I’ve waited a bit to do my first preschool post because, well, I’m now officially teaching FIVE children at home and time just flies away from me constantly these days. Granted, I am only managing three grade levels, but it is a lot of work and requires me to be on my toes at all times. Of course, preschool with the twins does not last for four hours per day like the older girls’ classes, but we are “doing school” daily as a way to keep schedule and get them used to sitting in one place for forty-five minutes. I remind myself often that If Susannah Wesley (the mother of 19!) could homeschool all her children all the way through to adulthood, I think I can handle five with a nursing baby!
I’ve mentioned before that I’m very utilitarian when it comes to preschool. I wish I had all the time in the world and could do the thousands of ridiculously fun and interesting preschool crafts on Pinterest. Really, I do. In fact, I’ve considered saving some of those great ideas for when either of two scenarios occurs…a) I can clone myself or b) when I have grandchildren. Neither is likely to happen any time soon, so I stick to the basics – reading, writing, and arithmetic. There is no point in longingly looking over all the things we could do with our time, because I know how precious these few months with the twins will be before Ketziah is a crawling 9 month old, getting into everything and demanding my full and undivided attention whenever she is awake. My goal is to get through shapes, colors, and all 26 letters of the alphabet, as well as solid counting practice before then. I did not use a particular preschool program with any of the older three girls because I didn’t really need the distraction of all the worksheets and crafts. They learned by my side as we washed dishes, played outside, sorted toys, etc. It was very much a natural part of their toddler years, and I enjoyed teaching this way. Back then I called it “Poster School” because we spent a few minutes each day looking at large, full-color posters that contained all the basics that preschoolers should know. Jaelah, Selah, and Chavah are quite solid readers at this stage, so clearly the bare-bones method works. But the twins often look longingly at all the beautiful school supplies that are available to the girls now, and they cannot stand that they don’t get to have some dedicated time each day with said supplies. So I had to figure out a way to incorporate scissors, glue, pencils, markers, markers, and WORKSHEETS of some kind into their day. Letter of the Week curriculum over at Confessions of a Homeschooler proved to be just the thing to get us into school mode without making me go crazy with all the options. The curriculum is extremely straightforward and simple, and we use it right alongside the Preschool Daily Learning Notebook that Erica designed as well. Though the lessons are heavy on printer ink due to all the printables, I get our refills at Costco for $9.99 per cartridge and that will last us for quite awhile. Even when we do all the writing, numbers, and letter activities, we only spend about 45 minutes per day with their learning. This includes memory verses and calendar time. Read alouds are separate since we do those with Chavah. I like Erica’s materials because she often offers the downloads for free, however, I did go ahead and just pay for the LOTW program so I could get it all downloaded at once. It’s a great value for what is included!
I have to say that having a scheduled format for preschool is quite nice. Having done a more “unschooled” approach before, I can see how teachers could appreciate the specific repetition provided by printable worksheets and dry erase markers (using the worksheets in a page protector, erase daily, save $$ on ink!). We started our preschool on the same day the big girls started HSC. After a celebratory trip to Starbucks for hot chocolate and banana bread, we headed home to hit the notebooks. I never expected the twins to like school as much as they do. Apparently, they were in desperate need of the structure which before now had not really been a part of their day. I mean, how much structure can twin 3 year olds handle anyway? I was jaw-dropping shocked at how much Noah has enjoyed all the activities, including WRITING! I’ve been warned often that boys do not care for the fine motor skills training as early as girls do and was totally prepared to have him shrug it off until he was quite a bit older, but he actually has better handwriting form than Hosannah and it is just precious how dedicated and thorough he is as he slowly and delicately traces his letters. He must be an intellectual like his daddy! It has come as a surprise that he has been more than willing to sit still for the entire 45 minutes of school, then pout when I say that we’re finished for the day. Now of course, we are not into the more in-depth training that we will get to as we continue to learn, but what a pleasant surprise that I don’t have to separate Hosannah and Noah right now. I really don’t know if I could handle it, as I knew for sure Hosannah was ready for some kind of “formal” something, but God’s mercy to me is wonderful in that Noah has jumped on board heart and soul. It is a blessing to be able to efficiently combine children whenever I can for whatever I can.
Thanks to the Maxwell’s scheduling materials, we are setting aside blocks of time for those fun educational activities that always end up in toy boxes but never really played with. We even have a slot for “engineering” because YES, playing creatively with K’NEX blocks does count and forces them to think outside the box. I do have to say that one of the pricier and yet completely worthwhile investments I made for the twins’ school is Inchimals. Oh my word, you would thing they’d died and gone to heaven! These blocks are extremely sturdy and really FUN to play with. All the kids join in for “math time” when these blocks come out. I love it when someone else’s inventive genius makes my kids’ school day that much more enjoyable!
We’ll see how long I can ride this wave of enthusiastic toddler excitement. Since everyone in the house is constantly talking it up, hopefully it can last for quite awhile.