It’s the time of year when most of our little friends fill their backpacks with fresh crayons, glue, pencils, and scissors and head off to preschool or kindergarten. But not our girls! We’ve made the decision to start their school years at home.
I don’t have a formal background in early childhood education (I was an English major with ESL and creative writing minors), but my own research and instinct tells me that (in general) play-based learning is a good fit for our family at this current stage of life. You may discover that your home preschool should have a more academic, fact-based focus. Whatever your inclination, read on to learn about five unique approaches to learning and teaching.
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This fall, our girls will be two and four. I believe that our two-year-old will learn everything she needs through daily life. She will take part in activities that interest her, but she won’t have any sort of “curriculum.” (I collect my favorite ideas on my Toddler Play pinterest board.)
I would like to be a bit more intentional with our four-year-old this year. I don’t plan to buy or follow a formal curriculum, but I want to offer her opportunities to dig deeper into things that are already of interest to her, introduce her to new/unfamiliar subjects and lessons, experiment with different styles of learning, and guide her as she playfully acquires the knowledge and skill sets necessary of a preschooler.
Recently, a friend shared with me this “Five Flavors of Homeschooling” video quiz that is meant to help parents decide their style of homeschooling. According to the quiz, my style is a combination of Unschooling and Charlotte Mason.
Unschooling a Preschooler
Unschooling sounds scary, right? I think the big fear is that unschooled kids will end up with big gaps in their education! But the basic premise (as I understand it) of unschooling is that you learn through living life. We definitely do that at our house.
The book Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners excited me to give my girls more freedom to explore their personal interests and passions. There are so many great quotes in this book. How about this gem:
“Project-based homeschooling isn’t a wrestling match or a power struggle, because the child gets to learn about whatever interests him. Rather than educating him with a carrot or a stick, we are taking a half-step back and saying, ‘I’m here to help you in whatever way I can.’ We become mentors, sharing our thinking and learning skills and hopefully transferring them. We become stronger learners ourselves as we work with our child.” (Pickert, 8)
And then on the next page:
“In project-based homeschooling, you zero in on what interests your child and stay there as long as she is interested. She’s not on her own; you’re there with materials, support, feedback, interest. With the same enthusiasm and passion that you might transfer a beloved skill (breadmaking, woodworking, tennis), you help your child acquire the skills to think, learn, make, and do.” (Pickert, 9)
I like the sound of that.
A Reggio-Emilia-inspired approach would include a lot of project-based learning. You can read more about using Reggio Emilia methods in your home preschool in THIS post from An Everyday Story.
Charlotte Mason Preschool
I like the theory of unschooling, but I am, by nature, a structured person. Perhaps this is why Charlotte Mason appeals to me? From what I understand, there’s structure in the Charlotte Mason model, but no formal schooling until seven. I like that. It sounds a bit like Finland’s awesome educational model. With the Charlotte Mason method, there’s also a strong emphasis on nature and natural learning which reminds me of the little I know (and like) about Reggio schooling.
Check out this quote about the early years of Charlotte Mason material from Ambleside Online (which has free homeschool curriculum):
“The most important Year 0 goal, after physical health, according to Charlotte Mason, is time spent outside. “. . .[T]he chief function of the child–his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life–is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects. . . .” (CM’s OHS, V1, p.96)”
I really like the sound of that!
Unit Studies in Preschool
In our preschool co-op (you can read all about it HERE), we do more of what’s called “Unit Studies.” We take a topic or theme and do hands-on projects that center around the assigned theme. So if the theme is “apples” we may make apple prints, count our apple slices at snack time, read Apple Farmer Annie, and visit an apple orchard.
You can find lists of ideas for unit studies and themes via the links on these blogs:
Montessori at Home
From what I understand, the Montessori method focuses on academics, but children are encouraged to learn by themselves and at their own pace. There is a strong emphasis on independence, practical life activities, and natural learning.
If you’re interested in reading more about Montessori in the home, this infographic about what makes an activity “Montessori” from Racheous Lovable Learning is a great place to start.
Traditional and Classical Approaches to Preschool
If the above methods don’t seem to fit with your family, you may be more interested in the traditional or classical approach. These methods are not the same, but they both tend to align with academic preschools. You’re probably familiar with the “traditional” style of learning if you attended public schools. From what I understand, it usually includes textbooks and workbooks.
Click HERE to read more about classical education.
So what do you think? Are any of these options right for your family’s home preschool?
For more preschool ideas, follow our preschool play board!