Homeschooling for Beginners
My daughter will be going to kindergarten in the fall. Whoa. I need a minute to process… Okay. Ready.
Once she turned 3 years old people started asking me what school she goes to or where I will be sending her next year. And often I get the dreaded “You’re that mom” look when I tell them she and her 2 year-old brother stay home to “do school.”
And then I’m all, “You don’t know me!”
Just kidding… I smile and nod and am content with the fact that homeschool may not be for everyone, but it is right for us.
If you are currently in the challenging process of deciding where to send your preschooler, but you can’t bear the thought of them leaving you yet… or maybe they can’t bear the thought of leaving you, homeschooling is a great option!
Are you looking for ways to add structure and some fun learning activities to your days at home, but you’re feeling stuck?
Maybe your child is showing an eagerness to learn and you are unsure how to help satisfy their curiosity in less *ahem* destructive ways than they have been attempting on their own. Anyone?
Are you wondering, “Is homeschooling for me?”
If this is you, I would love to help!
I have been on this preschool homeschooling adventure with my littles since my first was 2 years old and let’s just say that, while some trial and error was involved, I have learned quite a bit.
I am hoping to share some of my experiences of homeschooling my preschooler so that you can glean something helpful and, hopefully, let go of some of the stress that us mamas tend to put on ourselves!
Homeschooling 3 year old kiddos and homeschooling 4 year old kiddos is all about fun and games! No, really. It is.
Keep reading for some SIMPLE homeschooling tips for beginners and for a glimpse of what it looks like to enjoy learning with your preschooler.
What Does it Look Like to Homeschool a Preschooler?
First, lets talk about what it does NOT look like:
- staying home all day and doing worksheets
- never socializing because you are trying to do school work
- lesson plans taking up every evening
- kids being social outcasts
There are many advantages to homeschooling, and it can be a really beautiful learning experience for your family.
One day it might look like sitting down together and reading books about an age-appropriate topic that you are exploring that week.
Or it can be going on nature walks and finding “treasures” to put in your sensory bin.
One benefit of homeschooling is that your kids will have more time to explore nature!
Or you make a carrot cake together, since your kids have been learning about carrots and growing them in your garden. They can roll play-dough carrots and chop them to make “soup.”
Other days, you paint and color and get messy. And some days you just get together with friends for both the kiddos’ and the mom’s sake.
Really, these are the reasons why I want to continue homeschooling my kids, and not just in preschool.
Having the freedom to choose what is best for my children each week and being able to be involved as they learn brings me such joy.
Is it perfect every day? No way! But the sacrifices that you make as a mommy are so worth it for the moments of sheer delight that you see on the faces of your children as they explore the world around them.
How to Start Homeschooling Preschool: 3 Thing to Consider
1. YOUR Strengths and Weaknesses
Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses as you are figuring out how to start homeschooling preschool.
- Do you enjoy planning the activities or would you rather have everything planned out for you? At this age the prep work falls mostly on us mamas. There is A LOT of cutting and gluing. Pay attention to this as you are finding activities and choosing curriculum. Some are definitely more prep-intensive than others.
- Do you enjoy reading with your kids, but planning crafts makes you want to poke your eyes out? That’s okay! For the sake of the kids, you can branch out once in a while, but don’t plan many activities that stress you out. If reading isn’t your favorite, you can spread the books out throughout the day so it feels less like a chore. If just thinking about crafting makes you want to pull your hair out, then plan really simple crafts that don’t involve a lot of mess.
- What subjects do you enjoy and which ones might you need extra support with? If you love science and want to plan all the activities for that, go for it! If you are intimidated by the thought of teaching your child how to read, find a great curriculum that makes it simple for you.
Think about what you would enjoy! If you are having fun, your kids will too, and you are more likely to stick with it!
2. Your Child’s Personality
Think about your child’s personality as you plan your pre-K homeschool activities.
- What does your child enjoy doing each day? Is he or she very active? If yes, they will most likely not want to do sit-down activities for very long.
- Do they enjoy puzzles and are very observant? They may enjoy sitting for longer stretches of time and engaging with the activity before them.
- Are they more drawn to crafts or reading? They can learn through either one… or both! Just find crafts or books that go along with what your goals are for the week.
- Do they like playing with different textures and materials or do new sensations make them nervous? If they are really into sensory play, that can be a big part of your day. But if they are more hesitant, feel free to take it slow.
Answering some of these questions will help you make decisions about what kinds of activities you want to include in your day and help you narrow down the curriculum you want to use.
Keep in mind that just because a child doesn’t like something does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Try just introducing it in smaller doses.
3. How You Want to Schedule Your Day
As you are thinking about your homeschool preschool schedule, consider the dynamics of your family and what will work for you.
- Do you want to leave most mornings open for play dates and socializing? Kids learn a ton from interacting with others and their surroundings, so this can be a great option.
- Do you want to study topics for a period of time or do you want to pick and choose depending on what opportunities emerge? Consider if you are good at finding learning opportunities throughout the day and engaging in spontaneous learning activities. As much as I wish I was, this isn’t a strength of mine. So, I plan ahead.
- Would you like to stick to a curriculum or have a little more flexibility? My teacher genes like a flexible outline for learning, but I can also appreciate the ease of having a set curriculum that I can just pull out day of.
- Is your family adventurous, and you prefer to learn through exploring? Our family LOVES to learn this way. You can definitely incorporate your active lifestyle into homeschooling.
- Do you have outings planned on certain days of the week? If so, consider not doing school that day. Chances are, there will be plenty of learning opportunities for your kiddos during the outing. Trying to cram in too much during the day might lead to burn out.
Answering these questions will help you when you actually start to plan and structure your days.
How to be Successful
Make a Plan!
The most critical element of successful homeschooling is planning ahead. Take time to think about what curriculum and schedule will work well for your family.
Your chosen curriculum should support the strengths of you and your child and allow for breaks in your homeschool year. This gives you a chance to rest a bit and leaves you some wiggle room if you are “behind schedule.”
My second year of homeschooling I did not thoroughly look into the curriculum that I decided to use and instead used one recommended by a friend. I was soon overwhelmed with the amount of prep work that it required, and I felt like it was just a little too easy for my 3 year-old.
…So I gave up. Better planning on my part or even a plan B would have definitely benefited my child that year.
Think about if there are any big life changes that will happen during the year.
Will your family be growing?
Are you moving to a different house?
Do you have elderly parents who may need more support?
All these things can cause breaks in your schooling.
Please, please, please give yourself the freedom to take the breaks that you need. If you plan ahead for this you are less likely to feel the guilt that might come from slowing down.
If you know your child thrives on routine, and you want to keep schooling during the transitions, you must be prepared.
Put together baggies with activities, get some new craft packs that don’t require a lot of assistance (we love these), and make some sensory bins that will entertain your kiddo while you work on something else.
Common Questions About Preschool Homeschooling
Do I have to provide a formal education to my preschooler?
Are you wondering when to start homeschooling preschool?
It’s really up to you! You can start homeschooling your 3 year old or 4 year old. Heck, if you really want to, you can start looking for homeschooling toddler lesson plans when your little one is 2.
Just keep it play based and make sure THEY are interested.
Buuut, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to homeschool your preschooler at all!
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, no state requires children to attend school before the age of 5. If you are considering homeschooling once your child gets older, this is a great site to check out the homeschool laws in your state.
For me, doing something more formal helps me stay intentional about setting aside time to read and play and teach my kids. It gets me excited to plan fun outings for our family too.
What preschool curriculum should I use?
I understand that budgets can be tight, especially for this level of schooling. Thankfully, there are many free or inexpensive resources that you can find online.
Here are some of my favorite homeschool lessons for 3 year old preschoolers and up. Some of these curricula are really great for younger toddlers as well:
- Before 5 in a Row
- This is one I love and have used the most with my kids. It is so rich in literacy and really encourages learning through play and adventure. It is intended for children 2-4 years old.
- All About Reading
- Okay, so this one is not cheap, but ya’ll, it is AMAZING. I am a reading teacher, and when I saw this curriculum I knew without a doubt that this is what I would use with my own kids. And no, most children do not start reading in preschool, but they do need to start building a foundation that sets them up for success. This program has a pre-reading level that will give your kids the start they need.
- ABC Jesus Loves Me
- This is a completely free and comprehensive curriculum available for children ages 1-5.
- Teachers Pay Teachers
- This site has SO many great resources. It is a marketplace where teachers share or sell their own content. Many of the activities are free, but you can purchase an entire unit if you want something that has been fully planned out.
What does my child need to learn in preschool?
Your preschooler will most benefit from learning through play and exploration. It is easy to introduce shapes, colors, animals, and textures as your child investigates his or her surroundings.
There are many picture books that can be used to teach letters and numbers in a relaxed setting. Read lots of nursery rhymes to help your child start building an understanding of words and language.
Did I mention reading? Read, read, read!
South Sound Reading Foundation says that “Reading just 20 minutes per day promotes the healthy brain development, family bonding and school readiness all children need to read and succeed.”
There is so much goodness in just sitting down and reading!
What should our homeschool preschool schedule look like?
You can make your homeschool preschool schedule look however you want! This is one of the best homeschool advantages.
I have found that sticking with a consistent learning time has worked best for us, but if an opportunity for a play date or an extra outing is an option, I always choose that for my kids.
Homeschooling Older Kids?
Does this homeschooling thing sound amazing to you, but you have older kids? No worries, you can have just as much fun homeschooling them too!
There are many benefits of homeschooling kindergarten:
- you choose what your child learns
- you choose how your child learns
- more family time
- your child gets to learn through real-life experiences
- you get to set your own schedules and routines
- your child gets 1 on 1 education
- there are many opportunities (and extra time) for fun extras that focus in on what your child wants to learn
If you are interested to see what this looks like, here is a glimpse of some homeschool activities for 6 year olds.
And here is a list of homeschool curriculum that we use (and LOVE) for kindergarten.
Keeping your preschooler with you for those early learning years can be so valuable and worthwhile. How sweet it is to help our littles learn and explore the world around them in their formative years!
And if you are ready to jump in, but not sure what you need in order to get started, check out this complete list of preschool materials for homeschooling!
Where are you at in this homeschooling process? Drop a comment below. I’d love to connect!