Love, Joleen: Homeschool Preschool: Our Space, Philosophy, and Curriculum

Friday, August 19, 2016

Homeschool Preschool: Our Space, Philosophy, and Curriculum

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We started Preschool this week and I'm not sure whose more excited about it - Benjamin or me! We started "home schooling" when Benjamin was 21 months old. Most of our Tot School consisted of me choosing themes for each week with added projects, activities, and books, to his regular play. You can see our philosophy, focus, and schedule, here, and last year's Tot School themes, here. Our philosophy as we move up to Preschool, remains the same:

Our Homeschool Philosophy:
"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."
Proverbs 22:6
We have decided to homeschool for the foreseeable future. Many people have asked how long we intend to homeschool and I really can't say. Benjamin will be 4 years old in November and in Georgia, we don't have to submit a Declaration of Intent until age 6. We'll be using this year to expose Benjamin to many subjects and opportunities, and allowing him to explore his interests. I have a background in Early Childhood Education and was a nanny for 8 years before having my son. I feel very confident in teaching him at this stage in his life. I will say that my idea of homeschool and the styles that speak to me [for myself and in regards to my son] have already begun to change as I research and try new things with him. But more on that in a bit.

Our Homeschool Space:
While getting ready for the new school year, I originally had plans to take over our [not so functional] dining room. I still may do that. For now, I've set up a small section next to our couch, in the living room. We live in a fairly big 3-bedroom apartment 30 miles outside of Atlanta. We've been here since Benjamin was 14 months old and we love it. However, we don't see this place as permanent, and actually have plans to move when our lease is up in the spring. For this reason, I'm not super anxious to spend time and money on a specific schooling area, when this will do just fine. Most of Benjamin's toys are in his bedroom/playroom. He has a shelf with games and puzzles we can pull from in there. Here, I keep my Homeschool planner, our school books, Benjamin's art journal, and supplies. I've got several file folders of worksheets and projects that I will eventually need a better system for. Across from the couch is the fireplace. In front of that is his small table and chair and plastic drawers filled with playdough and accessories.
When it's way too hot or cold outside, we basically hibernate. The rest of the year, we can be found on our little balcony patio. Benjamin and I really love this space! It's not very big but there's plenty of room for playing, activities, his water table, our plants, etc. Right now it's home to a homemade chalkboard. When the weather cools, we'll move the chalkboard back into place in front of the fireplace. (It's cut to size.) This outdoors space gets great sun in the morning and offers perfect afternoon shade. We also have a great view [from the 3rd floor]. Although, I look forward to the days when we have a big backyard and functional garden, I still love this small space. We're fortunate to have awesome parks and trails within walking/driving distance as well.
Our Homeschool Preschool Curriculum:
I like aspects of several "Homeschool styles" and therefore find myself creating our own curriculum. The teacher in me loves a good curriculum but I'm also really drawn to Unschooling, which allows the child to play and explore their own interests. My homeschooling style, if I were to have one, definitely includes a little of both, and is known as "relaxed or eclectic". I want learning to be fun and engaging for Benjamin. I view the next two years as school preparatory years. When sitting down to write our curriculum for the year, I started with a weekly theme, while keeping our goals for Benjamin in mind. That being said, our days are still very relaxed. He's passionate about writing right now and it's been the first thing on his mind all week. The first thing he asks to do when he wakes up is a worksheet. I'm not so naive as to think every day will be so easy but I love how fun this is for him now. I never push him to do an activity and he has a lot of say in how we spend our time. What I mainly do is provide him with good options. There is no shortage in opportunities for him to play and learn through play. 

Our Focus This Year:
  • Bible - We are using a biblical-based curriculum this year -- the ABC Jesus Loves Me curriculum for 3-year-olds -- as a general week-to-week Bible story guide. We'll be reading through the [storybook] Bible in chronological order for the very first time! We're using The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories and I've just purchased the I Will Follow Jesus Bible Storybook. I've also checked out the God's Love For You Bible Storybook from the library and if it ends up being a good fit, then we'll use this one too. In addition to the Bible stories, we'll have a simple memorization verse each week. 
  • Letter Recognition & Writing - We'll be working to help Benjamin recognize and sound out the upper and lowercase alphabet. This year we're going through the alphabet out of order. He'll have a new letter to focus on each week. We love the Sound Box Books, which we check out from our library. The "It's the Alphabet!" and "See it. Say it. Hear it." series' are great too! For writing, we're using the Spectrum Learning Letters workbook, Usborne Wipe Clean "Pen Control" and "Get Ready for School abc and 123" books (Benjamin really loves these!!), and an old fashioned primer. I use a highlighter to draw lines on it for Benjamin to trace. These and other printed materials are what he refers to as worksheets. On the first three rows, I draw different lines/strokes for him to practice. The 4th row is the uppercase letter he's working on and the 5th row is the lowercase letter. On the bottom row, I write out "Benjamin" twice so that he can practice spelling and writing his name.
  • Math - Benjamin can count to 20 and above that with little to no help. He can recognize numbers 1-10. Thanks to the apps on his Kindle Fire he's been introduced to the adding and subtracting concepts. We'll be working on writing numbers and adding this year.
  • Nature -  Benjamin thrives outside and frankly, so do I. He loves going on "forbentures" ("adventures" but I prefer the nickname!). This year we're adopting a "Nature Day", where at least once a week we spend intentional days outside. These might be organized - a class at one of our local nature centers - or our own self-guided outings to the river, mountains, trails, park, etc. 
  • The Arts - This will be Benjamin's third year with an art journal. Every year I pick up a cheap composition book and decorate the cover for him. This journal is available to him at all times. Any time he wants to do an art project, such as painting, drawing, cutting + gluing, stickers, etc. he does it in this book. Sometimes I give him a new technique, prompt, or medium to use, but mostly he does his own thing in it. We enjoy flipping through them and having them for a keepsake at the end of the year. (He loves to see what he did when he was "a little baby". Haha). He's also very much into music and dancing. We frequently have family dance parties in the living room. This year for Benjamin's birthday we'll be getting him a guitar (probably ukulele to start) and starting lessons. Really looking forward to that! Also each week, I'll plan for a skill to work on. Right now we're working on things like pencil grip and cutting with scissors.
Homeschool Mom Encouragement & Inspiration:
I'd love to hear from you! Are you homeschooling your preschooler? What are some of your favorite resources?
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