep lunch.  After lunch is cleaned up, I usually have about 30 minutes before I have to get the kids ready for naps.  Nap time is normally around 2 hours.  A lot of days I work with Luke during this time now that he’s older and doesn’t always take a nap, but I also blog and Facebook during that time, too, in addition to getting dinner prep work done, or laundry, sweeping, etc.

What do the kids do in the in-between times when I’m not directly working with them?  They play.  

We own almost no electronic toys.  We own puzzles.  Lots and lots of puzzles.  We own books.  Lots and lots of books.  We own lots of different kinds of building toys.  And cars, trucks, dolls, play food, magnadoodles, radio flyer pedal-less bikes, play dough, and various homemade things like sensory bins.  They play pretend.  They “read” books.  They build.  They color and draw.  They work on things that they can do by themselves or that I can help with but walk away from if needed.  I really enjoy working with my children, but I find it important that they learn how to play on their own and with others without the need for constant adult supervision or electronic interaction.  As a side note, the kids watch at most one video or recorded show per day–almost always 30 minutes or less–and get up to 30 minutes to play educational apps on their iPod Touch devices.  We don’t usually do both in the same day and often it’s only a couple of times a week that we do either.  

L&L have gotten to be REALLY good at playing and will play either by themselves or together for extended periods of time.  The conversations I hear between them while they are playing pretend absolutely crack me up at times!  One of their favorite things to do lately is go on a picnic.  They lay out old baby blankets and set up dolls and stuffed animals; then they fix all manner of play food and drinks and serve it up on dishes for the dolls and animals to eat.  Another current play favorite, since we took them to The Lorax movie, is to build the Once-ler’s house out of Lego Duplo blocks and act out scenes from the movie with Lego, Rokenbok, and dollhouse people.  I especially like it when they make up their own scenes! 

The Once-ler’s house

After I complete an activity *with* the kids, they are typically ready to go off and play on their own for a bit, and that frees me up to get some things done that I need to do.  By the time they start to get tired of playing on their own, it’s time for me to do another activity with them.  The balance usually works out quite well for us. 

When I have “extra” time or see an opportunity arise, I throw in other teaching.  We might do 2-3 art projects in a day if one goes well or we have leftover paint or an idea occurs to them or to me that we absolutely must try.  We might do 2-3 different reading times in a day instead of just one.  Or I might see Lilah playing with her dollhouse and sit down with her to play for a few minutes, throwing in vocabulary like the baby is the shortest doll and the daddy doll is the tallest.  Or I might work with Luke on some Handwriting Without Tears lessons.  Or I might pull out pattern blocks to “play” with.  Or we might work on our Kumon books.  Or we might grab the abacus and start counting.  Or we might get out our music basket and play instruments while we sing songs and chant rhymes. 

We might do one “extra” thing in a day or twenty.  It just depends on the day.

In my next post in this series, I’ll talk about how I do LOTS of unplanned teaching in little snippets of time as I see moments of opportunity.  

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Anonymous says:

    These posts are so tremendously helpful! We have a zillion books, art supplies etc…and a zillion good intentions. I struggle with making time for these things daily. You have made it so simple. I like the idea of 3/per day. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Genny Upton says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment! 🙂 I know exactly what you mean about the good intentions. I find that by “planning” to do only 3 things and having them so spaced out, I don’t stress myself out or get overwhelmed, and so I actually DO the things instead of just thinking about doing the things. And 3 things done with the kids is a lot more beneficial than none! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed a glimpse into your daily breakdown. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve just found your blog and can’t stop reading it. Lots of simple and great ideas that work. I have a similar phylosophy in raising kids and find some tips really value-ading. Thanks and keep blogging!

  • Deanna says:

    Genny, I’m loving your blog, and I’m excited about all that I’m learning. I’m a former Kindergarten teacher from a school that was less than flexible or “free” about learning, but I’m so drawn to the idea of making learning FUN. My little girl is just about 14 months. What types of activities/structure do you recommend for a child that age?

  • Genny Upton says:

    Oh, Deanna, what a fun age!! My favorite activities for my children when they were that age mostly came from reading I did about the Montessori method–I checked out several from the library and got lots of great ideas. One of Lilah’s favorites was a sensory or treasure basket (I think that’s what it was called). It was just a basket (made of natural materials) and I filled it with sensory items that were safe for her to explore on her own — a wooden spoon, a silk scarf, a little spice jar with a cotton ball in it that I had put vanilla on for her to smell, a river rock, a pine cone, a silver rattle that had been her dad’s, a large shell, a wooden teething ring, a small cloth doll, a little scented candle, etc. I also started doing lots of fine motor activities around that age, like putting toothpicks or pipe cleaners into cheese shakers or upside down colanders, and I made an open/close basket filled with emptied and cleaned jars/bottles/containers + lids (another of Lilah’s favorites!). Those kinds of activities increase fine motor skills for later writing, but also help develop concentration and attention span. We also sang lots of songs (we like to “play” instruments while we sing sometimes, too), went on lots of nature walks, read LOTS and LOTS of books, and started doing art projects now and then (even just crayons + paper, or a sheet of stickers to peel and stick) working up to doing some sort of writing/drawing/art every day. Hope this gives you a few ideas. Most importantly…have fun!!

  • Olivia says:

    I just found this post and love it! I have a 4 year old and he does not watch TV with the exception of a movie once a month or the nightly news sometimes. I have been looking for other parents that do the same without any success. I do lessons with him and love the schedule you have published.
    Thank You!

  • […] friend Shaunna at Fantastic Fun and Learning does with her home preschool and how Genny from In Lieu of Preschool manages her day. // Amazon.com […]

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