Teaching preschoolers is great fun! If you’ve got little ones, your are in for a treat when it comes to teaching them “school”. They are curious and love to do things with Mom!
You can teach your little one all yourself, or you can assign an older child to take charge some of the time. If you are teaching other older siblings, you can just have your preschooler join in for some of the school time for them, while you sing together, read aloud, do art, etc. and other whole family activities. Preschoolers will beg for their own workbooks and assignments. But if you are teaching just preschoolers, here is how I teach preschoolers.
Set aside an hour each morning for “learning time”. How do you take up a whole hour? It will speed by!
We begin homeschool with a flag salute. Even a 2 year old can say some of the Pledge of Allegiance. Then we have a prayer, and sing some songs together. If you start singing with your children at a young age, they will grow up singing, and it becomes a source of enjoyment rather than self-consciousness. I often teach my little ones new songs based on the upcoming holidays. Before Easter, we learned the song, “Jesus is Risen”. It is amazing how well a 3 to 5 year old can learn the words!
Next, I teach a principle or skill with my child that would help him develop. This is just a simple concept taught with stories, songs, pictures, games and anything else I can find to keep his interest. Basic life skills for a preschooler are knowing his parent’s names as well as his address and phone number, how to use the telephone, dial 911, how to cross the street looking both ways (although I still require that someone walks them across), how to practice good safety habits, how to greet another person, and all the many other important skills for learning to function independently. I look for library books on courtesy, manners, proper hygiene, and safety…and also buy my favorites. I raise my children on the Standin’ Tall book/CD sets. They teach virtues such as honesty, obedience, service, cleanliness, and a host of others.
My favorite book for teaching little ones how to act is The 21 Rules of This House. It includes small posters that you can color and tack up to memorize and discuss. I print off two copies of the poster, and we have fun coloring together. I teach one rule at a time and post my child’s work. We talk about that rule until we have learned it well. I tuck my colored page into a page protector and add it to a binder, to be used to review the rules we have learned so far at the beginning of our learning time. One way I use this book is to quiz my children by showing my colored page, and letting them try to say the short rule. I also point out times during the day when they are keeping one of the 21 Rules! Practice makes perfect!
Remember that training in good habits is essential at this age. Nothing can sabotage teaching your children faster than a child’s unwillingness to do what you say. If you have not taught your child to obey and follow your words the first time you ask him, then that is an important first lesson. I practice with my little ones, even role play giving them a command, having them reply, “Yes, Mother” and move quickly to action, Simon Says style. Teaching your children this pattern of “listen-respond-act” will serve them well their whole life and keep your homeschool happy and productive.
Next comes one of the part of homeschool that everyone enjoys: read-aloud time. It is incredible how much children learn this way. An excellent book I have used for good reading recommendations at each level is Honey for a Child’s Heart. It describes wonderful books for read-aloud that promote Christian values. It has been an essential help in my homeschool and will provide you with many excellent book titles to find in your public library.
Children’s picture books make a great springboard to learning about the world! Library books can keep a steady supply of new fun, read-aloud books coming into your home, but do use caution as many of them contain black magic, monsters, disrespect to parents and God, globalism, rights of the child, etc. Whenever I don’t screen the books at the library before my children check them out, I regret it. One incident I remember well: my little son asked me if I wanted a drink of vampire’s blood? (Shock!) I suspected where he got that idea, and hunted it down to a library book/CD set, that I had not screened carefully enough. It is up to us as parents to make sure that our vulnerable little ones get only the best!
After reading a picture book, we work on pre-reading skills. Start preparing your preschooler for reading by playing with puzzles. The slight differences will train your child’s eye for future discrimination of letters. I like Lauri Perception Puzzles.
For very young ones (2 to 4 years), I absolutely love the Kumon workbooks which are excellent for tracing, cut-and-paste, and learning to control a writing implement. After Kumon, we progress to Adventures with Books (one of the Early Learning Workbooks series). Little ones will learn how to identify colors, count, color, write letters, and more from these fun workbooks.
When your little student is ready to learn his ABC’s and you want to start real phonics, please try Happy Phonics. I guarantee that your children will love to do phonics lessons and that they will quickly learn to read by playing this collection of tried-and-true simple games that teach reading, step-by-step. I think the Explode the Code Primers are the best way to teach the handwriting of each letter, as well as reinforcing and practicing the phonics sounds taught in Happy Phonics. The workbooks give lots of practice and are varied and fun. Using the Explode the Code primers and Happy Phonics, you will be able to give your child the gift of reading in a fun and happy game format.
Fine motor coordination usually develops faster in girls than boys. You can aid it by using tracing to help your student learn to control a pencil. Paper clip a piece of tracing paper to a coloring book page and have your child trace over each line using a fat crayon or jumbo pencil. As he practices tracing, he will learn control and be ready to start writing. Using maze books is another great way to gain fine motor control of that pencil!
An important first writing lesson for a preschooler is his own name. Write your child’s name (capital first letter, small letters for the rest of their name) on the top of a piece of lined handwriting paper in yellow felt pen and let him trace over your writing. When your student is learning to form letters, it is important to really supervise and watch carefully that you are not allowing mistakes to become firmly cemented habits. Show him that you start most round letters ( such as a, c, d, f, g, etc.) on the right side and then go “up over the mountain and around”. Eventually advance to have him try writing his name without tracing your pattern. Explode the Code has good instructions and practice pages. Holding a pencil incorrectly can be the beginning of writing problems, so pay attention early and help him get into a good habit. Get a handwriting tablet with wide spaced lines so that he can practice writing the letters he learns, and practice writing his name. Using the chalkboard is great for little ones working on their letter formations. You write the letter very lightly on the chalkboard, about 4″ tall, and have your preschooler trace over them.
Doing a little math daily helps form a habit that will last through your child’s school years. You can easily teach your child to count 0-10, which is the main skill for preschoolers. I make up flashcards (0-10) to play with. Have your child put them in order, or count out beans or pennies to match each card’s numeral. You can teach them to write the numbers as soon as they are ready. If you want a good program, I recommend Earlybird Singapore Math which is filled with colorful write-in pages that prepare your child to enjoy math. Just one page a day is plenty!
Draw a map of your home, highlighting his bedroom. Expand to a map of your block, complete with highlights of the neighborhood—the black dog lives here—an eventually your state. The main concept to teach a preschooler is where he is! A USA map posted on the wall or a USA placemat to eat on is a good way to understand location and start state recognition. My 4 year old can locate our state plus both states where his grandparents live, which is exciting to me!
For science, you couldn’t ask for better resources than the great outdoors. Grow a garden, care for pets, look at trees and leaves, take a nature walk—nature is the best teacher at this age! If you want some help, I would invest in equipment such as a bug viewer, magnets, binoculars, a magnifying glass, and the like.
Doing experiments has lots of appeal too: The Big Book of Play and Find Out has creative and fun hands-on experiments to help your little one get a first taste into chemistry, physics, biology, and more. Library books with drawings, photographs and information on animals and nature are a great addition.
Training your child to appreciate good music is a matter of exposure. Play fine music, such as the 25 Children’s Classics, during times when your little one is drawing or playing with Legos, so that your child learns early to love excellent music and hears a wide variety. As the child becomes familiar to music, introduce the Beginner Toddler Music Band and teach him how to keep time with the music.
Art seems to be the favorite subject of most preschoolers. At our house, we love to model clay and paint with watercolors on scrap paper! I choose an art project to do from Scribble Art. (This is a good assignment for an older child in the family to teach and they enjoy it as much as your preschooler will.)
Dramatic play and dancing is exciting for preschool children. I browse yard sales and thrift shops for unique dress-up clothes. One pair of metallic gold elbow length evening gloves has been in our family for 20 years and every child has played with them, boys and girls alike. They have been robot arms, Cinderella’s costume, and part of many other imaginative creations. Hand puppets are also good for dramatic play.
Teaching preschoolers is so much fun! This is when the basic habits are being formed and you have tremendous influence on their future values. Whether you have a very eager little one, who is anxious to read, or a happy-go-lucky type that is content to move along at a slower pace, there is plenty you can do to make these very formative years productive. I hope you enjoy teaching your little ones.
May I recommend: