"When are we going to do Learning Time, Mama?"
This is almost a daily question in our home, from my eager 3 1/2 year old daughter. She just adores the time that we spend each afternoon, reading, studying, discussing, creating, learning, and most of all, enjoying!
I received the sage advice early on to not focus on the academics so much, but to focus more on teaching my children to love learning, and that is just what we are seeking to do. Especially in these early years, if our daughter comes away with nothing more than a sincere enjoyment and love for learning, then we will be satisfied.
Though I am far from being an experienced home educator, I thought that some of the other young moms out there who are thinking about home schooling or are just starting as I am, might be interested to know what I am using and loving these days.
"Learning Time" as we call it in our family, is simple, relaxed, and pressure-free. It is an opportunity for me to spend purposeful time with Abbie, teaching her about God and training her in godliness, delving into good books, practicing and exposing her to skills she will need to learn, and just exploring topics that interest us. At the moment, there is no set schedule, nor workbooks to be completed, no expectations– just a lot of fun and time spent together.
In addition to using resources and books, sometimes we also just research a topic that we are interested in (such as how plants grow, as we are gardening right now), watch a brief video on animals or from Everyday News, have a calendar time (using a large, preschool style calendar), or even spend some time looking at maps. It doesn't have to be formal to be interesting and educational!
Here's what we're using and why I like it:
Big Truths for Little Kids– I've mentioned before that we are using this to teach the catechism, and I love it! The stories are a bit advanced for my daughter (she asks to hear them but often gets bored halfway through), but the catechism questions are so worth it, as are the scripture references and discussion questions.
The Three R's (previously A Home Start in Reading and Language)- These short and simple books by Ruth Beechick have helped me enormously (mine are actually the old version, which was three separate books, and I don't have the math book yet). You could do all of your basic preschool and kindergarten, even into the early elementary years using these books. Through the concepts and activities, Abbie is slowly learning how to read and I feel that I am understanding how to go about teaching reading. Love these!
Before Five in a Row– I really enjoy the concept of this book, which is that you read the same book for 5 days in a row. Each day, you do an activity (art, science, math, language) that goes along with something in the book (for instance, in Goodnight Moon we read Bible verses about sleep, the sun and the moon, and we looked at how they use dark and light to show the transition to nighttime, and we experimented with primary colors, etc.). The only thing about this book, or it's original (Five in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 1, for older children), is that you need to be able to access the books that it uses, either borrowing from the library, a friend, or buying them.
Teach Them to Your Children– We bought this two Christmas' ago, when she was only 2. It is only now beginning to be at her level. It has 26 stories (each one has a poem that begins with a letter of the alphabet), each one intended to look at a different aspect of character and Biblical training, and includes a relevant verse as well. I find the stories can be a good starting point for discussion in an area that we are working on (telling the truth, obeying your parents, being generous, etc.).
Slow and Steady Get Me Ready– This neat book takes you all the way from the very first week your baby is born, through to the end of their 4th year. It is meant to prepare a child with all of the skills needed for beginning school (written by a kindergarten teacher), but it is also just a fun way to work on developmental activities with your little ones. When Abbie was little, I tried to do each weekly activity, though I fell out of the habit.
These days I sometimes use the infant activities for Caden, and get Abbie to help me with it. She is learning to serve her brother and be interested in cheering on his accomplishments, and it's good for me to spend a bit of extra attention on him (because we all know that the second child doesn't get nearly the attention that the first received!).
The Little Hands Big Fun Craft Book– This actually a series of art books for preschoolers (we also have Alphabet Art and The Little Hands Art Book). The ideas are really simple, varied, and don't require many complex or difficult to find supplies (it's often basic art supplies or things you might have around your house). Sometimes I let Abbie flip through and choose an activity that she is interested in doing, which she loves.
The Usborne First Thousand Words in Japanese– Because my husband and I lived in Japan for the first year of our marriage, we thought it would be fun to teach our kids Japanese. I scored this book for free from a pile of home schooling books that someone was giving away (it's actually part of a series of similar books in many different languages). It's basically a picture dictionary, and each page is a new scene (ie. the home, the kitchen, a farm, the zoo, school, etc.) and includes words appropriate to that setting. Abbie really enjoys going through it and pointing out words for me to read to her and for her to repeat.
Bob Books– These are very simple little books, that I wouldn't have thought much of, except that my MIL bought them for us and said they're great for kids who are learning to read. To my surprise, Abbie thinks they're great, and the simple words and short stories really appeal to her. I use these to help her practice sounding words out and recognizing words that are repeated throughout the story.
Reading- We are currently reading the first book in the Paddington Bear series (another MIL gift- I'm not sure if I'll ever have to buy much curriculum or materials as long as she
keeps giving us so many books!).
Next, I'm eager to start the Little House on the Prairie series. I do this during our read-aloud time before naps. My MIL is a huge advocate of reading out loud to your children, even books that are above their level, because of the language exposure it gives them.
In all of this, our primary goal is to focus on learning to love God, develop character, and establish the foundations for a life of continual, purposeful learning, exploration and creativity!
Do you have any other resources to recommend for little ones? What types of things are you doing for home educating with your preschool aged children? Any wisdom from experienced moms?