THIS TOO SHALL PASS
I looked out the window today and saw a frantic mama wren. Four hungry mouths, all crying at once, all of them needing me at the same time. This mama house wren’s overwhelming task took me back a few years when I was as twittering as she.
Hers flew out of the nest sooner than mine, though. (I’m not jealous of that.) It’s hard as a young mama in the Thick of Things to realize it will be over soon. Too soon. We must hang in there and train our babies well. In just a few years, our training will have paid off: They’ll make their own food, we’ll have time to feed ourselves (yes, really), and with the leftover time, we can do all sorts of nonsense like look out the window at birds.
But this phase…this too shall pass. Let’s hold onto it with all we can, while we can.
MAY I HAVE A BIT OF PAPER?
The following is from my journal:
Our youngest asked to keep the pocket notebook – a hardback, blank-paged journal – for her back pocket at today’s field trip. She also requested the little pencil for her front pocket. I’d just purchased it – hadn’t gotten to use it yet – so I wanted to say, “no.”
Then I remembered my favorite lines of The Secret Garden, “May I have a bit of earth?” asks Mary Lennox of her wealthy uncle. She takes him by surprise. He wonders why she would want that, of all things she could ask.
I don’t wonder why. And so, too, I understand when our little girl wants a bit of paper for her pocket. I do, too, want a bit of earth and a bit of paper.
AN ENVIRONMENT FOR LEARNING
Every now and then a mother visits and sees our youngest gal drawing with pencils, sometimes markers. The mother usually asks, “you leave that out? It doesn’t get on the walls; she’s careful with it?” Yes, we leave that pencil or marker out. There are also scissors out – about eight pairs (we lose them often) in a basket along with washi tape and glue sticks. Stickers, colored paper, lined paper, construction paper, foam sheets are all in drawers. A small red 3-drawer container holds pens & pencils (colored and drawing) in one drawer, crayons in one, and markers in another. A very large box of white typing paper is under the desk.
Everything is free to use. At any time. The children may take the materials to the schoolroom table nearby, to the kitchen table, to the countertop where I’m cooking nearby. They may take the items to the playhouse – why, yes, even outdoors. They know to return them. We do lose bits now and then (I mentioned why we have 8 pairs of scissors), but the items aren’t expensive since we buy them in August or September when they’re on sale.
But what would be expensive – far more expensive than a dollar or two – is missing the opportunity to capture creativity while it may be captured. When the materials are there, ready to be taken, she feels free to draw. He feels free to create.
There is no stress to be careful with each piece of paper or to be frugal with the supplies. We respect the supplies. We take care of them (crayon-breaking is absolutely not allowed, as each of our 4 toddlers has had to learn), but they may be freely used.
In a nearby closet are watercolors, acrylic paints, clay, glitter, wet glue, and more expensive art papers. These may be used freely, too, but a little one needs to ask for them. They are not accessible as freely as the other items are.
CHOOSING THE INFLUENCERS IN OUR CHILD’S LIFE
When a child is preschool age, we the parents have to choose wisely and carefully who gets to influence our children. At their young ages, they are sponges, we must be careful of our choices.
It’s hard to go against the flow, especially with a first child, because we are so afraid we’re going to mess them up. After over a decade of being a parent, I can write with confidence that parents can’t mess up a young child by loving them and keeping them under their influence. Children grow and flourish under a parent’s love.
We can be confident that we are enough for a child this age; they don’t need other teachers or outside experiences. Home is as large as a world to little ones, and it is enough for now.
PRACTICAL TIPS: HOW WE HOMESCHOOL OUR PRESCHOOLER
Okay, now that we’re assured we won’t wreck her career by teaching her through preschool, let’s get down to the practical aspect of it. Say you are planning on putting your child into regular school in Kindergarten, at age 5, and you need her to be ready for that. Your two options are to put her into a preschool program or prepare her yourself.
To be frank, we don’t do much “on purpose” with our preschooler. We do a lot of what I call “accidental education.” I don’t worry about when she’ll develop written or drawing skills or verbal skills or any of that. Instead, I’ve realized – after having three kids before her – that they are all different, so will develop at different speeds. I would only worry if she was terribly delayed. Instead, we keep things interesting around here, we keep learning things accessible as mentioned above, and we limit no-brainer or low-brainer things like time on electronic screens. We are okay with a mess if that means learning is being done (learning how to clean up is also encouraged and taught).
Here are some things we do to homeschool our preschooler:
Our preschooler has her own desk, with two bench chairs and a big wooden box that goes under the desk. In the box are board books. Lots of them.
On top of her desk is a plastic organizer with 3 drawers and a lift-up lid on the top. In one drawer is pencils, colored and plain; in one drawer is markers; in the other is crayons. In the flip-up lid is erasers and paper clips.
In our school room now, we have two organizer carts – the ones with bigger drawers. But even when we had a much smaller house, we still found a place for things, but scattered them around the house more – a box under this bed, a tote under that bed, a basket of beads by the couch and one of books by the entertainment stand, an organizer cart next to my desk, etc.
In different drawers, organized, are papers of many types: construction paper, cardstock, stickers, typing paper, lined paper, small pictures from magazines or purchased, a few magazines to cut out, and any other kind of paper I find. Sometimes even fabric makes its way to the drawers.
Another organizer cart holds interesting things children can use at will: one drawer holds decorative scissors (they aren’t as sharp) and child’s scissors. Another drawer holds a stapler, hole punches; one has tape and glue sticks. And one drawer has educational “toys,” like a LeapPad, a toddler microphone/speaker, a harmonica, a tamborine, a recorder, a Math twist toy, and different sizes of Magna Doodles.
On shelves are books. Lots and lots of them.
We change things up a lot. I’ll find new board books or new scissors or new educational toys on sale somewhere and add them to the drawers, removing something old or uninteresting. Also, I regularly gather things from around the house they might like to have in their drawers, like scraps of cloth from old clothes, or buttons, or keys, and definitely Mardi Gras beads….they love using these things for counting, gluing, colors, etc.
When cousins and friends come to our house, they are immediately self-amused with all they can do. There are no rules about those things, they can use them at will, they only have to clean up after themselves.
THE PRESCHOOLER IS THE TEACHER
In this way, the kids are able to self-learn. At their own pace. Which I think is important to their self-esteem and helps them retain the learning.
Our preschooler often grabs something from the room and takes to to one of us to do with her. Tonight, I was the lucky one. She brought the Magna Doodle and while I watched a show with her older sister, I drew different animals on the Magna Doodle and our little gal said their names and their noises. Then she drew some things for me to identify. That’s what accidental learning is, at its best: time on a parent’s lap, thinking you’re having fun, but learning at the same time.
All a preschooler needs to learn is ….. well, honestly, nothing, academically. Kindergarten is only a rerun of preschool and first grade reruns even that again for the first semester. I asked a teacher once what our eldest child needed to know to begin Kindergarten in her class. “Nothing,” she said, “We begin with A and we begin with 1.” I took that to heart and have ever since allowed the preschooler to lead me in what we should learn together.
TWO FREE PRESCHOOL CURRICULUM CHOICES
Our little gal spent some time on Starfall when I needed her to sit still, in view, and be safe, such as while I was cooking dinner. See what you think about Starfall, and also Letter of the Week, which is a curriculum useful for a homeschooling teacher who wants some direction in what books to read, or how to teach through the alphabet: Two Free Preschoool Curriculum Choices