This month Little Man turned 10. This milestone has me reflecting a lot on how much I have changed over the past decade in how I think about the world. We decided shortly after he was born that we were going to homeschool him and any other kids God entrusted to us. That decision was a big one for us. Originally we were going to send our kids to private school After all; I worked at a private preschool that was attached to one of the best private schools where we live. However, God had different plans for us. God changed our minds and we kept Little Man, along with the rest of our kids, at home. We have never once second guessed our decision and everyday, our decision is confirmed in some way.
One of the first things that transformed was my thinking about exactly what “school” should look like. At first, I tried to make it look just like the preschool and “regular” school. I did circle time with him, read to him, sang with him, did crafts, and everything else I did when I taught preschool – all good things to do. I tried to make school last for three hours everyday and missed the mark completely. When Little Man got older, I tried to mimic a normal classroom school day. I realized he was not retaining much of what we were doing and he wasn’t really enjoying learning. Some kids love this structure but he was not one of them.
I learned quickly, that school is so much more than the daily activities done in school. Much of what is done in preschool is really designed to keep the kids occupied until they are picked up. Many kids are not ready to learn their letters and numbers formally until they are four or five and some really can’t grasp them until they are six. Our society has pushed for kids to start “learning” earlier and earlier. But most kids just are not ready and pushing them is not really helping them.
My mindset about school has changed dramatically since then. I still do formal school stuff with my littles but my picture of formal school has changed dramatically. Little G does school everyday. Most of what she learns is during normal everyday life stuff. She helps sort clothes, tells me the colors of toys while we clean up, counts (she knows 1,2 so far) the cups or spoons when we do dishes, and identifies the ingredients when cooking a meal. All of this is school. I also read to her and she reads to me. Books play a major role in our day. We read tons of books and always seem to check out our limit at the library. She also works with counting bears, pattern blocks, tangrams, and linking cubes at the table while the older kids are doing schoolwork. (These are manipulatives necessary for Saxon Math. You can get them at your local school supply store or you can get them online.) She also has done her first lapbook. I found a site that has tot-books that are lapbooks designed for toddlers. I also give her tons of color pages to do while we are at the table. She does those for school while the kids are working on their written work. She is starting to show an interest in her letters so I am going to start her with some color pages that have letters on them so she can begin recognizing them. She also loves folder games. She loves to match colors and shapes. If we don’t do the formal stuff during the day, I no longer think that I haven’t done school. Instead I look at all the learning opportunities she had throughout her day and I realize just how much she is learning.
Here are some of the amazing sites out there that are full of things to do with a toddler/preschooler.
DLTk's Printables - This site and all of her sister sites are so awesome! There are activities galore and they are all grouped by themes. She also has a coloring page site that is filled with all sorts of categories of color pages.
First-School Preschool - This site has letter activities and so many other worksheets and you can print out.
Kidzone - Fun Facts for Kids - This site is also a gold mine of traceables, counting pages and much more.
TLS Books - So many free printable worksheets for every age/ability level, I cannot even begin to list them.
Preschool Printables - Folder games. Toddlers/Preschoolers well even my 10 year old enjoy games. These games are affixed to a folder and provide a lot of fun while they are learning a concept. Just a little bit of assembly and if you want some clear contact paper for sturdiness provides hours of fun. For even more folder game sites you can click here and here for my other two posts of links to more free printable folder games.
Tot School - This site is newer to my bookmarks. She set up a site that gives tons of ideas for teaching a toddler. I found it while reading other blogs that talked about tot school. There is also her other site, Tot Books they are mini lapbooks perfect for toddlers. Little G just did her first one, and she is so proud of it. She carries it around and looks through it many times during the day.