The Brilliant Way to Homeschool Your Preschool (Pre-K) Child, Ages 2-5
Expert homeschooling moms across the internet will confidently tell you: it’s possible to homeschool your preschool child. The heated debate among them begins after you ask them, but how?
With more than seven methods of homeschool available for you to choose from, you have your work cut out for you as you begin to weigh the options. In this blog post, we’ll explore the brilliant results that happen when you combine the classic approach and unschooling (aka self-directed education) to build a balanced homeschool experience for your preschool child.
Academic Rigor vs Learning through Living
Is the child who plays in the backyard for hours learning as much as the child who sits at the dining table tracing letters?
Evolutionary psychologist and proponent of the unschooling movement Peter Gray would say no; that the child playing outdoors is actually learning more through exploration than the child who is simply tracing letters.
“This issue of self-directed — what does it mean to be self-directed? I’m an evolutionary psychologist, so I’m interested in human nature and the nature of children. Look at little kids: Have you ever seen a little kid who hasn’t yet gone to school who’s not self-directed? Who’s not just curious and playful and eagerly doing things? They’re exploring the world almost from the moment they’re born. They’re looking around — ‘What’s out there? What’s new? What can I learn about?’ Think of all of the things that children learn before they ever go to school.” — Peter Gray
Where’s the Balance?
Learning through life and play is fantastic and magical. In fact, it’s a complete and total luxury. Most parents don’t have the opportunity to homeschool their children for a decade or more. If you plan to send your child to a traditional school after preschool or kindergarten, it’s important to train them to meet the structured expectations set by academic school settings, such as:
- Following a schedule
- Being able to follow directions
- Sitting and listening without interrupting
- Taking turns with others
- Waiting in line
The solution to preparing your child for a future in a traditional school while strengthening their personal motivations for learning about the world is to balance academics, structured play, and free (unstructured) play.
Play is Your Preschool Child’s Job
“Play is the way kids try the world on for size and imagine their place in it.” — Raffi
The foundation for all areas of development for preschool children—physical, mental, social, emotional, and moral—is play. It is through play that children learn about themselves and their world while they garner the skills to express themselves and expand their imagination. A preschool child (between the ages of 2 to 5) will be developing specific skills that you can supplement with play, such as:
- Using language to communicate
- Recognizing that objects have names
- Recognizing that objects are quantifiable
- Grouping objects by similar features
Structured vs Unstructured Play
Two types of play exist that are equally beneficial: structured and unstructured. Structured play revolves around achieving a particular objective and includes things like goal-oriented games, assembling toys or puzzles, matching socks, and sorting fruit by color. The point of structured play is to find activities that promote learning the objective you have in mind. Conversely, unstructured play has no specific goal aside from the exploration of possibilities. Examples of unstructured play include playing with blocks, coloring, drawing, inventing games, and running around in the yard or on a playground.
By incorporating both types of play into your homeschool routine, you can organize activities for your preschool child using both the classic approach and unschooling.
Homeschool Preschool Activities
Important subjects like science, reading, phonics, and math are easy to teach at home. Through these subjects, you can foster your preschool child’s development of the three essential skills listed above. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Sensory Skill-Builder: Set up a sensory table with plastic tubs full of lentils, water, sand, or magnets. The contents within your tubs can include almost anything you could imagine.
- Eruption Experiment: Hollow out two apples. Then, ask your child which sequence will make a bigger eruption: vinegar and baking soda or baking soda then vinegar? Watch their amazement as they see the results!
- Box of Textures: Cut a hole in a small cardboard box or an old tissue box. Pick out 5-10 toys with varying textures and show them to your child. Have them cover their eyes while you put one toy in the box. Let them reach inside, feel the toy, and try to guess which one it is.
- Bring Stories to Life: Read aloud in a dramatic way by varying your pace, changing your tone of voice, and making engaging facial expressions. Make sure to read the same books over and over again, since children love the repetition and ability to predict.
- Interact with Books: Point to the illustrations in the book and ask what it is or what’s happening based on what you’ve read. Encourage them to ask questions and to “read” to you, by “reading” the illustrations or retelling the story.
- Memorize Finger Plays: Improve several skills at once including fine motor, listening, and pre-reading by acting out rhymes with your fingers! Preschool children love finger plays. For a ton of ideas, check out Successful Homeschooling Finger Plays.
- Practice Nursery Rhymes: understanding the relationship between letters and sounds is an important pre-reading skill. Rhymes teach young learners that words have a structure, a pattern, and a rhythm. Plus, they’re fun!
- Rainbow Letter Hop: using colored paper, mark letters of the alphabet that your preschool child has learned and lay them on the floor of a room in a stepping-stone style. Use a die to roll a number and have your child hop that many steps/papers. Have them read the one they land on!
- Phonic Photo Album: have your preschool child create a photo album with a photo of an item for every letter sound (“a” for apple to “z” for zoo). Build their album alongside their skills, eventually adding sounds like “ch” and “sh.”
- Mystery Letter Bag: fill a bag with 3-4 objects that all start with the same letter. Have your child pull them out, name them, and then guess what the sound is that unites them all.
- Sort by Size, Type, or Color: Gather up the family’s shoes and make a big pile. Tell your child to find the ones that fit the best and the rest need to be sorted by size or type! Have your child sort the family’s socks on laundry day, sort their toys by color or size, or sort dead leaves on the ground. The options are endless.
- Identify and Create Shapes: Make shapes with clothespins, form shapes with playdough, print shape flashcards and do a scavenger hunt in the yard to find natural items of each shape, play the “I Spy a Shape” game when you’re in town or on the road.
- Number Recognition and Counting: paint the front side of a flat stone with a number and the backside with a butterfly and its corresponding number of spots. Ask your child, “How many spots does the butterfly have?” Grab a die and a bowl of blueberries (or raisins). Have your child roll the die and then count out that many blueberries before they eat them.
Homeschool Preschool Routine
No matter which approach you favor between classic and unschooling, it’s essential to understand that a routine is more appropriate for your preschool child than a strict schedule. To be clear, a routine is a habitual procedure that you create for your child, while a schedule adheres to a strict set of times, dates, and divisions. Your routine should be fluid in that it accommodates your child’s mood and state of health, as well as your personal schedule as a busy parent.
The point of a routine is to build a flexible structure into your everyday homeschool experience while providing you with the chance to switch between academic-focused activities and self-directed experiential learning. Preschool students don’t need more than 45 minutes a day of structured learning, so keep that in mind when you build your own routine. Here is an example routine you might want to use:
“Letter of the Week” — Each week, you introduce one letter.
15 min. — Read aloud
15 min. — Structured learning (e.g., teach letters, sounds, and writing/tracing)
30 min. — Structured play (e.g., learn a song, rhyme, or finger play)
5-10 min. — Model (show your child how to do it) a hands-on activity
20-30 min. — Let your child self-direct the hands-on activity
School of Life
Outside of your homeschool routine, remember that the entire day that your child spends with you is also technically “homeschool,” where they learn through living. Ways to foster learning outside of your routine include:
- Asking your child questions, like “Why do you think the sky is blue?” or “How many dinosaurs do you know?”
- Encourage your child to help around the house
- Make an area in your home for them to build or construct (with blocks or legos, for example)
- Give them spaces where they can safely climb (a pile of pillows in the room or a playground set outside)
- Bake cookies or banana bread together
- Fold laundry together (even though you’ll likely have to fold it again once they’re done “helping”!)
- Count toys as you work together to clean up their play area
Top Homeschool Preschool Blogs
We’ve compiled a list of high-quality homeschool preschool blogs that supply you with curriculum, lesson plans, activity ideas, and free printables. Check them out and start enjoying homeschool with your preschool child today!
Teach Preschool by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.
Pocket of Preschool by Jackie Kops, M.Ed.
Preschool Powol Packets by Carla Jensen, certified National Geographic Educator
Preschool Blog by Tulip Tree Preschool
Happenings with Hemme by Ashley Hemme, a kindergarten teacher and homeschooling mom
Modern Preschool Blog by Nicole, preschool teacher and homeschooling mom
The Primary Parade by Jessica, M.Ed
Preschool Wonders by Lola, a special education preschool teacher
Kids Sparkz by Susan, a curriculum designer and preschool teacher
Add Spanish to Your Homeschool for Preschool
In summation, preschool is the perfect age to set your child up for success as a bilingual speaker in English and Spanish! At Homeschool Spanish Academy, we offer a Preschool Program with native Spanish speakers, where your child will learn pronunciation, greetings, basic conversational phrases, numbers, colors, and more. If you’d like to get started today, we offer a free trial class for curious parents who want to see what it’s like for their child. Additionally, if you’d like to jump in right away with Spanish lessons for your preschool child, check out our list of themes below!
Want free Spanish lesson materials for your preschooler? Check these out!
- Teach Spanish Months of the Year: December in Spanish
- Teach Spanish Months of the Year: November in Spanish
- A Kid’s Guide to Animal Sounds in Spanish: Free Flashcards
- Teach Spanish Months of the Year: October in Spanish
- Teach Spanish Months of the Year: August in Spanish
- Teach Spanish Months of the Year: September in Spanish
- Teach the Spanish Months of the Year: July in Spanish
- Teach the Spanish Months of the Year: June in Spanish
- Spanish Food and Cooking Words for Your Preschooler - January 10, 2021
- Rooms in Spanish: Extensive House and Furniture Vocabulary - January 4, 2021
- Celebrate Thanksgiving in Spanish! Vocabulary for Kids - November 19, 2020