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As of right now, our plan is to possibly, maybe, perhaps try homeschooling our kids.
There are a lot of things to like about public schools (sports, music, theater, teachers with specialized areas of expertise). And there are lots of things to love about homeschool (flexible schedule, more time to play, no pressure to teach to the test, shorter school days). I want it all! I want the best of both worlds. So our current plan (possibly, maybe, perhaps) is to homeschool (unschool, world school, home-based learning, etc) until about first and second grade.
Right now, my biggest struggle is that most of our my oldest daughter’s peers (age three and up) are in private preschools. We’re feeling kind of lonely in our homeschool plan. This led to a burning desire to find like-minded moms who would be willing to be involved in a homeschool preschool co-op.
What’s a homeschool preschool cooperative? Good question! To read how we set up our preschool co-op, check out this document on Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s free!
I also thought it would be helpful if I spelled out what our typical co-op morning looks like.
- We meet once a week for about two hours at a time.
- The examples I’m providing are from our color unit.
- Our group has a mixture of ages from infant to three.
- We like to offer some consistency in terms of location for the kids, so our plan is to rotate homes with each new unit.
- Right now, we focus on one theme/unit for three weeks at a time.
- All of the moms stay, participate, and contribute.
- Since we’re teaching in community, we can pool our resources. There has been very little (if any!) out-of-pocket expenses. So far, the biggest cost has been snack!
Ready to see what we’ve learned from a little trial and a lot of error? Okay, here ya go!
Homeschool Preschool Co-Op Schedule
10:00 a.m.–We arrive at our host’s home.
The kids have time for free play while the moms organize and set up. After the kids have a chance to explore the different and exciting toys, it’s easier to entice them into a more structured activity.
10:15 or 10:30–Snack. We experimented with moving snack time to different parts of the morning and have found that snack at the beginning works best for us. The kids are all eager to gather together and focus on the food, and full bellies (usually) mean less meltdowns.
With a little food coloring, my friend turned whipped cream and graham crackers into a colorful and yummy learning experience. While the little ones eat, the moms catch up and take turns interacting with the kiddos. We ask simple questions like:
- What does it taste like? Is it cold or hot? Is it sticky? Is it wet? Is it sour? Is it sweet?
- What color are you eating? What happens when you mix those two colors together?
- Is it yummy? Would you like more? Can you use your nice words to ask? Do any of your other friends look like they need more, too?
We gather the kids for some focused play time. In a formal preschool, this might be called circle time.
We start with a few songs. One of the other moms has a children’s CD that she found at the dollar store a few years back. It’s fantastic! Youtube is a great resource. Other moms offer songs from their kids’ music classes or their personal educational training.
Since this particular unit focused on colors, the kids had brightly colored pieces of fabric to wave and shake. With the dancing, singing, and full-body motions, our circle time becomes a great opportunity to engage those gross motor skills.
Once we’ve shaken out our sillies, sung our hellos, patted our head, shoulders, knees, and toes, and clapped our hands because we’re happy and we know it, we gather around for a story. So far, all of our books come from the library.
A few books that are good for a color unit:
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle
Freight Train by Donald Crews
The Deep Blue Sea by Audrey Wood.
Because our group has mixed ages of children, you can definitely see the developmental differences during our reading time. The older kids (usually) sit attentively and interact with the “teacher” and story. The one-year-olds wander off, climb, chew on toys, and sometimes take a peek at the book or their friends.
The moms in our group all believe in the power and importance of social learning. So even if the kids don’t seem engaged 100% of the time, we believe they’re still learning through the experience. Some children may join in when they hear older (or younger) siblings giggle at the story. They may see their friends listening attentively to the story and decide they’re interested, too. They follow simple instructions (“It’s time to sit on the floor”). They practice taking turns. They hear books read aloud and make connections between the words they hear, the pictures they see, and the activities they try. These are the things we want our children to learn. This is why we’re doing the co-op.
11:30–Art, Craft, or Sensory Activity
We put the art, craft, and sensory activities at the end of the morning, because they can be very stimulating. Can you guess where we find the best ideas? Pinterest! Follow my “Preschool Play” board to see my favorite ideas. Most of the activities we choose are great for improving fine motor skills.
Over the course of our three-week color unit, here are a few ideas we tried:
Play dough invitation: One of the moms cooked up a big batch of playdough in a rainbow of colors. How did the kids play? However they liked! We offered rolling pins, cookie cutters, stamps (like these). It was hard to move on, because the kids didn’t want to stop.
Finger paint: On this particular day, we realized that no one in our group had finger paint. No worries. We improvised! Finger paint is oh-so-easy to make. Here are eleven super simple recipes that all use three ingredients or less. We chose the flour option. It’s baby safe!
Sorting: We started with a box of colorful toys (balls, MegaBloks, nesting bowls) and a few sheets of construction paper. We directed the older kids to put each toy on the matching color of construction paper. For the younger kiddos, we simply cheered them on and named the colors as they picked up and explored each of the toys.
After we’re done with our activities, we help clean up and head home. It really is as easy and fun as it sounds!
So what to you think? It’s pretty simply, right? Does this bring up any questions?
One of my friends, Melissa, is the brains behind the academic planning of our homeschool preschool co-op. She has an advanced degree in education, and she only recently left her job as a preschool teacher to be a SAHM. If you’re looking for preschool curriculum, she’s shared the plans of our water unit on Teachers Pay Teachers. You can find the three-week unit (with detailed weekly plans, printables, and enrichment activities for home) here for only $3: Preschool Co-Op Water Unit.
For more sample schedules, check out what my friend Shaunna at Fantastic Fun and Learning does with her home preschool and how Genny from In Lieu of Preschool manages her day.