Many mothers on homeschooling email lists ask for advice on preschool homeschooling. My advice is invariably to let the children play. Although your child is the oldest he has ever been and time seems to flying away there are still years left for him to practice formal schooling, if that is what develops.
Handwriting can wait. What do small children know about that needs to be written? Small motor muscle movements are still developing and some children haven’t even yet learned to run with much coordination. If running or throwing or jumping are still movements needing more control than the child has, why expect him to be able to manipulate a pencil so that the result is ‘legible?’
Coloring books may be most useful for the development of small motor control. The lines of the picture give boundaries but the area to be colored allows large movements. One Waldorf school curriculum doesn’t introduce form drawing until second grade. Another is at first grade.
Read-aloud stories are good for young children. They hear the language spoken grammatically and they connect the sense of words with the arbitrary marks they see on paper. To a young child ABCDEFG makes as much sense as the same letters in the Cyrillic alphabet would to a non-Cyrillic reader. The stories also feed the imagination and may give the children inspiration for drawings or for imaginative play.
Physical movement is important for children. Researchers have connected physical movement to proper physical development. The traditional ‘work’ of young children is running, jumping, climbing, crawling, dancing and rolling. The ‘preschool classroom’ is a playground. Also, get music. Lots of music.
Buy toys that aren’t already ‘done.’ Blocks are a good example. Children can take blocks and make all sorts of things out of them: houses, raceways and sailboats are a few of the constructions I’ve had in my living room. Cardboard boxes are another good toy, or laundry baskets; both make good ships. The ships can turn into forts or caves with the addition of a blanket. Tricycles are useful, as are wagons. Sidewalks and chalk are good toys for encouraging writing. Children who balk at pencil and paper may well scribble up an entire driveway. Trees are handy toys because they are so big the child can’t lose them and Mom doesn’t have to put them away. They can be lain under, leaned on, have a swing dangling from a sturdy branch and they inspire dreams of climbing. From some you can even get apples. Definitely get trees. (Disclaimer: if you get a tree, keep an eye on the children. I am not responsible for anyone falling out.)
What to do for ‘preschool?’ Let the children play.
Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon
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