Many families who planned to send their child(ren) to a preschool this upcoming school year are now homeschooling (or considering homeschooling). In this series I have some suggestions for materials, lesson topics, how to handle having a preschooler and an older kid learning, and where to find resources. This post specifically talks about what to teach.
If your child will be entering kindergarten after this year, I’d do a bit more lessons. If your child will be in preschool still after this year, take it really easy! Remember, a typical 4 year old in the US (if they attend preschool at all) is only at preschool 3-5 days a week for 3-4 hours a day. If you look at 5 days a week for 4 hours a day as the typical max, 1 hour a day is lunch and getting reading for lunch/cleaning up from lunch and at least 30 minutes (and maybe more) is outside recess. That leaves you 2.5 hours. Of that, you have snack time, free play, bathroom breaks, hand washing, and waiting for the other kids to be ready. So maybe you have 1 hour a day of official academics (which in preschool is still lots of hands on or experiences and includes read alouds and circle time). And if they attend only 3 days a week, it would be even less.
What to Teach a Preschooler
Exposure to books! So many books! Read, read, read to them across subjects and genres. Reading aloud does so much and meets many instructional goals for preschool, including:
*Expanding vocabulary (talk about what certain words mean in the book)
*Concepts of Print (where do we start reading? where is the cover of the book? Which way do we hold a book? What are words vs pictures?) I don’t go over this with every book, but occasionally, I’ll ask DS4 questions such as, “Where does Mommy start reading?” or “Point to the words. Now point to the pictures.”
*Titles, authors, and illustrators. When I read a book, I’ll often say something like, “The title is John Philip Duck. The author is Patricia Polacco. She wrote the book. She is also the illustrator and drew the pictures.”
*Providing background knowledge. Preschoolers can learn a lot! Reading a range of books on various topics gives them the background knowledge they need for their own future reading, writing, and learning.
*Introduces beginning reading skills. Sometimes I point to each word as I read it. We also search for letters he knows, find the period, and talk about capital letters. As they progress, preschoolers could also look for basic words they know, learn about question marks and exclamation points, etc.
Obviously at home, you may not be able to make a true circle for circle time (unless you have a lot of kids). But the concepts covered at circle time can be done at home too. It is also a nice routine to start the day and can cover many of the skills helpful for preschoolers.
Typical things done at circle time:
*Song or nursery rhyme (often the same one all week) (Oral fluency, phonemic awareness, if you have it written down it is pre-reading practice)
*Calendar–sing days of the week, ID today’s day of the week, Yesterday was…, Tomorrow will be…, month of the year, day of the week, how many days until… (Calendar is a math skill)
*Weather–what is today’s weather? Add to a graph or chart to track for the month. How many days have been rainy? sunny? You could make a bar graph, a picture graph, or use tally marks for a chart. (Weather is a science skill. Charting/graphing/counting is a math skill)
*Number of the Day–We have this magnetic Number of the Day chart on our fridge that DS4 loves. You can also easily make your own. DS4 finds the new numeral in the pack of cards and then we do tally marks, draw the correct number of pictures (circles, dots, squares, etc), ten frame, number before and after, write the word form with assistance, and practice writing the numeral. (covers many math skills! plus writing)
Writing and Letter Learning
A lot of preschool writing is not done with a pencil on paper, especially with younger kids. Work on building up fine motor skills, write with fingers in pudding or dry rice bins or shaving cream, stand at a dry erase easel and write with dry erase markers, draw with chalk outside, etc.
Drawing is a big part of early writing. Kids can draw or paint or color a picture and then describe their work. “Tell me about your art” is a great way to start discussion. As kids gain interest in letters or words, encourage them to label their pictures. This might be scribbles that act as “words” or might start to be actual letters. Some kids might start to get initial word sounds written down. So a kid who drew a dog might start with just scribbling something and saying, “That says dog.” And then later might write “T M” and say, “That says dog.” Even later, they might get down a “D” for Dog and eventually perhaps a DG. But not every preschooler will get to those last steps in preschool. And that’s ok.
For formalized letter writing practice, I like the Handwriting Without Tears program. They have a PreK program and a Transitional K program depending on what your kid is ready for. PreK focuses on capital letters and Transitional K does both upper and lower case.
Both my kids liked/like the Wet Dry Try app for tablets. It does upper case, lower case and numbers for $4/year. DS4 also likes the Stamp and See Screen where you form capital letters with magnets on a special board. I have the slate chalkboard and blackboard also and some of the workbooks. The Gray Block Paper on the Transitional K/K pages is great for writing capital letters at a reasonable size (later in Preschool). We used that a lot. I also like their Print Letter and Number poster to hang for kids who are ready to start writing. They also have large letter cards for hanging on a wall.
For kids ready for more formalized letter writing and learning both lower and upper case letters, the Explode the Code series is great. They have the beginner series Get Ready for the Code A for preschoolers or kindergarteners which focuses on letters.
Lots of preschool is learning about the sounds of letters and matching sounds. I printed a bunch of pictures of things DS4 likes and people he knows and we’ll match the pictures to starting letter or another picture that starts the same way. So a picture of a Rocket might get matched with the letter R from his puzzle or we might match the Rocket to a card colored Red.
Science and Social Studies
This is the most fun part of preschool! Pick topics the kid is interested in and read about it, watch video clips on it, do experiments, go on field trips (as able to these days), do art related to the topic, etc. If you have older kids, the preschooler can easily join in with their lessons. This past spring DS4 learned all about the Human Body, Ancient China, and Peru with DD6/7. He learned a lot!
So much of math can be done in play. Calendar time, weather graphing, and number of the day covers a lot of skills. Other skills can be practice while:
cooking/baking (add 3 eggs, measure 1/2 cup, count out 10 cupcake liners, etc)
playing Lego (pass me 4 blue blocks, let’s build the building 5 blocks high, make your blocks match my blocks, etc)
doing puzzles (we love the Learning Journey’s Match It puzzles. However, I don’t recommend their beginning spelling one as many of the words are not easy for early readers)
board/card games (we love this game in particular for numbers and number sense)
buying things (give child a couple dollars to shop at Dollar Tree or similar)
going on shape hunts around the house, yard, or neighborhood
playing I Spy and using color, shape, size, or number (I spy something green. I spy something square. I spy something with 3 sides)
Teachers Pay Teachers is a great source for lessons and printables. Some are free and some cost. They have some great options and easy searching/filtering.
For a comprehensive list of skills Virginia’s Dept of Education thinks a 4 year old should learn, go to this pdf. It has a list of standards and then practical ways to teach those standards. Makes it easy for those who prefer a guide.
I have a collection of Amazon lists that are helpful, including materials for PreK-2nd Grade, diverse children’s books, and art supplies.