5 Ways to Start Early PreK at Home
A lot of parents get intimidated at the idea of teaching their kids on their own. The fact is, while homeschooling might not be right for everyone, getting your child started on the right foot isn’t hard and can be a great bonding experience.
Early Education can be Simple
I’m not completely sure yet how long we will homeschool because it will depend a lot on each kid and our situation, but I do know I want to get them started learning early. I don’t see anything wrong with sending kids to preschool, but it shouldn’t be because you are afraid of teaching them yourself. Here are a few simple things you can start as soon as they are starting to speak that will help get them going in the right direction no matter where the path leads later.
Start with Simple Conversations
It’s amazing how early they try to communicate, so don’t write off that babbling they do at 6 or 9 months…try to translate and help them learn how to use more and more of the language. Kids all develop differently, so don’t feel like your kid should be doing everything other kids are doing – just know where your kid is at and be mindful to keep helping them grow. If they know words, try to get them using sentances. If they can form sentences and are asking repetitive questions, help them answer their questions on their own (don’t just keep repeating the answers).
Use Different Mediums
Don’t always default to crayons. The less messy materials are obviously ideal, but it gets boring after a while and won’t make a big impact. Spark up your lesson by making an “A” out of Play Doh or crafting a big “C” out of a rolled up blanket. Sing songs. Play games. Here is little Kniya (barely 2) working on a dirt mountain after we did letters in sidewalk chalk.
Find Dull Moments to Focus on Small Lessons
When Kniya was around two, we started pointing out letters on signs as we passed. We talked about how things worked. I looked for moments, like car rides, that could be dedicated to short but regular educational conversations. It takes some mindfulness from you as a parent, but trying to find those times to regularly focus on learning will add up over time. I think the important thing is to change your own mindset from feeling overwhelmed to just getting started with small steps.
Repetition is Your Friend
Reading the same book or watching the same short educational video helps your kid memorize information. They pick up songs and movie lines so fast! Choose the right videos that are straightforward and educationally focused and you will be shocked at how quickly they can recall that information later. Sesame Street has a number of good videos out on YouTube that focus on a single letter and only last a couple of minutes.
Some mornings, I would pick one of those videos to have the kids watch 2 or 3 times during their breakfast. You might get tired of hearing the same thing on repeat, but it will do wonders for their learning.
Read, Read, Read
Reading is a simple way to start teaching your kids at home. It helps them with sentence structure, knowledge and creative thinking. They will even start to memorize the stories and pretty soon they are “reading” (reciting) them on their own!
I pretty much stick to board books and only get out paper books if I am doing the reading. Kids tear up paper books too quickly to leave those on their shelf. We absolutely love most of the Sandra Boynton books, Dr. Suess’s ABC’s and the Little Blue Truck books. I am very picky and really only keep around books that have a good story line, are fun to read and have cute pictures. Duck and Goose have some of the cutest illustrations I’ve seen, but I’ve been very disappointing with their mostly lackluster stories (sometimes just one word per page).
Preschool Knowledge Cheat Sheet
I assisted in teaching preschool for a school in the area and prior to coming they only had to be potty trained and at least 3 years old. We got a lot of great feedback for what our kids knew when they were going into kindergarten. I find it very helpful to remember those basic guidelines on what PreK kids are supposed to be learning. Here is a quick list of what we tried to have kids familiar with when they left that program:
- Seasons and Holidays
- Weather Concepts
- Counting to 100
- The ABCs (sight and sound)
- Spelling First and Last Name
- Home Address (house number and street name)
- Manners (eating at a table, washing hands, playing with others)
- Classroom Etiquette (sitting quietly during story time, taking turns, not interrupting the teacher, getting in line)
- Traditional Nursery Rhymes and Songs
- A Basic Understanding of Good/Bad Touch
- Identifying and Handling Emotions
- Basic Understanding of Nutrition
We spent time focused on structured play, which meant one type of toy that kids played with for more than 10 minutes. During structured play, the kids had to play “correctly” with the toys (not putting the baby on the stove, for example) because it was a learning time. And, whenever possible, we took the kids outside (I’ve even gotten my kids into yardwork and gardening). At home, you have the benefit of adding some other basic skills that preschools often can’t:
- Cleaning and Chores
- Using Tools
- Exercise (we love yoga and running in circles around the house over here!)
You can find so much inspiration on Pinterest, just be careful not to get sucked into feeling like you have to do a ton of cutesy projects. Pinterest offers creative ideas for the days when you do want to do a bit more than normal. You can follow my PreK Learning board and others like it to see inspiration on your feed!