Sunday, December 27, 2009

What I Wish I Had Known

Lately, I have encountered some smart homeschoolers-to-be--that is, parents of toddlers or preschoolers that are starting their research now. I have noticed that when these parents post questions about homeschooling preschool, most of the answers include, "Slow down! Don't worry about it. Let them play. Give them crayons and paints. Sing with them. Read to them." Now, in my mind, the type of parent that is asking about homeschooling preschool is probably already doing all of these things. If this is you, then this post is for you.

Unfortunately, I was not so smart. I thought that all I needed to do was order a few books the summer before we started, and I would be set. So I have joined the ranks of all those homeschoolers that are less than pleased with their first year curricula choices. I have discovered a few things along the way that I wish I had known about when Grasshopper was younger.

  1. Five in a Row: We are doing Five in a Row with Grasshopper now, which is a literature program designed for 4-8 year olds. I cannot say enough good about it. (For more details, see my blog post entitled A View of Our First Year.) I wish I had known about Before Five in a Row for 2-4 year olds when Grasshopper was 2yo. She has always loved books, and this would have been a perfect fit for her personality. I am going to try it with Cricket in a year or two.
  2. Cursive First: This handwriting program is exactly what it sounds like. It bypasses printing altogether and goes straight to cursive, eliminating the need for the transition from printing to cursive. By the time Grasshopper was ready for kindergarten, she had already been printing for a year. I felt that she needed to reap the benefits of her efforts for a while rather than making the transition to cursive early, so I am not using it with her. In spite of my interest in the program, I do have one concern with regard to gifted kids. An average child would be learning his letters, phonics and handwriting all at the same time. If I had tried this with Grasshopper, she would have already known her letters, and this program would have required her to learn a new set of letters. So while I am unsure of how this would work with a gifted child, I am still intrigued with the program and will consider this program for Cricket when the time comes.

Food for Thought
  1. Memorization: I loved the theory in The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer to "fill your child's mind with beautiful language." But when I came to memorization as one of the ways to do it (even for preschool), I was pretty cynical about it, because rote memorization has always been so hard for me. However, it was laid out so simply that I couldn't help but try it. Just read the passage to the child once per day until the child has memorized it. I tried it with Grasshopper, and I was amazed at the results. It took her only two weeks to memorize an 8-line poem. And she would recite it all the time, even when playing or conversing. We have since done the Pledge of Allegiance, various poems and scriptures, and lines from songs and books. I let her help me pick what she wants to memorize, and this increases her interest and resolve.
  2. Work together: I started out trying to get Grasshopper to do chores on her own (simple things like putting laundry in a basket). I quickly discovered that while she was an obedient child and would do as she was told, she really hated it. In the meantime, I recently discovered myself that any work we do is easier if good feelings are associated with it. (See My Holiday Epiphany.) So now Grasshopper and I (and Cricket, too, where possible) do everything together. I invite her to help me put dishes away, do laundry, cook, grocery shopping, etc. Now she is excited to do "our" chores. And as an added bonus, I have found that she now spends more time playing by herself instead of begging me to play with her. I believe that this investment now will make it easier for her to work later on in life.
  3. Practice Child-Led Education: I am not a big fan of a completely child-led curriculum, as I think that children need to have some structure to make sure they are meeting certain minimum standards. But to the extent that the child has chosen what they are learning, they will be more invested and learn it better. As a teacher, it is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced, and preschool is a great time to do it. Practice finding books and activities that go along with your child's interest. As we have done this, I have discovered Grasshopper's interest in musical composers, history and geography, all things I have never had an interest in. She tells me who or what she wants to study, and I find the resources, and we are both learning so much.

1 comment:

  1. The trial and error becomes less as you go along.

    This is my second time around, and it is much easier. But there are tons of new curriculum out there to tempt me.


Latter-day Homeschooling