We welcomed a new baby to the family in October, just before the beginning of the calendar school year. Though our first born was just 16 months old in September, not technically ‘school age ready’ by most standards, we wanted to provide a home schooling curriculum for his preschool year(s). Starting early gave us a chance to hammer out the details of which ideas work well, get accustomed to a ‘school routine’ and offer room for improvement before entering the official school year in September 2019 (at two years and three months of age).
Most preschools in the U.S. begin accepting children around the age of two and a half or later, depending on your own child’s readiness. A few bloggers and homeschooling parents have had the idea of introducing “tot school” – many are parents like me who want to get an early start on schooling, or those who currently home school an older child and began looking for ways to involve younger siblings into the daily routine.
We have planned a loose curriculum mostly focused on play, with animal and plant ‘science’ units, as well as colors, music and movement. We will also try to cover pre-math skills (such as number sense, representation, spatial sense, measurement, estimation, patterns, and problem-solving skills), and pre-reading activities such as phonetics. The most important way to encourage reading readiness is by reading to your zero to three year old every single day, which we have already done since birth. We have also used additional resources such as the “My Baby Can Read” series and daily flash cards.
The key to early schooling is to keep it fun! Facilitate growth and learning in a way that interests your child – if an activity seems frustrating for your little learner, perhaps it has been introduced too early, too frequently, or just isn’t their cup of tea. Being flexible in your teaching is important in the early years. At this age, it is mostly about play and open ended activities such as ‘tot trays’ that encourage exploration. If he shows interest in coloring and more one-dimensional work, that’s great!
I have created some of my own alphabet coloring sheets, free for your personal use if you’d like to print them. Or, you can find activity books from a thrift or dollar store, yard sales, hand-me-downs to save some cash in the early years. I find that many such books are double sided, which doesn’t work for our Montessori lesson planning binder. Many homeschooling parents provide coloring/resource pages for free download, though I find that many of the sight words start with capital letters, or the pages are too busy or too simple…so I just made my own! You can use a free online photo editing program (Gimp) and clip art, as well as a coloring font download from DaFont.com to make your own.
Having a curriculum of sorts will also challenge me as a parent/teacher to think outside the box, and to utilize resources from the community – this will be an interesting year for both Canyon and myself and I am looking forward to September!
Early Introduction: Letters, Numbers and Other Preschool Concepts
We likely won’t focus on letter names at first, but rather the phonetic sounds they make: “kuh”, “luh”, etc. using flash cards and felt/magnetic letters in lowercase, moving to sandpaper letter sets and letter names after age two or three, depending on his readiness.
Montessori color introduction guides suggest introducing primary colors first (Red, Blue, Yellow). Secondary colors such as green, orange, brown, purple, black, etc. will follow. Later, the focus will be on color discrimination (shades of familiar colors such as rose, lilac, pastels, tan, etc).
For more resources and activity ideas for the 0-3 year old see the following sites:
Apple life cycle
Math introduction, pre-counting
Land, air, water unit
LETTERS: c m a t
Introduce letter sets/sandpaper letters in year 2
Autumn sensory play
Human anatomy introduction
Halloween / Thankful tree
The calendar (intro to history)
LETTERS: s r i p
Christmas activities and crafts
Geography – continents
Culture – children of the world
Footprints – winter forest animals
LETTERS: b f o g
Our daily routine unit
Learning to read
Sensorial – smelling bottles
LETTERS: h j u l
Learning the seasons
Building a birds nest
LETTERS: d w e n
Practical life – taking care of self
LETTERS: k q v x y z
Colors (primary > secondary > familiar shades)
Here is an example of what our first week of school will look like. For an older child, you can plan more activities, but I had to consider this first year we will have a child who is still pretty young, plus a new baby arriving shortly after the school year starts.
I also did not stick to a strict Monday-Friday schedule, but instead chose “Day 1 – Day 5” routine, which allows me to rollover some activities into the weekend if needed. We may drop some activities all together, or even skip entire lesson days this year – as I mentioned before, Tot School is just a fun idea to get your child used to routine, and the idea of learning through play at home. It is also nice to know I have some pre-planned activities that can be done independently while I spend some time with the new baby in those early months.