Preschool, for us, starts somewhere after their 3rd birthday, whenever we start school for the year, that year. My oldest was 3 in December, so we started school in January. When my 3rd was 3 in March, she started with us in September. My 4th was 3 in September, so she waited until January to join us in homeschool.
My main goal for preschool is reading readiness, of course. I aim to give my girls the foundation for literacy. I make sure they are very familiar with the letters and their sounds by the end of the year.
We also work on numeracy. My focus is counting, with a goal of being able to count to 20 unaided. I also want my preschooler to understand the one-to-one relationship, and be able to recognize the 10 digits (0-9).
Fine motor skills are my third priority. I expect that my children will be able to hold a pencil/marker/crayon correctly. They also need to have enough control to form letters legibly. And we work on cutting neatly with scissors.
The early elementary years for me are all about skill building. There’s too much information out there to hope to cover everything thoroughly during the limited time I have them for homeschool. So we focus on the skills necessary for learning throughout our school years. But I prioritize skill building for the first 3 years or so, as a foundation for all the other learning tools I teach later on.
Here are my favorite tools, sites and printables for homeschooling preschool:
– Brightly Beaming Resources — this homeschool mom has written and designed her own curriculum for the early elementary years, and has published it on her site for free! From book lists to science activities, everything you need for a full tot school, preschool, kindergarten and first grade is there. She’s even been working on geography, science and fine arts appreciation curriculum, so check back for updates!
– Confessions of a Homeschooler — a busy mom of many, this homeschooler also created her own preschool and kindergarten curriculums. You can go through the posts and download each printable set separately for free, or purchase a complete kit for about $10 or so. I printed out almost everything and laminated it for use for multiple children, as the alphabet activities are amazing.
– Raising Rockstars — my other favorite place for free/cheap printables for this age level is 1+1+1=1. They offer downloadable packs covering various topics, and even themed printables for reading and math activities. Your child loves dinosaurs? Check out pre-printing tracing on dinosaur-themed worksheets.
– LeapFrog videos – I know screen time is a controversial topic, especially with preschoolers, but I love a multimedia approach. We used the Leapfrog video series to cement the phonics concepts of the letter sounds, blends and digraphs, vowel rules and storybook structure. The 4 videos in order are: Letter Factory, Talking Word Factory, Word Caper and Storybook Factory.
Fine motor skills
–About.com — I found this series of alphabet-based coloring books and printable tracing pages several years ago. I printed out a set, and I’ve copied them every year for my new preschooler that year. These are excellent for working on fine motor and phonics skills at the same time.
–HWT — Handwriting without Tears has a great series of workbooks for the early elementary years. I start with “My First School Book” in preschool. While you can purchase a kit that includes a chalkboard, large wooden pieces and teacher’s manual with extra activities, they aren’t necessary to use the workbooks. (You could get your own chalkboard at a dollar store, and use paper pieces instead of wood, if you like).
–Rod & Staff — we are a religious family, so I like this publisher for simple, clear concepts and theologically sound stories (without denomination bias). I use their ABC series of books to help teach fine motor skills and familiarity with the stories. There are literacy and math concepts too, which is a nice bonus. What’s really fun about these books is the frequent opportunity to practice cut and paste, without extra equipment or craft prep.
–Toys — I’ve invested, over the years, in a number of educational-but-fun toys. Things like lacing cards, board and cardboard puzzles, large wooden beads, cars and trucks and playmats, solid wood colorful building blocks and wooden train tracks. These are great for teaching patterns, sizes, sorting skills, geometry, counting and other math reasoning skills.
Check your toy cupboards or playrooms for things you can use in your homeschool! My favorite toy manufacturer is Melissa and Doug, but you can even create some of these things yourself.
–Mazes/Dot-to-dots — Math, for me, begins with an understanding of yourself in space. We do printable mazes and dot-to-dots of course, but we also do life-size versions. Corn mazes, obstacle courses, and even just chalk on a sidewalk or masking tape on a floor are all great ways to encourage problem solving, gross motor, and mathematical reasoning skills.
–Life skills and arts/crafts — Math and art go hand-in-hand. (Don’t believe me? Check out this study on the relationship between math and music.) We practice our math skills when we are cooking, baking, making rhythms or singing songs, and creating art. Markers on paper, shape cutting or ripping, playdough, stamping and even painting are all fantastic ways to make sense of the world mathematically.
–Starfall.com — while providing amazing interactive simple readers for kids, I actually like Starfall for their math activities, more. The concepts of place value, basic addition and subtraction, skip counting and telling time are all introduced and practiced repeatedly with these simple graphic games and activities.
You can purchase a subscription to access all the activities, but we’ve done just fine with just the free ones. They even have a mobile app, meaning I can use it as a educational distraction when we need to wait for something while we’re out.
–Lapbooks — I am in love with lapbooks. They feature prominently in our homeschool, as they are portable, easy to use and put together, and offer plenty of opportunities to explore different concepts in science, history, art, geography or any other content subject.
My favorite place to purchase affordable downloadable lapbooks is CurrClick. My favorite publishers include Hands of a Child, Homeschool in the Woods, Intelligo, Journey of a Child and Evan-Moor.
–Chalk Preschool — for a multimedia approach, I really enjoy this site. They offer circle-time videos, with the encouragement to practice social skills and math and science concepts. The short but fun videos talk about season changes, calendaring, weather and space. There are several levels to choose from. My girls really liked the host/teacher and the songs are still remembered several years later.
How long to do school?
Preschool for us is an immersive experience. We encourage learning all the time. However, formal seatwork is about 20 minutes per day. I do require my children to learn to sit and work, even for only 5 minutes at a time, as that is also a foundational skill for future academic (and even career) success.
Preschool is fun!
Preschool doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. It’s not a complicated thing, nor does it require a fancy complex curriculum. With a few free printables and some planning, you can introduce, practice and master key skills and concepts. You can have fun doing it too. Use what’s around you, answer their questions and encourage your child to explore. Preschool can be an amazing introduction to the whole homeschool experience.