Tag: school

Preschool: Z is for Zebra

I can’t believe it… we’ve finally reached the end of the alphabet!  When you’re singing the alphabet song it doesn’t seem that long, but when you’re teaching one letter a week – with review weeks every now and then – it takes forever.

Granted, in comparison to a traditional school schedule, we’ve finished early.  But we’re not a traditional school and – technically – Gwen is pre-pre-K.  So I’m trying not to worry about it, but I am wondering what to do next time around.  Any ideas for an advanced preschooler who’s not quite ready for K-level stuff?

After Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day – the story during Easter week – He said goodbye to His friends and family and ascended to Heaven.  Jesus’ return to Heaven was our story for the week; our Bible verse was John 14:2 – In my father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.

Ironically, all the times we’ve been to the zoo with our membership, we don’t even make it to the zoo when it’s our theme for the week!  I printed out Oopsey Daisy’s Zoo Check-Off List just in case but we didn’t get around to using it.  No worries – we’ll go again this Summer! 

Instead, the kids made their own playdough and popsicle stick zoo cages


Playdough is always a big hit and it always evolves into more creative play – and of course a mess.  I didn’t get a chance to make a batch of homemade play dough, but the kids did get a container in an Easter basket from their Meme, one of only a couple non-candy items I didn’t give away! 

Since we were already settled at the table I brought out a few printables I had prepared.  Montessori for Everyone has Animal Families cards in their Zoology section; I printed them on cardstock and had the kiddos match the mommies, daddies and babies.  There are only four types of animals and it’s pretty easy, but we also talked about how each member in an animal family has a different name.



In their zoo theme, KidSparkz has animal skin patterns so I printed them out smaller and had the kiddos match them to the correct animals.  We didn’t have a snake so we made one from playdough! 

Throughout the week we used some of the zoo-themed printables from 2 Teaching Mommies.  I helped Gwen categorize plant-eaters and meat-eaters; she had to think back to the times we’ve seen what animals were eating, like the giraffes pulling leaves from the trees or seeing pictures of lions with their catch.


I’ve used them before, like in our water unit (though I think I forgot to mention them), and the kids love playing with water beads.  I guess they’re all the rage, so I decided to order some from Amazon.  They’re pretty cheap and afford hours of play, but I was surprised how delicate they are.  If they get squished – or dropped on the floor – they break into a gel-y mess.  We pretended this was the aquarium part of the zoo.

Gwen put the whole Little People A-Z Learning Playset together by herself. 

We watched “The Zoo Train” Signing Time DVD and afterwards the kids pretended to be camels – it was the silliest thing!

And since I’m all about the food, I just had to make these giraffe and elephant sandwiches for the kiddos – even though they’re rather laborious to put together.  Phil just kisses my forehead and tells me how cute I am, trying to make them happy.


No surprise here, our word for the week was zebra.  Many of the things we did involved zebras, like Gwen’s Do-A-Dot page, color-by-numberletter hunt and tracing page (the latter from Oopsey Daisy’s Z is for Zoo Mommy Packet).


The kiddos had fun making their zebra Zs and putting big, googly eyes on them.  Josiah doesn’t care that they’re only supposed to have two eyes. 


The next popular zoo animal?  Giraffe.  These are from dry-erase and alphabet dot-to-dot books.


Since Gwen love mazes, we did a letter Z maze; she almost always starts from both ends and meets in the middle.

Gwen did the pre-writer tracing pages from the zoo unit, some pages in one of her workbooks (look at the zebra she drew!), a zoo train hidden picture in her Highlights’ Hidden Puzzles magazine and letter Z matching that I put in a page protector for dry erase. 


For dessert one day I got this great idea to make a zebra cake!  I turned it into more of a banana bread and the stripes were really pretty.  It tasted pretty plain but I would love to make it again, maybe more chocolate-y this time.

We worked on counting with the number clip cards from the zoo unit along with some number dot-to-dot.


Our color of the week was red, and it just so happened that Gwen picked an all-red outfit on our color day.  In addition to reading a bunch of books about the color red, Gwen did a page from one of her workbooks and we made sure to munch on strawberries during the week.

Since I didn’t already have a rhyme picked out for our last week, I resorted to education.com’s alphabet nursery rhymes.  Their Letter Z: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a big hit!  It has lots of Z sounds and the kiddos got a kick out of it. 

Bulletin Board

Book Basket
Animal Strike at the Zoo
Never, EVER Shout in a Zoo
Good Night, Gorilla
Spots – Counting Creatures from Sky to Sea
A Horse Lover’s Alphabet – Appaloosa Zebra
My Heart is Like a Zoo
Curious George Visits the Zoo

The Z Was Zapped
Zack’s Alligator
Berlioz the Bear
The Fairies’ Alphabet Book

Zero the Hero
1, 2, 3 to the Zoo

A Pair of Red Clogs
The Red Book
Llama Llama Red Pajama
Color Zoo

Signing Time – The Zoo Train


Preschool: W is for Water (the four elements)

Since Daddy was away for a whole week recently, I decided to take it easy and postpone the letter W.  I thought he would be able to help with the fire element – being a fireman and all – but he ended up being busy the whole week he was back anyway.

The Bible story for the week was Jesus feeding the 5,000.  I had a cute little craft idea in mind but wanted Phil to cut some slices of wood for pretend bread and he never got around to it.  We read some stories about feeding lots of people and sharing what we have.  After reading a book about sharing, Gwen graciously gave Josiah one of her grapes.  *grin*  Our Bible verse was Matthew 19:14 – “My God will supply all your needs.”  She had that one down pat. 

The Elements
When I saw this picture I thought it would be a neat idea to do something similar.  In the middle of the table I filled four glasses, one with each element – dirt for earth, emptiness for air, water for water, and a candle for fire.

We made this nifty God’s Eye craft with yarn and buttons.  The middle is God’s eye and the four corners represent the elements; basically, God sees everything!  I let the kiddos pick their yarn and we picked button colors to coincide with the elements, but I did most of the wrapping.  Then I asked them for a couple things for which they were thankful; I wrote them on little strips of paper and put them in the yarn. 

We normally have three school days a week but often work activities in on the “off” days and evenings as well.  My aim was to have one element a day, pairing earth and water.

The kids are no stranger to fire safety since Daddy always explains why he volunteers at the fire department and tries to work it in here and there.  We worked on a number of the printables from Mama’s Monkey’s Firefighter Tot Pack and Homeschool Creation’s Firemen Printable Pack.

There were pre-writer tracing pages, an alphabet maze, label the firefighter and shape match.


Josiah even got in on the action coloring fire trucks and even matching up some of his toys to the images all on his own!

For a snack we roasted my homemade marshmallows over the fire in the woodstove to make s’mores.  We paired it on top of the graham crackers with dark chocolate – yum!  They were sooo good, and now that I know the marshmallows freeze well I can plan ahead for our camping trips. 

Earth & Water
Since we’ll be starting our garden again soon I decided to use Homeschool Creation’s Garden Preschool Pack to discuss the earth and water elements.  We read Jack’s Garden and did the sequencing cards, some pre-writer tracing pages, flower/veggie cut-and-paste, letter clip cards, seed and bulb sequencing cards, and a flower part puzzle.



Don’t forget our vocabulary hunt!  This has turned out to be a huge hit with Gwendolyn so we’ll stick with this from now on.  


It also provided a neat segway into starting our Easter garden, which I thought would be a fun and meaningful tradition to start this year.  We went to a garden center and the kiddos helped me pick a few plants, then Daddy  helped us put it all together.  The kiddos loved placing the stone pathway.

We planted grass seed so it would grow up the “hill” above the pretend tomb and since then it’s grown considerably so we’ll have to give it a haircut.   

For a snack I made dirt cups; the kids were so excited to to be eating dirt, mud and worms. *grin*  Instead of the traditional instant pudding and crushed oreos, I made homemade pudding and crushed some organic chocolate cookies (mm, Pamela’s Bakery Extreme Chocolate Mini Cookies are sooooo goooood and crumble really nicely!) on top.  No way around the gummy worms.

Our shape of the week was a hexagon so we worked on a shape puzzle.  Gwen did a hot air balloon shape cut-and-paste and we proceeded to do a few other balloon-related activities: dot-to-dot, Up Up and Away file folder game and putting together some cardstock balloons.  



She was so excited about the latter and couldn’t wait to finish glueing the pieces together so she could tie the balloon to Safari’s (her giraffe) head.  She cracks me up.     


For dessert we had cloud jello… but I didn’t bother taking a picture because it didn’t come out picture perfect.  There are supposed to be dollops of whipped cream simulating clouds in the sky, but my whipped cream floated to the top and made one big layer.  It still tasted good! 

Bulletin Board

Book Basket
Emily’s Sharing and Caring Book
My Little Book About Sharing
Spaghetti and Meatballs for All!

Fire Trucks
Fire Safety
Firefighters! Speeding! Spraying! Saving!
Jack’s Garden
Diary of a Worm
The Visual Dictionary of the Earth
And Then Its Spring
My Garden
The Curious Garden
Splish! Splash! A Book About Rain
What Makes the Seasons?
Oceans – The Vast, Mysterious Deep
Weather ABC

The Wizard
My “w” Book
Wacky Wednesday

I’m a Little Teapot

The Last Airbender

Linking Up…

Tot School

Preschool: V is for Very Hungry Caterpillar

We’re supposed to be on the letter W this week, but it’s been a bit different around here since Daddy has been in South Carolina, training for his department.  I dropped him off at the airport last weekend and felt the ache in my throat as I hugged him goodbye.  I don’t think I’ve ever been apart from him for more than a couple days!  I felt so silly, moping around for the entire day, bawling my eyes out as soon as the kiddos and I got home (they proceeded to point and laugh as I cried in the rocking chair). 

Since I wanted some distractions and company this week to get my mind off being without my hubby, we did things a bit differently.  I didn’t do any school – no workbooks, no printables, nothing planned.  We had our share of reading books and art projects, but virtually zero effort on my part – it was so nice!  The kiddos got to see their friends when Nikki came over with her kiddos, and we breezed through the morning talking and visiting, scolding our children and cleaning up their messes – good times!  I kept thinking I would have a whole bunch of time to write up about preschool the previous week, but my time got eaten up elsewhere. 

Last week was kind of a hodge podge of ideas.  For some reason I had two different ideas down for the letter V – one mountains and valleys, the other valentines.  I had already started accumulating valentine ideas since we had just celebrated Valentine’s Day the previous week, so I decided to carry it over into the next.  I filled in the rest of the week with The Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed activities.

The good ol’ Good Samaritan was the Bible story of the week.  We read the story in the 100 Bible Stories, 100 Bible Songs, did a hidden pictures coloring page and colored and assembled a story sequence coloring page

For each Bible story in the book there’s an accompanying song, and we listened to “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” over and over. 

I used the printable from Totally Tots’ in my heart section for our Bible verse, which was 1 Samuel 16:7 – Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

We got it late, but I requested a Veggie Tales movie from the library to coincide with the lesson, and the kids enjoyed The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s.  Every week I request supplemental materials from the online library system that I might not otherwise have at home or find at my local library.  And of course I throw in some things for me too – like the latest season of Castle.   

V is for Valentine
We focused on valentines for one day, using all the valentine-related printables and activities we had used on Valentine’s Day and implementing a few more from Confession’s of a Homeschooler’s Pre-K Letter V week.  We had a Do-A-Dot page, pre-writer tracing pages, letter hunt and counting cards. 



I also tried something new with the word cards.  Instead of just having Gwen trace the letters and then match up the picture cards with the word cards, I placed them around the living room and she had to find them one at a time.  I told her she had to point to each one with her magic wand – and push the button to make the magical sound, or it didn’t count! – and she would bring it back to the table, match it up with the correct word on the tracing page, then trace the word and say the letters. 


It took longer this way, but she had so much fun!  A couple times I found myself getting a bit impatient because she was frolicking around, searching for cards that were quite honestly in plain view, but I figured I should count myself lucky that she was having fun with school work. *grin*

V is for Very Hungry Caterpillar
Have you seen some of the ideas on Pinterest for The Very Hungry Caterpillar?  I bookmarked a few of the simpler ideas and utilized the wonderful themed printables from 1+1+1=1.

I think this week I had more food ideas than anything!  Two mornings in the row we had caterpillar-related food; the kiddos got grape caterpillars alongside their pancakes and apple slice caterpillars with their cereal. 

I evened it out on the other end of the spectrum with two butterfly-themed foods: butterfly snack bags and a butterfly-shaped sanwich.  


I think maybe their food tastes better when it’s made to look like something else, kind of like the theory that my food tastes better when someone else makes it for me.

I had a bunch of crafts in mind, and they were all fun and easy.  We made pom pom caterpillars and Gwen even helped me thread the pom poms. 


I got the idea for this super-easy fingerprint caterpillar, and just so happened to nab some Crayola paints on sale at the craft store.  I did one too!  Josiah just ended up finger painting… finger smudging? 

I’m a sucker for handprint crafts and loved the idea for this handprint butterfly, though ours were slightly more personalized with paint all over the wings and a craft stick and pipe cleaner for the body section. 


Gwen did some tracing in her Kumon book, we put together a little cut ‘n’ paste mini book about bugs, cut-and-paste life cycle of a butterfly, and she had a lot of fun making a life-cycle-of-a-butterfly wheel


Then we started in on the Very Hungry Caterpillar printables with pre-writer tracing pages, word/color matching and a numbered puzzle showing the caterpillar turn into a butterfly.


Since she had so much fun with the valentine word cards, we did the same for the caterpillar cards – and there were more of them!  She went around, wand in hand, waving its magic as she found each word. 


She even put her own twist on the activity – when she found a word, she would bring it back to the table, find the corresponding word on the tracing sheet, and proceed to wave her wand again at the matching word as she said it.  She cracks me up! 

The kiddos both had fun going through the story and using our play food as props; they had to find the food that the caterpillar ate next (we had to improvise for some of the items).


Sometimes one of the elements of the week doesn’t really go along with anything else – like the color grey.  Yeah, I guess it’s a color you need to become familiar with – like a grey sky could mean impending doom, or a storm at least – but it kind of stood on its own.  We did some activity pages and an elephant dot-to-dot, and that’s about it. 

We stuck with the rhyme from last week, Queen of Hearts.  It’s quite catchy and Gwen remembered it.

Bulletin Board

Book Basket
Be Mine, Be Mine, Sweet Valentine
Valentine’s Day
The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Octavia and Her Purple Ink Cloud
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies
The Awful Aardvarks Go to School
I Love You Always and Forever
The Giving Tree
The Fairies’ Alphabet Book
Olivia… and the Missing Toy
The Velveteen Rabbit
My “v” Book

Olivia Counts

A Day With No Crayons
The Land of Gray Wolf
The Blue and the Gray

The Velveteen Rabbit
The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Linking Up…

Tot School

Preschool: U is for Unicorn

Unicorns and mermaids and fairy tales – oh my!  I knew we would have fun with this theme, but almost decided to switch it with the following week – V is for Valentine – since I figured it might be more fun during the actual week of Valentine’s Day.  But I had already printed out some worksheets and made my library run for the week.  And who says you can’t have hearts two weeks in a row? 

We read about Zaccheus, sang the song about the wee man in the tree, and Gwen got a kick out of trying to find him in the lift-the-flap coloring page

Our Bible verse went along nicely with Valentine’s Day (and our shape for the week) – Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

It was somewhat of a challenge, attempting to narrow down a fairy tale theme.  In the end, I approached it by discussing what makes a fairy tale using this cute “what is a fairy tale?” printable.  Then we listed some of our favorites; Gwen says hers is “Beauty and the Beast” because she likes the magic flower and glittery dress.  *chuckle*  Usually “The Little Mermaid” is at the top of her list because she and Ariel both have red hair; or “Cinderella,” because it’s her aunt’s favorite.    

We both had fun with the Fill-Them-In Fairy Tale to create our own story, though it was interesting trying to ask Gwen to give me a verb or an adjective.  Talk about learning your parts of speech!  I wanted to fill all the words in before we read the story so I just gave her hints to direct her towards an appropriate word.  I now present our fairy tale in its entirety (Gwen’s words are in purple):

Once upon a time, there weas a lovely princess named lollipop.  She lived in a castle with her pet tiger, Scooter.  One day while she was walking Scooter, a pink dragon appeared!  The princess and Scooter were so scared – when the dragon opened his mouth, they though they would be consumed in flames!  However, no flames came out, only a gush of breath that smelled like carrotsThe foul-smelling breath madethem play dress up, but the dragon, who was named Cinderella, was so sweet, he and the princess and Scooter soon became fast friends.

While playing fairies in the woods one day, the happy trio came upon a prince, who was under a spell.  He had been frozen in a bowl of fruit for many years.  The fearsome threesome tried everything to break the spell.  First, they created a potion out of the eye of a bumblebee, some salsa, and cheerios – which they held under the prince’s bum, while chanting.  Nothing happened.  So, the three of them drove to the castle, grabbed “The Book of Reverse Singing Spells,” and together started playing the song, “Free the Frozen Prince.”  Still nothing.  All of a sudden, the dragon sneezed, and his windy breath, which smelled like squash went all over the prince!  Poof!  The prince was magically released from the spell and started to dance.  The happy princess, Scooter, the dragon, and the nice prince became a fabulous foursome and lived happily ever after!

I hastily threw together a hodge podge of shiny fairy tale-y stuff since the kids like exploring the sensory bins I put together.  In the mix was a bunch of irridescent Easter grass, a small purple playsilk, wooden blocks (to build a castle, of course), and a variety of mythical creatures (including  a mermaid and unicorn).  Some other unicorns and ponies came to visit.


I almost always leave the sensory bins out for the entire week and it’s fun to watch the kiddos go back to them again and again when the mood strikes.

For breakfast one morning the kiddos were delighted to be served fairy bread.  I lightly toasted some whole grain bread, spread it with whipped butter, sprinkled on some cinnamon, and lastly some rainbow sprinkles and edible glitter.  I figured it was glorified cinnamon sugar toast!       

Some fairies visited one evening and surprised them with fairy wands to take to their Meme’s for a play day; good thing, because Mommy was tired from staying up to visit with the fairies. *sigh*  Gwen said the wands are really pretzels.  I… er, the fairies… dipped multigrain pretzel sticks in melted dark chocolate and decorated them with sprinkles.  Let them harden on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper in the fridge and you’re good to go.

Besides reading all sorts of fairy tales from our book basket and watching a few movies, Gwen dressed up and enacted her own imaginary stories and played with her magnetic dress-up princess.  She already has a mermaid paper doll, and I printed out a Belle paper doll on cardstock – which she discovered right away and immediately began to play with.  We also played a round of Tinker Bell’s Pardon My Pixie Dust Game, which is actually kinda fun!  It’s especially fun watching Gwen get excited when she wins a game piece. 


I didn’t find very many educational printables with a fairy tale theme, but I did break out some of the princess-themed printables from our K is for King week on royalty.  And tracing is always more fun if it’s a picture of a castle.


We did all sorts of unicorn-themed activities – like a coloring page and maze.


We also did a few umbrella-themed things.  One of Gwen’s Kumon tracing pages was in the shape of an umbrella and her letter hunt was about an umbrella.


A couple times during the week we read stories under an umbrella just for fun – it’s amazing what simple things will delight the kiddos – and they decorated umbrella cutouts with paper raindrops.


The cutouts were a last-minute idea and if I had planned it more carefully I would have done something more rigid since the kiddos were disappointed they couldn’t hold them up like real umbrellas.  This hanging umbrella craft seems cute, or you could use paper plates.  

As the numbers have gotten higher – we’re in the twenties now – I’ve given up focusing on a specific number unless I can find a story or resource directly related.  Instead, we do number-related activities, like dot-to-dot pages or counting things throughout the day.  I’m a big believer in learning through practical, every day things – like counting the produce we pick at the store or turning an episode of playing with blocks into how many we can find of each color. 

We used some valentine activities courtesy of Homeschool Creation’s Valentine’s Day Printable Pack and Over the Big Moon’s Valentine’s Day Pre-K Pack, including clip cards and a color-by-number.


I also broke out the Cupcake Count file folder game – one of the first ones I made!  Gwen’s a pro at it now. *sniff sniff* 

The heart shape was well reinforced throughout the week!  Our Valentine’s Day morning began with the kiddos walking paper heart trails and ended with heart handprints.  I reserved all the valentine printables for the 14th, including a tracer page, word tracing page (you can see we’re working on compound words!), word matching, letter clip cards and a cutting practice page.



I got out a shape-matching puzzle and Gwen matched all the pieces; I was shocked when she got “hexagon” right away!  She won’t remember rectangle but she’ll remember hexagon. *shakes head* 

Along with the Cupcake Count game Gwen did the Patterns of Love Matching Game that I made around the same time.

I found a cute little rhyme for the week called Queen of Hearts.  It’s been fun sprinkling in some unfamiliar rhymes with the more traditional ones.

Bulletin Board
So… I know I took a picture but I think Josiah may have erased it from my camera.  He’s taken to turning my camera on and snapping away; who knows what other buttons he pushes.  Makes me wonder what other pictures he erased.

Book Basket
*Gwen’s favorites

The Usborne Book of Fairy Tales*
Jan Brett’s Beauty and the Beast
Glitterby Baby*
Whisper the Winged Unicorn*
Claire and the Unicorn happy ever after
Unicorn Dreams
The Midnight Unicorn*
The Ugly Duckling
The Princess and the Three Knights*
The Secret Life of Princesses*
Princess Hyacinth  – the Surprising Tale of a Girl who Floated*
The Classic Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

Miss Hunnicut’s Hat*
My “u” book
Duck in the Truck
The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups
A Porcupine Named Fluffy
Lunch Bunnies*
The Fairies’ Alphabet Book

Valentine’s Day

My Little Pony: Twinkle Wish Adventure
Nico the Unicorn

Linking Up…

Tot School


When we lost power during the hurricane last week, one of the books I started thumbing through was on old copy of Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk that my mother had bequeathed to me. I’m already familiar with the concepts author David Elkind writes about, but began to feel somewhat uneasy as I read his words…

All across the country, educational programs intended for school-age children are being appropriated for the education of young children.  In some states educational administrators are advocating that children enter school at age four.  Many kindergarten programs have become full-day kindergartens, and nursery school programs have become pre-kindergartens.  Moreover, many of these kindergartens have introduced curricula, including work papers, once reserved for first-grade children. 

When we instruct children in academic subjects at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short-term stress and long-term personality damage for no useful purpose.  There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.

I understand there are those that don’t have much of a choice in the matter – families where both parents have to work in order to pay the bills, for instance – but it has often saddened me when parents put their children in daycare programs rather than keeping them at home – especially as early as the newborn stage.  I was fortunate that I was able to take Gwendolyn to my part-time job when she was a baby; despite the inconvenience factor, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As Gwendolyn has gotten bigger, neared school-age, I have been re-examining my role as her mother and caregiver.  The idea of public education has always turned me off, for a number of reasons, and private school has its own issues (aside from being expensive).  I myself graduated from a Christian school; while it has its upsides, and one school can be vastly different from the next, I don’t know that I would choose that for my own children.  However, I was homeschooled for a few years before entering private school, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Having a background in homeschool, knowing people who homeschool their families, having a support network in place and feeling as strongly as I do that God entrusted His children to my care – not wanting to hand over a large part of their upbringing to someone else to raise and instill them with values – homeschooling my kiddos seems like the obvious choice.

As I have researched the vast array of homeschool teaching methods, the one that most appeals to me is unschooling.  The idea of cultivating a child’s natural love of learning, keeping it alive simply by pursuing your interests and learning through those pursuits, finding what works best for us “without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do,” sounds inspirational and freeing.

Because each and every family is different, each and every method will be different, and you will find variations on a theme.  I didn’t worry too much about getting Gwendolyn ready for grade requirements, because we already engage in educational activities and pursuits all the time.  She loves books, we go to the library every week and come home with an armload – she’ll learn to read, no problem.  

I was constantly surprised when people would ask me if – at three years old – she was in school, or would soon be riding the bus to school.  They were often surprised that she was with me every day.  Gwen started showing an interest in the idea of school, of course riding a bus, and I told her Mommy wants to teach her at home.  Since she has enjoyed structured, classroom-type environments – like at Sunday School, one-morning-a-week Bible school, and VBS (vacation Bible school) in the Summer – I thought I’d do a little experiment and plan a preschool curriculum for her.

We’ve officially begun preschool (or what probably amounts to pre-pre-K), and have three weeks under our belts, but I’m constantly questioning myself.  Some days it feels so forced; I have to conjure up the excitement to try and get Gwen (and Josiah, depending on the activity – though he’s up for anything) to “do school.”  I wonder if I’m forcing something for which she isn’t developmentally able, if my good intentioned-efforts will amount to her being frustrated and losing her zest for natural learning.  I try to turn fun things into learning experiences, and vice versa, but sometimes it feels like I fail miserably.  

Parents oftentimes do things for their kids, thinking it’s in their best interest, when really it serves to make the parents feel better – things like buying toys in excess, putting them in lots of extra-curricular activities and not allowing for downtime.  I believe miseducation is one of these things.  How much is too much, and too soon?  As David Elkind says, “We miseducate young children when we assume that their learning abilities are comparable to those of older children and that they can be taught with materials and with the same instructional procedures appropriate to school-age children.” 

I would also take this a step further and say that, since each child is different, traditional schooling as a whole can provide miseducation for a child at any age.  It keeps kids in an aritificial environment (a room full of their peers), relies on specific teaching-learning styles, while discouraging and labeling those personalities that are seen as disruptive. 

Babies and kids are smart – but there are some things for which they truly aren’t ready, and no amount of toys and gadgets and flashcards and memorization will make them learn those things before they are ready.  But in a society where infant education is accepted and promoted, and children are being expected to learn skills at a younger age, how do you realistically adjust your expectations and make the right decision for your family?

Earlier this morning I was reading some of my blog subscriptions, and I was inspired by Passionate Homemaking‘s Early Learning Preschool post.  I liked the idea of their casual, playful-yet-conducive-to-learning Circle Time.  This afternoon, doing some educational things with Gwen I spread a blanket on the floor first, and it suddenly became more fun for her. 

I so desperately want to do the right thing for my kiddos; I know I’m not supposed to be perfect but I want to be the best mommy I can be and do right by them.  I want to keep their love of learning alive, not squelch it with drills and instructions and workbooks.

Early childhood is a very important period of life.  It is a period when children learn an enormous amount about the everyday world.  It is also the time during which young children acquire lifelong attitudes toward themselves, toward others, and toward learning.  But it is not the time for formal academic instruction.  To appreciate this truth, we need to see the early years for what they are and not through the lenses of social, political, and personal dynamics that provide a distorted image of early-childhood competence.