A very common question amongst new homeschool families is "what curriculum should I use". Once you have decided you want to educate your children at home, it's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to start replicating a school environment. So parents quickly start to stress about what they need to be teaching.
Below is our current "curriculum". I use that term very loosely - 4 and 5 year olds really don't need a formal curriculum! There is vast amounts of research out there showing how young children learn everything they need to know at this age from play. And in our family, play still makes up the large majority of our day.
However, from a mum point of view, it can help to have a bit of guidance in setting a good rhythm for your days. I personally can get a bit overwhelmed with long days of parenting without some kind of plan! If you are like me, read on for ideas.
Build Your Library Level 0 - A curriculum covering literature, geography, science, poetry, craft, cooking and a lot of other things along the way! We are using this as the base of our "preschool curriculum" this year. So far we love it. It is a Charlotte-Mason inspired curriculum and basically just gives me guidance of some great books to read to Mr 4, along with some activity ideas related to those books. For example, we read How To Make An Apple Pie And See The World, found all the countries on a map and baked apple pie together.
I could organise something similar myself but using this curriculum means someone else has already done the hard work of finding great quality books that kids will love (unlike my hit and miss hunting of the local library shelves for hours!).
The Level 0 theme is Around The World and suggests a range of picture books, read-aloud chapter books and non-fiction books that introduce children to different cultures and stories. See more about it here.
Our plan is to take it really slowly. So far we do the readings and activities about 3 times per week, only do the ones that interest us and we expand out as we wish. For example, BYL covers Australia in about 3 weeks whereas we have so many awesome Australian-based books to read and discuss that we could easily spend a few months just on this area alone.
Books - the curriculum above is perfect for guiding our main book selection but we also have MANY other books in the house that the kids can look at any time they want. We also read together every night before bed and often listen to audio books in the car. Picture books, chapter books, non-fiction books, audio books.... they love them all!
Outdoor time and camping - this is a huge part of our family life and therefore our preschool year! Young children really do thrive in the outdoors and it is amazing to watch how different their play, learning and behaviour is when you increase their time outside in nature.
Outdoor time is something we have to be intentional about. We currently live in a townhouse with a tiny courtyard for a backyard - not ideal for energetic small children! So we visit local parks, playgrounds and the beach frequently.
To further our outdoor time, we also made a big lifestyle investment and bought a caravan. We use this on weekends as much as possible. Even just going to a local campground or caravan park within 30 minutes of our house means we can then spend entire weekends right on a beach or lake or national park. The kids are outside within two minutes of waking up on Saturday morning and stay outside playing and exploring right up until bedtime.
Practical Life - Young children love to be doing all the jobs that adults do. So laundry, grocery shopping, gardening, washing the car, fixing leaky taps - anything you do around the house is a great learning opportunity for children. Mr 4's favourite activity is to follow his dad around in the garage doing odd jobs. He learns maths by helping measure things, counting apples at the fruit shop and adding up coins for the parking meter. He learns STEM concepts when he helps figure out if the caravan is levelled properly and discusses why the basil isn't growing well on the balcony. He looks at signs everywhere we go, finds words he knows and asks us to read the rest. All of this is completely child-led, he loves it and he feels like he is a contributing member of the family. He could be playing in the toy kitchen at a preschool but instead he bakes biscuits in our real kitchen at home.
Free Play - at the moment Mr 4's favourite toys are his Lego and his PlayMag magnetic tiles. He will spend hours designing and building and it amazes me the things he can create at just four years old! Lots of maths, engineering, creativity and fun are involved in Lego play. Plus he also learns to navigate sharing and conflict management when the destructive toddler sibling comes along!
In amongst his free play he is also learning lots of early literacy and numeracy skills. He knows all his alphabet, is starting to read simple words and understands Year 1 level maths concepts already. All from free play and no formal lessons! I will write an entire post about this later.
Games - this is a recent addition for us but we are loving it! Have you heard of gameschooling? There are families who manage to do the majority of their homeschooling just by playing games! Good quality games can be educational, fun AND teach essential social skills. We are slowly building up our collection so watch this space and I will share what we love over the year.
Craft - we have a set of drawers filled with art and craft materials including crayons, textas, paper, paint, stickers, old containers and jars, etc. Our kids go through stages where they will use these every day to do craft, and other times when they won't touch it for weeks. We also go through phases of lots of playdough and clay play.
At this point, this is really all our 4 year old needs. All of this, plus lots of quality time with family and outings with friends.
What are your thoughts? Do you approach preschool and kindergarten years differently?
A mum of two trying to find her way through the Australian school system.