Last week, I shared my tips for homeschool preschool for two to three-year-olds. I wanted to write a separate post for four-year-olds because they are quite more advanced than the younger children.
To preface, by the time my daughter turned four, she knew all her numbers up to 100, letters, letter sounds, and shapes. If your four-year-old is not there yet, no big deal. I would start your learning goals there though.
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Inexpensive Curriculum for Preschool Homeschool
I started researching homeschool options when my oldest was a baby, and had my heart set on Sonlight. I started off with Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten package, but honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with it. However, seeing how they put together their weekly lesson plans helped me out. You can view sample lessons on their website.
We used Sonlight from August to January, but we did not pay retail. Even used on eBay or Craigslist, these boxed sets can cost $150-200. Instead, I bought a used Sonlight teacher’s manual for $30 (which I now see I could have skipped), bought three used books that I couldn’t find at the library, and then just borrowed the rest of the books from the library. I already had a huge collection of books from buying them at yard sales and thrift stores. Sonlight’s website shows all the books included in each package.
For the workbooks, I used kindergarten-level workbooks from the Dollar Tree and Target’s Dollar Spot, and I shopped the school sales for crayons and markers. I believe my total cost was $50. I then sold a few of the books afterwards to recoup about $10 of my costs.
After January, I used What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know. I bought this for a $1 off of a local homeschool Facebook group. Look for one in your area because I also scored a free box of card making and scrapbook supplies which my daughter used for several crafts.
Easy Planning for Preschool Homeschool
Most busy mams are stressed out about planning lessons. You already have so much on your plate, how are you supposed to create your own preschool homeschool curriculum. Trust me, it is easier than you think. I plan a month’s worth of lessons at one time in about 30 minutes.
Basically, you just grab the books and workbooks you want to use for the month, and then use an inexpensive teacher planner to plan out your work. I use and love House of Doolittle Lesson Planner because it is easy to separate subjects.
I then assign one English and one math activity each day. I also assign a Bible reading and devotion for each day too, but that is optional. This meant I would assign a worksheet for English and math – i.e. a sheet on tracing a sight word and a sheet on counting objects and writing the number. I would also do a daily reading from a poetry book and a chapter book or book of classic stories. What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know has a little bit of everything – stories, songs, poems/nursery rhymes, math objectives, art passages, and history passages.
That is the everyday core. Some days I will read from a science book or social studies book (i.e. Bernstein Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature, Richard Scarry’s What People Do All Day, Magic School Bus books). Other days we look at art and discuss what we see (art prompts in What your Kindergartener Should Know, and Come Look With Me books). We also try to review one of the following, time, money and counting to 100/counting by 5s/counting by 10s etc.
Our school day takes 45-60 min of book work. Then the rest of the day is spent playing and doing everyday life learning (i.e. baking, chores, crafts, games etc). I try to read as many picture books as I can throughout the day too. Both of my girls are book lovers, so they are happy to sit for four to six books at a time.
During this time, I also bought a lot set of High Five magazines from eBay and got a subscription to National Geographic Little Kids magazine on Groupon. These magazines are a lot of fun and help change up the reading routine.
Almost Free Preschool Homeschool
There is no need to spend any money on preschool items. You can find everything you need from the library and online. Look for free events at your local bookstores and craft stores too. Your library might also have free games and literary packs to check out.
Here are a few free ideas.
These aren’t 100% free, but you probably have these ingredients on-hand.
- Place a bean or seed in a wet paper towel and plastic bag and tape to the window. You will be able to talk about how plants grow and see the different parts of a plant in a few days.
- Magic Milk Science
- Blow up a balloon with soda and candy
- Mix different paint colors to teach color blends
- Make ice cream
- Cutting practice by cutting out old magazines and fliers
- Use cookie cutters to paint
- Paint with cotton swabs on aluminum foil
We love so many books, but here are a few of our favorites. Check them out at the library or download Hoopla, a free library app that allows you to check out audiobooks and eBooks.
- Winne the Pooh
- Beatrix Potter: Complete Collection
- Fancy Nancy
- Little Critter books
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
- Caps for Sale
- Make Way for Ducklings
- Little House picture books
- Harry the Dirty Dog series
- Amelia Bedelia series
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
- Frog and Toad stories
Tips for Getting Children to Love Audiobooks
- Listen during quiet activities, such as playdough, coloring, lunch, in the car, or painting
- Find short stories that engage readers with short attention spans.
- Find stories performed by actors or highly gifted narrators. A good narrator makes the difference between an enjoyable experience and a mediocre one.
- Ditch books that your kids aren’t liking and come back to them at a different time.
- Find stories that have your child’s favorite characters in them. I found this Disney Princess collection audiobook on the Hoopla app, and my daughters loved listening to it in the car. Then my eldest daughter would ask for my phone to keep listening to the story once we got home. She would just sit on the bed for an hour listening.
- Try doing it for five to 10 minutes at a time, slowly building up your listening time.
- Encourage quiet listening, but don’t get upset if they start playing or talking. Just because kids are bouncing around the room doesn’t mean they aren’t listening too.
Preschool Homeschool Tips for the Busy Mama
I gave some of my tips in the last post, but I’ll quickly recap my tips here too.
- Keep it simple. No need to try to do several worksheets and activities into one day. Use this time to let your children lead and discover a love for learning. Also, use this time to teach discipline. I try to do something fun every day, alongside with something not so fun (i.e. math worksheets), talking about the importance of doing things we don’t love in order to learn and grow. I tell my daughter, “I don’t love eating salad every day, but I try to do it because I know it is good for me. Just like these math sheets are good for you. They help you learn and get better at math, and soon, these sheets will be too easy for you.”
- Do what you enjoy. If you don’t love a book or subject, then move on. Your kids won’t grasp a love of science if you are trying to push them through a boring book. Look for topics that interest you, and your kids will automatically be more interested too.
- Ask for resources for birthdays and Christmas. Even if you don’t plan on homeschooling past preschool, it is so important to create a learning home filled with good books, games, and creativity outlets. When family members ask me what to get my daughters for Christmas, I ask for craft kits, Clifford science kits, drawing books, art supplies, games, and magazine subscriptions. This way they feel like they are giving my daughter something fun, and I am expanding our homeschool resources.
- Break up the day. No need to do all the lessons in one chunk. Spread your school day out. A little at breakfast, a little at lunch, and a little before dinner.
- Teach independent work. I currently have two princess folders for my daughter, and she knows that she is to grab one after breakfast and start on her worksheets. It has taken a few days to train her to do the work independently, but it works. This gives me 10-25 minutes to do my work or drink coffee in peace. Kids don’t have to be readers to start this. Find color sheets and worksheets that your child will understand the instructions for even if they can’t read. The goal is to teach them to work independently for a small chunk of time.
- Share the teaching load. You don’t need to do it all by yourself! Sometimes I’ll invite my dad over for Friday night dinner, and he loves helping with math. My husband thinks science experiments are cool, so he will do those on his off Friday. When my babysitter came over, she helped with worksheets and taught Spanish. Also, a few friends of mine are gifted at crafts and will do weekly craft days at their house. Look around you to find a teaching community. You might be able to trade school/play date days with a friend.
We are about to start kindergarten homeschool, but because of what we did for preschool, my daughter is almost at a first-grade level. It has been amazing watching my daughter learn and conquer objectives that were hard for her like reading music, reading, and basic addition and subtraction. It has also been wonderful to just go with the flow and focus on topics she loves.
My biggest piece of advice for homeschool preschool is to enjoy the process. There is no rule saying you have to do workbooks every day. Your kids will learn to read, even if it takes them longer than their peers. Don’t stress about it; it’s not worth it. Your main goal should be to help your kids discover the passion for learning because learning is a lifelong process.