“The basis for the beginnings of literacy is that children have heard and listened … They have spoken and been spoken to, people have discussed [things] with them … They have asked questions and received answers.”
From The New Preschool is Crushing Kids in The Atlantic.
One of the hardest things about being a mom is being confident in your own decisions. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve researched, how strongly you feel, how convinced you are that you are making the right decision for your family, there is always that quiet voice that bugs you with, “Are you sure?”
I’ve felt that way a lot about preschool lately. We’ve made the decision to be a homeschooling family, and I’ve said over and over again that I believe children learn through play. But every now and then I start to worry that I’m not doing things right. Should I be putting Charlie in preschool? Would it be better for him to be around other kids more and have more structure? Should I at least be more rigorous in my approach to preschool at home? Is it a problem if he doesn’t already know all his letters? Should he really be spending all day playing with cars? Do I need to start teaching him how to read?
These are the questions that run through my head. Especially when it seems everyone else is doing something different. I forget sometimes that just because something is right for one family doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for mine.
So it’s always a relief to me when I read articles like this one. It reminds me of the reasons I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen and helps me feel like I’m not crazy. Some preschools are fabulous and I’m sure are great places for kids to be. But it’s a relief to hear that my kid isn’t going to be worse off in life for spending his preschool years not in school. And it helps to know that just spending time reading and talking, answering his questions and listening to his stories, will serve him just as well as a daily letter craft.
“In order for children to read, write and spell they must be developmentally ready. Some are ready at the age of four or five, some not for many years later. This readiness includes complex neurological pathways and kinesthetic awareness. Such readiness isn’t created by workbooks or computer programs. It’s the result of brain maturation as well as rich experiences found in bodily sensation and movement.”
From Reading Readiness has to do with the Body
This is one of several articles I’ve read in the past year or so explaining the link between a child’s cognitive and physical development. It’s fascinating and not something I remember hearing much about during all my education classes in college. But if you think about it it makes sense. The brain is used for EVERYTHING. Strengthening the neural pathways in one way (through movement) is sure to have benefits for any other task that uses those pathways.
Poppy’s therapists have expressed similar ideas. Development of gross motor movements lay the groundwork for fine motor movements. (Developing the strength to move her trunk from side to side improves her ability to move her tongue from side to side to help her chew.) Meeting certain physical milestones paves the way for cognitive or social skills. (Learning to sit up makes it easier to interact with toys or people. Better core strength makes it possible to use her hands to makes gestures or signs to communicate.)
This makes it even more important that our kids have opportunities to run wild and play freely. Lucky for me, that’s also a whole lot easier than trying to follow a reading curriculum with my preschooler just yet.
Our preschool at home adventure has been going well so far. As I mentioned before, I’m trying to keep it low-key and low-pressure. Charlie spends most of his day playing, as it should be. Official “school time” only happens for maaaybe half an hour 3 or 4 times a week.
With that said, Charlie really likes doing school. And I really enjoy it too. When it comes to planning I’m finding it works best for me to plan out about 10 days worth of activities all in one sitting. This means I only plan for school about once every 3 or 4 weeks.
One of the things we’ve been focusing a lot on lately has been the letters of the alphabet. My goal right now is for Charlie to recognize and name all the upper and lowercase letters and begin to learn some of the sounds associated with them. He was already picking up on a lot of the letter names just though osmosis, so our school time is really just reinforcing and filling in the gaps. I fully intend to do another round (or two) of “letter of the day” type lessons farther down the road to go along with a greater emphasis on phonics and handwriting. Right now it’s just about recognition and exposure.
I’ve found a few resources that we’ve been using over and over. They make planning activities easy and Charlie really seems to enjoy doing them.
- Alphabet books: To help reinforce the letter sounds, we’ve been using these alphabet books from The Measured Mom. I’ve found that they give really good examples (with clear pictures!) of words that start with each letter. I’ve been wanting to give Charlie opportunities to practice using scissors, so rather than print it out as a book as intended, I’ve been printing them all on one page to create small picture cards. I draw lines between each picture for Charlie to cut on and then we use the pictures to either glue to a collage or save for a letter sorting activity.
- Letter sorting: Using our pictures from the alphabet books, I would read to Charlie the word on each card (exaggerating the beginning sound) and have him decide what letter it started with. We started with letters that have very different sounds and will eventually work our way up to more challenging pairs.
Letter Hunt: Another printable activity from Confessions of a Homeschooler are these letter hunt pages. The funny sentences on each page reinforce the letter sounds and I think it’s good practice to be able to identify a particular letter out of a sea of other letters. Once again we use our Do-A-Dot markers to highlight the letter we are searching for.
Letter flashcard match: Charlie actually made up this game one day as we were looking at some Dr. Suess letter flashcards we had on hand. As I would hold up a card, he would run to the kitchen to find the matching letter from his set of alphabet magnets on the fridge. It was a fun way to add a bit of movement to an activity that’s usually pretty stationary.
- Letter pre-writing in playdoh: Charlie isn’t quite ready to begin handwriting practice yet, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn about the shapes of the letters. One activity we’ve tried is pressing beans in playdoh along the outline of a letter. It’s a great little activity to develop those fine motor muscles.
So far these have made up the bulk of our school time together. I’m sure we’ll have to mix it up eventually and find some new activities to teach the letters, but I’ve been really happy with these so far. If you’re looking for more resources for preschool learning activities be sure to follow my pinterest board. I’m always finding great ideas and resources!
Follow Amy’s board Homeschool on Pinterest.