how we (homeschool?) (unschool?) preschool.


(This was at a local museum that had stuff from an old school house.  I told him to look like he’s doing schoolwork.  He’s all, “I don’t have to go to school! I do school at home!” Sassy.)

I’ve been tossing around the idea of this post for a while now, but kept thinking that me writing a post about what we do for “pre-school homeschool” would be similar to me writing a post on how to hem pants.  You know… I can kind of tell you how I do it, but I can’t exactly encourage you in good conscience to do it the same way, because I have no real notion of how pants “should” be hemmed.  Does that analogy hold?  In summation, I have no real idea of what I’m doing.  If this sounds like something that you’d find helpful/hilarious/encouraging because you’re bound to do better, then READ ON!

So, the simple answer to “What are you doing for pre-school?” would be a resounding, “Not much.” From what I’ve gathered from my research on the topic (there are basically ten billion books on homeschooling, by the way, and I’ve only read like, half), 4 year olds don’t benefit much from a ton of academics.  In fact, a lot of research suggests that it’s actually detrimental to reading skills and social skills later in life.  I was completely prepared to steer clear of any kind of structured reading, math, science, ANYTHING for at least another year or two.  But then Joey threw me a curve ball, which leads to our first topic:


Like I said, I wasn’t going to teach him to read for another couple years.  It didn’t seem necessary.  But then a few months ago, the kid started asking me to show him how to read.  Repeatedly.  Insistently.  (If you know Joey, you know this is no joke-he’s pretty tenacious. I don’t know where he gets that from.  Ahem.) So I figured we’d give it a try, starting slow.  I kind of assumed he’d be into it for a few days and then lose interest.  But he really surprised me and LOVES his reading lessons, reminding me each day after quiet time that he wants to do it.  We’re using this book, which seemed kind of dry to me when I first got it, but it’s really worked well for us.  I have a kid who’s easily distracted, so I think the no-nonsense approach, without a lot of extras or frills works really well for him.

IMG_4319We only spend about 15-20 minutes a day doing the lessons, which seems to be the max for his attention span.  I also picked up some Bob books at Costco a while back and every once in a while he’ll want to give one of those a try. They really help him gain confidence, and he’s so proud of himself that he can read an entire book.  As long as he wants to keep doing it, we’ll keep on doing the reading lessons, but I really think that if he wasn’t interested (or if he begins to lose interest in the future), we’d just leave off for a while, and go back to just reading tons of library books together and chatting about them, which we’ve continued to do anyway.

Nature Study

IMG_4820It feels a bit weird to call what we do nature study, because that’s a bit of a stretch.  It’s more like digging in the garden, finding bugs, watching birds build their nests through the window, taking long walks, naming plants we find, and looking things up in some cool nature books.  That’s it.  There’s no lesson plan for it, but I’m always impressed by how much the kiddos pick up, even 2 year old Grace. We also do a lot of the classes that our County Forest Preserve system does for young kids, and we’ve really enjoyed doing those, as well.  I’d highly recommend checking out classes in your area if they’re available.


DSC_0197Those of you who know me, know that I am not crafty.  I’m not artistic. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to make it work and come up with little crafty things to do with the kids, but they always wind up being a huge disaster.  There were tears. So I let it go.  Now I just have a bunch of art stuff available to them all the time, and they can paint and draw and color and cut and glue to their little hearts’ content, and I don’t have to stress out about making “prototypes” for them to copy.  If you’re in the same boat as me, read this piece about process art, and you will feel a million times better.  We also do a ton of play dough, which the kids love and I love, too, because it can keep them occupied for ages and they get so creative with it.  I use this recipe to make our own and keep the cost down, so there’s not even any stress about dried out dough. Oh, and my kids are slightly obsessed with this spinner paint thingy that Joe got for his birthday this past year from a friend.

Other Stuff


(Weird, unsocialized homeschooled child. Obviously.)

We have a little “math workbook” that Joe got as a gift that goes over some basic geometry and counting concepts, and he’s enjoyed doing a page from that every once in a while (I think just for the novelty of doing a “workbook”), but he’s learned a lot more from basically just playing and doing.  We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our magna tiles and play with them almost every day, and just from that he has a really strong grasp of not only shapes, but more advanced geometric concepts that I don’t think he would have grasped if I would have tried to sit down and teach him.  I have a few different block sets, including some wooden blocks and legos available to them, but at the moment, the magna tiles are the favorite. A couple of other things we have around are: play silks, toy animals, couch pillows (forts, people!), and loads and loads of books.  I’m convinced that if we didn’t do anything else, having all this stuff just available to kiddos would provide a pretty well-rounded learning-through-play experience.

Circle Time

This probably should have come first, as it’s the first thing we do after breakfast to start our day.  Each morning, after we finish breakfast, but before we go upstairs and get dressed and ready for the day, the kids and I sit in a circle (or more often I just sit on the floor and they pile onto my lap) on the living room floor.  First we sing a Hail Mary, which winds up being either perfectly adorable (isn’t a 2 and 4 year old singing anything perfectly adorable?), or slightly questionable if they’re in a silly mood.  Then we do special intentions and the kids get to ask for prayers for whoever or whatever they like.  I always make a point of praying for people who don’t have a home, or family, or are sick, or whatever ties into what’s going on with the world, but the kids also do a really nice job of remembering who in our family and circle of friends needs prayers, too.  Then we say the Guardian Angel prayer and finish up by reading a couple of poems from whichever poem books the kids choose.  Joey almost always chooses Shel Silverstein and Grace usually picks out something from this awesome book.  So we get a nice balance in our poetry. Then we might have little talk about what’s happening during the day and what they can expect. (I’ve found this last part really helps with managing expectations and makes transitions easier, since we’ve already talked it through.) And that’s it! It takes not even 5 minutes, but I like having a calm, consistent way to start off each day.

So that’s it.  That’s what we “do” for homeschool.  If you have a little one and you’re worried you’re not doing enough, I’d encourage you to make a list of the things you do every day and think about how the things you already do really are great learning experiences for your child.  Kids are so much more alert to the world around them than many of us realize, and just living life with them, letting them play, and engaging them in conversation is all most kids need at this age to give them a great basis for a lifelong love of learning!

I’d love to hear what some other people do for their homeschooled “pre-schoolers”!


*Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum today.  Head over and check out what everyone else is up to!*

13 thoughts on “how we (homeschool?) (unschool?) preschool.

  1. Love the circle time! We might need to try that. Thanks for sharing your methods as we figure out the next steps with our kids.

    1. It’s really helped us get some order in our mornings, which we desperately need around here! 😉

  2. Gosh, you make it sound so easy! I love the idea of circle time. My soon-to-be 4 year old will be attending a preschool in the fall (I could write a whole blog post about why, ha), but I am hoping to homeschool in the future. So I love hearing what works for other people, especially when they have kids my age 🙂

    1. Haha, Jen, I don’t know about easy, but… you know… like anything with 4 year olds, so much is just doing what you can do and letting go of the rest. When you let them do what they want to do (play), they really do learn so much! I love that so many pre-schools now are “re-discovering” this concept!

  3. My kids are 7, 5, 3, and 9 months. My preschool style has changed over the years:
    #1 Full set preschool curriculum from Seton (I didn’t trust that she could learn without A Structured Everything), read aloud.
    #2 Purchased a random couple workbooks, read aloud.
    #3 Life. Read aloud.
    We plant a garden. We catch bugs. We cook. We read. Whatev.

    I like the idea of circle time. We have a set bedtime routine/prayers, but mornings are tough. Thanks for the encouragement that it can work with littles. 🙂

    1. Ha, Alicia, I LOVE your “whatev” pre-school style! I’ve been tempted (so, so sorely tempted) by the full curriculum sets, if only because it would help me feel secure, but the more I’ve really thought about it, the more I’ve realized it would be a disaster for us and our lifestyle. Part of what I love about homeschooling is that if something’s not working, you can just up and do it differently! I’ll have to get some tips from you about how you manage with more than one “little sibling” along for the ride… My two-year-old already gets frustrated pretty often wanting to take part in things that we do that are just beyond her reach, and I imagine it’ll add an additional challenge when #3 is born in August!

    1. I’m so glad! I love it because it’s a low-stakes, gentle way to start the day. If it doesn’t go perfectly (it never does), it’s easy to move on and try again the next day. Even worst case scenario, we get a little prayer in and everyone is in the same room for a hot second! 😉

  4. I “homeschool” our 4,5 and 1yo. We tried a curriculum once for preschool but it didn’t work for us, since our son refuses anything which he is not interested in. So, we now basically are outside a lot, do crafty things on rainy days and I throw in an hour every day of interest based learning (he picks the topic and tells me the questions he’d likw to know answers to) and we do our best to discouver them together.

    1. Sandra, I love that! I think that maybe next year, when my son hits “kindergarten age”, we’ll start doing what you described with picking a topic he’s interested in and figuring it out together, I think that’s such a great way to learn. Although, I guess, now that I start thinking about it, we pretty much do that already when we go to the library. See? This is what I’m saying! When you start thinking about all the stuff you do, you realize there’s a TON of stuff you already do that you can call “school”! 😉 Love it!

    1. Oh I wish! We’re in Chicago, so not toooo far! Actually one of my good friends just moved to Ann Arbor and she says it’s wonderful there!If you’re ever in the area, hit me up and we can get together!

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