Once upon a time, many years ago – 7 and some months – our Little Princess was nearly three years old, and of course she was the smartest, happiest, most artistic 2 year old that I knew. But then, I’m a bit biased.
Although, she really was very happy and was very into arts and crafts – but those are none of the reasons that we began homeschooling her at that age. It did help though, her being incredibly smart and artistic and all.
Truth was, my husband had always talked about homeschooling, and I was more than agreeable.. I just knew how lazy and undisciplined I am and I was expecting our second child a month before her 3rd birthday. I felt like I needed to get started in the habit before Drama Queen arrived instead of trying to do it during all the sleepless nights.
I knew a few other people who were homeschooling their kids about the same age or slightly older than Princess; some of them were doing Five in a Row. I talked with all of them and then I came up with our own plan. For our first year of Pre-K, this is what we did, 30 minutes a day, 4 or 5 days a week.
It all ties together.
It’s no secret that I like it when things match. School is no different. I developed a plan where everything went with and supported everything else. Not unique, I know, but I didn’t know that then. We won’t go back in time and tell the 23 yr old me, okay?
We started with a letter of the alphabet, and we focused on one letter of the alphabet a week. Everything we did that week revolved around that letter. We began by writing our letter of the day on a child-height chalkboard. I would write it and then she would write it. We sounded it out and then we read a story, looking and listening for our letter.
I was using an Old Mother Goose book that was mine when I was a young child. Mother Goose rhymes are abundant with alliteration and it’s easy to find a rhyme that uses your letter of the week. I remember that for the letter B, we read Baa, Baa Black Sheep. I read it to her and then we looked for all the upper and lowercase B’s. She would point out each of them and I would sound it out again.
After we did that, we’d do some kind of craft that involved the letter somehow. For the Baa Baa Black Sheep example, I remember cutting out sheep pieces (black heads and legs, black fluffy bodies) and having her glue them on a piece of paper. At the top I wrote “Baa, Baa.” I had her circle the letter B’s and then write her own letter B at the top of the page. While we did our crafts we could count the pieces and identify colors and shapes. She really liked cutting and gluing and coloring. It was her favorite.
At first that was all we would do and then she would be ready to move on. I would let her play with playdough or water paints for a while until she lost interest and then we’d clean up for the day. It wasn’t long before she was interested in doing a little more.
Only ONE Worksheet?
Soon I found myself at the book section at Wal-Mart, looking for some preschool aged workbooks. I found a book of very simple mazes, a nice preschool workbook for letters and numbers, and a Sesame Street coloring book focusing on the alphabet. They weren’t very thick, but they were inexpensive and I figured she’d mostly scribble all over them anyway.
Boy was I wrong.
She loved the worksheets (she still does.) She went through that whole book of mazes in less than two days. I tried to limit her, but really – Why? She was having so much fun, and she was getting them right, too. How could I refuse? The preschool book lasted a bit longer, but she consumed that one quickly, too. And before long, I was back at Wal-Mart again.
Our Very Own Great Big Book of Everything
If you’ve ever watched the cartoon Stanley, you know all about the Great Big Book of Everything. Princess loved Stanley, she enjoyed learning about the animals. (She also enjoyed Zaboomafoo. It’s a shame those two aren’t still on tv.) Going along with our alphabet centered method of learning (I figured reading was central to basically everything else) we decided to make our own Big Book – to reinforce the alphabet and to throw in a bit of animal science, too.
I made a cover and a back out of sturdy cardboard which we covered and decorated, punched holes in the covers, inserted some hole-punched construction paper and bound it together with yarn. Voila – a great big book. We’d pick an animal that started with our letter of the week and I’d go online and print some pictures and facts about the animal. The first one we did was “Ant.” I don’t remember why. I do remember trying to talk her into choosing “Anteater.” But then I went along with it deciding that we might as well put bugs in our book, too. She cut the pictures out. She glued them on. I wrote the facts on next to the pictures and she wrote “ANT” at the top in big, shaky letters. I also remember that the letter C was “Caterpillar” and she had the cutest way of writing her E’s. But that is neither here nor there.
And for the record, “B” was not a bug, it was a “BEAR.”
My 3 Year Old, The Computer Whiz
Somewhere during that year, my mom bought her a couple of computer games. My First Reading Adventure: Now I’m Reading and My First Math Adventure: Adding & Subtracting. They were really for Kindergarten, but I let her try them anyway. Actually she was able to do them on the easiest level – they were very well structured and I was sad when we updated our computer system and couldn’t use them anymore. (I’m digressing again.)
One day, my grandmother (who had returned to college to learn about computers after her mother and husband had passed away – a year and two years before Princess was born) watched as Princess went to the computer, put her disk in and double clicked the icon on the screen. My grandmother was amazed and said, “Wow. This generation sure is going to know so much more about computers at a young age – more than I’ll ever know.”
She had no idea. Look how far we (America, technology, kids, computers) have come in only the last 7 years!
I didn’t want all of her time spent on the computer. I still don’t. But computers are an integral part of our daily lives these days, and even then I could see the benefit of truly educational computer learning games. What she did with those games strengthened and practiced what she learned on the paper. In fact, she even learned how to add and subtract small numbers by playing that math game, well before I ever got to that on pen and paper. (But let that go down in history – for that was the first and the last time that she ever excelled in math over reading and these days is far more likely to choose reading over math!)
If I suddenly time-warped back to 2003…
Would I do anything differently?
Honestly, not much. The only thing that I wish I had done – and it didn’t even occur to me! – would be to incorporate bible verses in our daily lessons. My approach and reasoning for schooling was slightly less developed in the beginning, and has grown and matured as surely as my children have. Otherwise, I’m going to be doing much the same thing with our 3 year old preschool son this year.
We’re going to do a letter of the week, practice writing the letters and learn to write his name. We’re going to do alphabet related coloring pages and crafts. I might even resurrect the great big book of everything, who knows? But this time we’ll be adding the bible verses in. Both of the girls start their day with a scripture to copy down for their handwriting practice. In the same way, Little Prince will begin his day with a scripture from My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word In Little Hearts.
So this year, Little Prince begins his first year of Preschool. Our family has grown, we’re in a different house, our schooling needs have changed, our oldest is nine going on 18 and I’m writing up a plan for our son’s first week of alphabet centered learning. It’s funny how as time goes on things change, but how much things also stay the same.
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