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Many parents think about pre-k homeschooling when they see the price of traditional preschools in their area. “I could just do that at home! Preschool isn’t that hard.”
And then they think a little more about it and start to panic.
Fear not, brave parents. Many, many families have been homeschooling preschool kids for longer than we’ve been alive. Here are all the things you need to know before you take the plunge.
Make Friends with Others who are Pre K Homeschooling
One of the most important things for children ages 3-5 to learn is social skills. Things like taking turns, sharing, apologizing, and feeling empathy are all skills that children don’t come out of the womb knowing. They need caring adults in their lives who will explicitly teach them the proper ways to socialize with other kids.
Obviously, this is nearly impossible if you don’t give your child time to spend with other kids! So even if you’re going to do much of your “school” work at home, get connected with other parents of littles. Library story times, the YMCA, playgrounds, pee-wee sports, and community events are all great places to meet other parents like yourself.
Also, you might start this quest thinking your child is the one who needs friends. But after a few playdates and field trips, you might discover it was YOU who needed some support as well.
Don’t Focus on Rigor
If I polled a group of parents, I’d guess most would say they were homeschooling preschool, at least in part, to help instill a love of learning. After all, formal education is often easier and more successful for children who have a genuine enthusiasm for learning.
One of the easiest ways to kill that spark of joy is to make your child hate school at an early age. The same goes if you make them think they’re stupid because they don’t understand a lesson. To avoid either of these situations, it’s essential to focus more on relationships than rigor, progress over perfect mastery, and exploration over expert understanding.
Get a Baseline for Your Child’s Knowledge
Instead of printing out a checklist of skills every child should have at the end of pre-k homeschooling, you want to start at your child’s level. For example, if they can’t name any letters yet (which is totally age appropriate!) don’t try to make them memorize sight words!
The best way to gauge their level is to do what teachers call a “formative assessment,” or an ungraded test to get a child’s knowledge baseline. This can be as simple as a conversation where you ask your child questions about letters, numbers, words, and concepts. You also could just spend a day recording the things your child does and says, or have someone keep track for you. Finally, you can include information from your child’s most recent pediatrician appt to help you gauge their level.
What Academic Subjects to Include In your Pre K Homeschooling Year?
There’s a hot debate in many preschool circles about what kinds of academic activities (if any) should happen in preschool. Some, like those who prefer Waldorf styles of thinking, focus more on creativity, social awareness, and the arts. Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool parents emphasize nature studies and nursery rhymes for preschoolers. Other traditional or classical families believe future school success require early attention to memorization and academics.
Regardless of your homeschool style, we can all agree that preschool is a place to both learn and have fun. Here are some ideas that would benefit any preschooler.
The most important piece of advice I can give as a former English teacher is this:
READ TO YOUR PRESCHOOLER. (Was that clear enough? I hope so.)
There are plenty of pre-reading activities you can do with pre-K homeschooling students, but none are more important than frequent, quality exposure to language. Of course, some of this will come from conversations they have and hear in your home. However, oodles of research shows how critical reading to young children is for cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional benefits.
Not sure what to read? Start with things that connect with your child’s daily life. Is it snowing? Read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats or do a mini unit study on it. Are you about to move, or have a new baby, or go to the dentist? Ask your librarian to help you find something that speaks to an upcoming experience. Because obviously, you’re going to be on a first-name basis with the children’s room librarian.
Pre K Homeschooling Books
People still like handy guides, however. We already have a list of great authors for preschool readers, so if I had to make a top ten list of books every preschooler should read, I’d include…
- Winne-the-Pooh Collection by A.A. Milne
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
- Corduroy by Don Freeman
- A Beatrix Potter Treasury by Beatrix Potter
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
- Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry
- The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. (Illustrations by Eric Carle)
- Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site Sherri Duskey Rinker
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
In addition to reading out loud, sing or recite plenty of nursery rhymes. These include plenty of rhyme, repetition, and imagery that tiny humans latch onto. Encourage your preschooler to finish the ends of phrases (which seem to be particularly memorable) once they’ve heard you say “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in” a few times.
(Pro tip: small children love small books. Like, physically tiny books that fit right in their little hands. If you have the choice between a big, encyclopedia-sized book and a collection of small books, go with the latter.)
Preschool children are still learning about their bodies and what they can do, so gym class is essential to pre-k homeschooling. This doesn’t mean having a structured class necessarily, but rather giving plenty of time to run around and play. Offer children new challenges whenever they conquer old ones. These could be indoor activities like climbing piklers, or they could be new playgrounds with bigger equipment. You can also have a dance party, learn to swim, climb a tree, or a thousand other activities. Your goal is to help strengthen & tone your child’s body while increasing their gross motor muscles and flexibility.
Homeschooling Mathematics in Pre K
When they’re in preschool, children don’t need to spend hours doing math worksheets or even playing math games.
Instead, help them see that numbers are all around them. Count the steps it takes to walk to the grocery store. Or count the socks you take out of the wash. Heck, count every tree in the park! If your child is grasping the concept of “five” or “ten,” and knowing the order of numbers, you’re ahead of the game! Feel free to move onto addition.
Again, concrete science lessons are your best bet. Focus on natural phenomena like the weather, floating and sinking, animals, plants, seasons, and their bodies.
Preschoolers love learning about the world around them, and that includes the community you live in! Book a visit to the fire or police station to learn about emergency services, or have them tag along with you the next time you need to visit city hall. Pay attention to the USPS workers, garbage men, electricians, and all kinds of other workers who frequent your neighborhood, and learn about different jobs.
You also might consider helping your preschooler learn important location info that’s specific to them. That means knowing where they live (home address, including city/town and state). You can talk about how far away Grandma lives here, too!
For more reading on this topic:
- How to Inspire Creative Play & Spark Your Child’s Imagination
- Homeschooling Preschool: 5 Tips to Get You Started
- 85+ Fine Motor Activities for Toddlers- Guaranteed to Keep Them Busy!
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.