|We found a little snake in our yard, so we observed him for awhile.|
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 #4: Learning While Living
Now that I’ve told you about my daily goals and how I space them out and fill in the rest of our day, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s it. Sitting to read and do art and other activities together is fun and the kids are definitely learning then, but that certainly isn’t ALL we do. Some of the most important “teaching” I do in a day is something that will never be written on a lesson plan or penned onto a schedule. I like to call it “learning while living” and it’s all about just using your everyday life as a palette for teaching and learning.
To begin, I find it helps to stop thinking that the only time you are teaching your kids is when they are sitting at a table and you are drilling them for a sustained amount of time. I actually do have L&L both sit at the table and do some sort of work (art, puzzles, fine motor) at least once a day because I think having the ability to sit, pay attention, and learn to concentrate is important, but that’s not where I’d say the majority of our teaching and learning takes place.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
When I help my kids put on their shoes, we recite “This Little Piggy”, we talk about left and right, we count “1 sock – 2 socks, 1 shoe – 2 shoes.” When the kids bring a cool Lego Duplo creation to show me, I “ooh and ahh” and then help them count how many blocks they used to build it or point out a pattern I noticed they used. When we go on a walk, we name the flowers and animals we see, we gather things to look at with our magnifying glasses, we point out changes we notice from day to day. “Those ant hills got washed away by the rain.” Followed the next day by, “Look, those ants are building their hill back!” Or “Look at that closed flower bud. Let’s remember to look at it tomorrow to see if the flower has opened yet.” When I’m making a meal and the kids are standing on the Learning Tower helping me, I say, “Okay, we need one cup of flour, one tablespoon of oil.” When we find a little snake in our yard while weeding, we catch him in our “bug” box and spend awhile observing him. (This happened only once and quite honestly I hope we don’t find another, as snakes are NOT my thing, but it was so interesting and such a great experience for us!)
When we’re eating lunch, we point out the fruits, the vegetables; sometimes we make letters using our pretzel sticks or munch our sandwiches to create certain shapes. If we have a long car ride or have to sit in the car to wait for something, we recite nursery rhymes or poems or sing songs or tell stories. When I’m driving the car, I point out interesting things I see (and now the kids do, too!). “Look on the right. There’s a corn field!” “Oh, check out those cows on the left!” When it rains, we recite the nursery rhyme “Rain, Rain” and we sing rain songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” If it’s not storming, sometimes we put on our rain boots and go for a walk. If we see the school bus, garbage, recycling, or delivery truck, we run to the front window to watch. I also intentionally leave “toys” around like the abacus or number cups or our tornado in a bottle, so that we can grab them to use for a minute here and there.
Most of these things don’t take more than a minute or two of time, but if you do them often and throughout your day, think about all the teaching you’re doing that doesn’t take any pre-planning and doesn’t really take any time out of your day because you’re doing it as part of your normal life. Teach and learn while you live. Get the kids’ natural curiosity going by encouraging them to notice their world! It’s kind of a motto I live by, I guess. In my mind, there is no start or end time to our learning…there’s just life. I don’t know about you, but I certainly am still learning. 🙂
In my next “Our (Home) Preschool Day” post, I’ll talk about how knowing my children helps me plan our days.
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