Preschool Homeschool – 7 Things to Consider

Our preschool morning board - it works for us!

We’ve just started, but I’ve learned a few good things already. The biggest thing is to pray about it! God can give you guidance and direction on what, when, and how to teach your kids right now! Spend real time seeking Him out for that guidance.

1. Preschool isn’t essential. Your kid doesn’t NEED preschool. What they need is an environment in which to explore, create, and learn. They need to learn about Jesus! That can happen in preschool, but it doesn’t have to. So don’t feel pressured to enroll your kids or start homeschooling them now if you’re not ready, they’re not ready, or you don’t see the need. Just play with them and read to them!

2. Do preschool if you want to! Don’t feel pressured to NOT do preschool either. Here are some good reasons to start preschool if you want to:

  • Your kid is asking for “school”
  • You have a hard time being spontaneous with activities and play
  • You want to start teaching certain things to your kids in a more formal way (Bible stories, character, etc.)
  • You just want to try it out and see how everyone likes it!

3. Find what works for your family. It’s so valuable to gather ideas and information from other families or web sites. But don’t fall into a trap of comparing yourself to another family or mom. Just because a certain great idea or approach is perfect for another family doesn’t mean it’s the best for yours!

Keep in mind:

  • Your family’s daily rhythm (or lack thereof)
  • Your kids’ personality and learning style
  • YOUR personality and teaching style!

4. Just try something! Find an idea that you think might work and just try it. NOW! My biggest hangup so far with homeschool is the idea that I just have to figure out the exact right approach and materials now or it will be a failure. Homeschooling is way more flexible than that. Just trying SOMETHING and then moving on from there is so much better and less stressful. Besides, the kids are always changing, so how and what I teach them will change as well.

5. Take advantage of free resources. The library is extremely valuable for materials and ideas. We don’t seem capable of a full-family library outing lately, so I just reserve books online and pick them up on my own. The Internet has many resources available for free, including full curriculums, as well as information on local support groups. Find a mommy you can swap school time with. Don’t buy anything you can get for free or that isn’t a long-term investment.

6. Don’t get stuck on “school time”. Some parents like to have a designated time and space for school. I’ve found that at this stage (and possibly later ones as well – we’ll see), it’s better for us to just weave planned lessons into daily living. It helps me to become better at identifying the learning opportunities in the rest of the day and enjoy them with my kids! And at this young age it is a less stressful approach to school.

7. Relax and have fun. Preschool can be so fun! My son feels like such a big boy when he learns new things. I learn more about the sweet little personalities and souls of my children by teaching them and learning alongside them. Plus, if I don’t plan a time to strip my kids down and let them paint with hands and feet and faces, it’s definitely not going to happen. 🙂

These are some reads that really help me in this stage:

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Homeschool Preschool – What We’re Doing Right Now

Jaron's First Day of School... Sort Of

I mentioned in the last post that we’ve started preschool at our house and talked about the most important things we want to teach at this time. Here’s how we’re doing that for now:

Our Schedule – Ha! It’s all over the place. We set up the plan for three days a week. Usually, however, school ends up spread throughout the week. We usually do a block of activities in the morning and then everything else is tucked into play time or transition times as the day goes on. Most of the activities are done by the end of the week. Whatever wasn’t done and still seems important is just kicked to the next week. It’s incredibly low key, and we like it that way.

Curriculum – We are using the ABC Jesus Loves Me curriculum for 3 year olds that is available for free online. They also have a 4 year old curriculum. It’s really fantastic with TONS of information and extra resources, and is really easy to modify for our needs. We skim through stuff Jaron already knows and add in a lot of pieces from sites like Hubbard’s Cupboard. Here’s another post I did on other free resources we use a lot. Here’s my planning template and here’s an example of one of our weeks.

Factual Knowledge – The curriculum covers numbers, letters, phonics, early writing skills, early reading skills, shapes/colors/basic math, a book of the week (this week’s: Is Your Mama a Llama?), fine and gross motor skills, and more.

Bible Stories – We do a new Bible story every week or two and use a Betty Lukens flannelgraph set we bought on ebay, our regular Bibles, our children’s Bibles, Bible story books and videos to teach the story in several ways throughout the week. Many of the activities in other areas (literacy, math, manipulatives, games, etc.) are related in theme to the week’s Bible story. We also memorize scripture and rotate through past ones for review.

Character – We focus on one character trait every week or two, often correlating to the Bible story. We use lessons and materials from Hubbard’s Cupboard and other sites for this. The Bible verse we work on often correlates to the character trait we’re studying.

Catechism – We use the Truth and Grace memory books. They start at 2 years old and go through high school. The kids learn the basics of the faith, scriptures that support those facts, and hymns. Each lesson can be as long or short as the child needs. For example, the first lesson includes learning to recite Genesis 1:1 and have a discussion about what it means, that God created them and everything else, and songs like Jesus Loves me.

Workboxes – This is a popular idea used in many homeschools. We simplified it for our purposes. There are a few plastic drawer sets with toys or activities (maze books, coloring books, pattern blocks, phonics toys, etc.) that I rotate every week or two. When we need something to do or Mommy needs a little time to herself 🙂 they go “do their workboxes” and pick out something they want to play with. I often use it along with blanket time.

“School” – When BSF is in session (I love BSF!), we have once a week “BSF School” for the kids. It’s out for the summer though. However, we have become friends with a wonderful family down the street that has kids the same ages and home schools as well. Once a week, the mom takes Jaron and Sami and “does school” with them for an hour and a half. It’s ridiculously cute – Jaron gets all ready with his backpack and won’t let me take him to the door. He even sang “wheels on the bus” the first time he went! 😀

Morning Board – We have a morning board that we cover during breakfast. It includes a calendar that we use to teach many things (days, months, counting, patterns, special days, etc.), a weather chart, our scripture chart, and displays of some of the current lessons.

Other – We also add things in as we see fit. For example, how to work a zipper, washing the windows, how to greet people, our names and phone numbers in case of an emergency, our home address, etc. If Jaron shows a special interest in something (like trains) or shows a need (like how to deal with anger), we just plug those into the next week’s plans!

This sounds like a lot but it is really doable for our family. It took me a loooong time to figure out the right approach for our needs and expectations. It had to be easy enough! Next I’m going to post some general tips I’ve learned for anyone else who might be considering preschool homeschooling.

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Starting Preschool at Our House

Image: sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve done “preschool” stuff with Jaron off and on for a while. Most of it was for the sake of experimentation – just kind of getting my feet wet and doing something fun together. But we didn’t get into anything too structured because a) I wasn’t ready for it, b) Jaron didn’t seem interested in it, and c) the vast array of opinions out there about whether to do preschool at all and, if so, what it should look like.

Don’t get me wrong though. We have always done TONS of learning through play, outings, reading, crafts, etc. Then recently Jaron started asking to “go to school”. His cousin and some friends now go to school, so he wanted to as well!

First, I nailed down the goals for our preschool. We just made a list of what we wanted them to be learning right now. Here’s the gist of it:

God – Who God is, that He loves them, and how to love and follow Him.

Bible – Familiarity with and reverence for God’s Word, making it a priority in daily living and the authority in our lives.

Relationships – How to love others and to navigate relationships in a biblical way.

Love of Learning – Making learning fun, challenging, and something that will be an integral part of daily living instead of only “school time”.

Of course, this doesn’t cover everything we want them to learn, but it’s the backbone. I’ll post next about what we are actually doing now for preschool.

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31 Days to Clean – Overwhelmed, Overextended, and TIRED! (Day 10-14)

Source: Photobucket

There are days when I’m about ready to run screaming from the house. I’m overwhelmed with what I need to do, or what I think I need to do, and I’m running on empty. And I get sick of hearing myself whine about it! There will always be days like that, I think, but there are things I can do to prevent them, and things I can do to cope when they happen anyway.

1. Simplify: Have less stuff to clean and organize, spend only 15-minutes cleaning something and then move on to something else, limit the number of things on my calendar.

2. Avoid Time-Suckers: Like… blogging. 🙂 Facebook, computer time, netflix/movie time, etc. Sure, it’s good occasional entertainment, but I am guilty of spending too much time on those things at the expense of my responsibilities or other activities that would be better uses of time. Like… exercise. 🙂

3. Stick to Routines: Whenever possible, stick to the daily and weekly routine. When I veer off course, the whole day is wacky. Limiting those occasions to when it is absolutely necessary is a good idea.

4. Stop Striving for Perfection and Enjoy Being “Good Enough”: Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at my house, I’m a perfectionist. I’m just not a very good one. But I am really good at beating myself up over not living up to my own high expectations. I need to lighten up and know that I am “good enough” – my worth is in Christ and not in my abilities as a housekeeper, wife, and mom. And He has chosen me for exactly what I am doing.

5. Fight Fatigue: I can get SOO tired and I know it’s not only because of the demands of my job. Much of it is my habits. It’s a big area of focus that I have been avoiding because I really LIKE staying up late! But changes in these areas would help me tremendously: getting to bed at a decent time, waking up the same time every day, getting some quiet time in before the family wakes up, eating better, and exercising.

This last one is the big one for me. So I’m going to start there, believing that the rest will fall into place!

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Have an iPhone and Want to Memorize More Scripture?

I found this cool iPhone app called VersePack by TiBrew. The light version is free and pretty helpful, but I bought the upgraded version and am glad I did. It is modeled after the verse packs that go with the popular Naviators Topical Memory System. I’ve never used that system although I’ve heard good things about it.

The application allows you to create verse “cards”. You can even swipe left to right to flip the card over. The slug is one one side along with the reference, and the verse is on the other side. I can have the verse I am currently working on in view when I launch the application. I can build a queue of verses I’d like to memorize soon as well as review verses I’ve already memorized in a rotation that changes every 7 days by default. There are many ways to adjust the settings to suit your needs.

One VERY cool thing is that it allows you to pull the verse text from the web as you’re creating cards. NetBible and ESV are available for free, and for about a buck extra each you can add KJV and NASB. However, there is also a free custom feature available where you can set it up to import text from external web sites. I was able to set it up to import NKJV.

I’ve started out by setting up cards for the verses Navigator’s suggest on their web site. I am excited about the application and I think I’ll learn a lot more scripture this way!

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31 Days to Clean – Motivation and Overcoming Laziness (Day 7-9)

“… Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

– Ephesians 4:1 

God has called me to do the work I am doing right now. That is a good feeling – knowing that I’m following His path for me. But there are days where I feel lost in an ocean of to-do lists, wet wipes, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In the midst of the craziness, it’s important for me to remember some key things:

  • God has called me to do important work for Him.
  • He equips me through His Word and His people, and gives me all I need for life and godliness.
  • The work I do for my home, for my family, and in service to the Lord has an immediate benefit AND an eternal impact.
  • Perhaps most importantly, He uses the work He has given me to shape my character, transform me, refine me, and bring me closer to Him, with the ultimate result of glorifying Him.
These are the things I’m trying to think about when I need to clean a spill, wipe a bottom, address a squabble, or wake up for a 3am nursing session. 🙂 

I’m also recognizing that there are a few habits I have that are most likely laziness. I put off the things I don’t want to do until it becomes urgent to do so and a point of stress. I focus on the reasons why something would be too hard or inconvenient to do instead of just getting off my bum and doing it. Tellingly, it’s a pet peeve of mine when people do that. I have bursts of energy and motivation, and of course there are seasons where we should cut ourselves some slack, but often the lack of orderliness, cleanliness, and peace in my home is a result of laziness, not extenuating circumstances.

The work I do to run my home and raise my children is the most important job I can imagine myself having, and the most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my life, but it’s hard! It requires diligence, planning and development, big-picture vision, management skills, self-discipline, multitasking skills, and possibly even bow-staff skills.

It requires a skill that I struggle to develop: finding the balance between rest and work, important and optional. I cannot afford to be lazy, and laziness is never as rewarding as my nature obviously assumes it will be. The devotion suggested something that I have embraced: confess my laziness, repent of it, and humbly seek the Lord for wisdom and a spirit of diligence.

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31 Days to Clean – Priorities and the Six List (Day 4-6)

source: rawich on freedigitalphotos.net

<<<<<I am following the Homemaker’s Challenge with Joyful Mothering. It is a devotion by Sarah Mae called “31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way.” I’m going to post my progress here. I have no grand ideas of keeping my posts up with the actual days of the devotion, and I’m also planning on taking weekends off. The idea is to get as much as I can out of this challenge and end well sometime in June. I highly recommend the ebook. You can download a sample or buy it on Amazon for $5. You can go through the devotion on your own anytime!>>>>>

I won’t tell all about what I learned these three days. But there are two big things that I am continuing to work on.

1. The Six List – The idea is to write down six things you must complete tomorrow. The next day, work your way down the list, in the order written, until they’re done. Don’t move on to the next thing until you’ve completed the current task. This is a much simpler version of task management than I’ve tried before, so I’m gonna give it a shot.

2. Priorities – I nearly breezed through this. I’ve known for quite some time what my priorities are and have written them out and worked from them. My mission statement is actually a reflection my priorities and the order I hold them in.

However, I realized that my current daily life doesn’t accurately reflect my priorities. I can talk about my priorities all day long but if I don’t live them out, they’re not worth much.

These are my priorities:

  • God
  • Husband/Marriage
  • Kids
  • Home
  • Self
  • Outside ministry
Of course, when I think about my priorities it’s more like the wheel of a bike – God at the center and everything radiating out from it like spokes. But the order does matter in some ways. Specifically, the amount of time and energy I spend on each thing on most days. Here’s the reality of that for me:

  • Kids
  • Home
  • Self
  • Husband
  • God
  • Outside ministry
Yeah… not proud of that. I know that seasons and urgent needs impact how these things get addressed sometimes. But on most days, the time and focus I dedicate diminishes as I move down the list. 
So, here are a few things I think will get me back on track: 
  • Morning devotion/quiet time. Taking that time in the evening or during naps hasn’t been working. My main problem is getting to bed at a decent time so I can get up before the kids do. So I’m going to try! We’ll see how it goes with the baby factor. 🙂
  • Facilitate connection with Aaron and I – dates, conversation or doing something fun together (instead of just plugging in after the kids go to bed), reading together, etc. We started reading the Prelandria series a few nights ago and are setting up some babysitting swaps to save money on date nights!
  • Facilitate Aaron’s leadership in the family – He has indicated that he is more successful at it if I can just set the stage for things like daily family devotion, Bible study, worship, special activities, etc. Mostly that involves establishing routines and getting all the ducks in a row. 🙂 We’ve started making some changes this week toward that goal.
  • Work more diligently at establishing household routines and orderliness. I get overwhelmed by it all and spend a lot more time planning than doing. Small steps seems to be a good idea right now. Step 1 – do this 31 day devotion!
  • Personal care – getting back into exercising now that I’m cleared to by the OB. Also, spending some time and effort to de-frump-ify myself in the morning instead of waiting until Aaron’s about to come home from work!
I don’t think all of this will get 100% better overnight. It’s a continuous journey, and I do have to remember that I will not do a lot of what I intend to these days and that’s ok – I have littles to play with, diapers to change, naps to take, and messes to clean up (constantly)! But I am motivated to do some things today that will help me get back on track. 
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