Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Petite-Size Curriculum

My baby will be four very very soon. One week from today, if I happen to publish this post today.  When Mister was four, we began formal schooling at home.  I had a curriculum (The Weaver's Interlock, Singapore Early Bird Math, a growing pile of Usborne books) and I sat him at the dining room table with his two-year-old sister and we started doing school.  I had him sequencing numbers up to 100, he began reading, much to my surprise, and I expected a lot out of him.  I really did enjoy the time together and I look back and remember lots of the fun, preschoolish things we did... but my thoughts and feelings about early childhood education have changed in the six years since.

The first child is always the guinea pig.  Petite gets the benefit of not going through so much trial and error with me as her mom.  She's getting the mom who is a little more relaxed this time around when it comes to schoolish things.  She'll probably have a lot less of the task-master mom I was to poor Mister.

Petite also has the benefit of having two older siblings to emulate and learn from.  She picks up on everything they do and I often hear her copying it, for good or for bad.  She uses bigger words, like they do.  She tries to write like them.  She's always been a part of our homeschool and loves to have a school box like the older two.

She is a natural lover of books.  Her two favorite things, in fact, are Minnie Mouse and books.  I already see the incredible effect  that reading aloud to her has had.  Books are real to her. They carry over into her play.  Her toys reenact the stories she has heard.  She gives them the names of characters in her books.  She is alert to details and studies the pages carefully.  She reads to herself, reciting aloud the stories she knows so well.  I feel very blessed that she loves books so much.

Much of her preschooling will be just wonderful books.  Books like the Madeline series, Eloise Wilkin stories, Robert McClosky tales, and even silly stories by Mo Willems. She loves nursery rhymes, Richard Scary, and the Llama Llama series.  We have baskets of books everywhere you look in our house.  There is a shelf of "special" books in the new school room.  They are on the bottom of the shelf so she can access them, but they are special in that they are the very nicest and best books for her. 

Books are the very best in education, but with two older children to school, I can't be reading to Petite all the time.  That's why we've invested in some other great resources to keep her occupied and learning right alongside her siblings.  I keep many of these items in a special corner cupboard and pull them out when she seems bored or in need of direction.  If I need to spend concentrated time with the older two, there are plenty of activities she can do independently.

Inexpensive foam number and letter puzzles (I found them for 50% off at the Family Dollar Store- a whole 50 cents each).

Lauri toys, many purchased from the My Father's World preschool kit.  Lacing and stringing activities, shapes and sorting, peg boards, and an orientation puzzle.

I also purchased the activity cards for these to diversify the learning even more.

She loves puzzles and Play Dough

and Melissa and Doug makes many wonderful learning toys for children.

I keep these in the cupboard so that they remain special, instead of being things she can access at any time.  Of course, if she asks for them, she may have them.  And we're teaching her to pick-up when she is done.

Petite loves to color and lately loves to draw and is even writing letters. I stocked up on the cheapest spiral notebooks to keep her papers contained and give her plenty of freedom to put pen to paper.  I also purchased the Rod and Staff preschool workbook series. I love this series so much! It is inexpensive and thorough, addressing lots of preschool and kindergarten developmental needs.  I think Petite will love them because she'll have "school books" like her brother and sister.  I plan to let her set the pace for these activities.

I used Handwriting Without Tears with my older children, so we'll use the wooden letter pieces to start teaching letter formation. I also purchased the HWOT chalkboard for her so she can practice her letters if she wishes.

I have times in my daily schedule sectioned off to spend one-on-one time with Petite.  I've found that if I don't purposely set that time aside, she doesn't get it.  It's easy to focus on the older two who "have" to be schooled and to neglect the little one who doesn't have to be yet.  But of course she thrives on attention and she wants to feel like part of things, too.  I also like to employ one of  the older two to read to her or do an activity with her while I work one-on-one with the remaining child.  Somehow, we make it through our days and get plenty of things done. 

So no formal lessons for Petite this year, but I know she'll be learning lots and growing by leaps and bounds!

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