Are you wondering how to homeschool your preschooler—or even whether
it’s a good idea? This week on Homeschool Heartbeat, HSLDA consultant
Vicki Bentley shares five tips for teaching your preschooler at home. Now
here’s your host, Mike Smith.
Mike Smith: Our guest this week is Vicki Bentley, HSLDA’s
Toddlers to Tweens consultant. Vicki, welcome back to Homeschool
Vicki Bentley: Thanks, Mike. It’s an honor to be here.
Homeschooling from birth [0:27]
Mike: Vicki, perhaps more than ever, parents are starting to
homeschool their children in preschool. Why is homeschooling preschoolers such a good
idea, do you think?
Vicki: Well, Mike, we know that this period from birth to age 5
is a really critical stage in brain development. Parents have been homeschooling from
birth. You’ve already taught them to walk and talk; you’re helping them
learn to socialize with others of all ages; you’re helping them to think
logically and creatively. And now you can give them one-on-one attention, tailoring
your efforts to their learning styles, to their interests, developmental
stages—and you can build in time to deal with character issues as well. And
this is all in the context of everyday living. So this isn’t just preschool at
home. It’s a lifestyle of learning that encompasses the whole child.
Everyday opportunities [1:11]
Mike: How can parents help lay the groundwork for this in these
early years—building on their child’s natural curiosity and eagerness to
Vicki: Well, first, take advantage of everyday opportunities: not
lesson plans, but teachable moments. In the car, talk to them. Say,
“We’re turning left at the end of our street, then we’re going to
turn right onto the next road.” Or at a restaurant, “That chef is
cooking. What do you think he might make?”
One major goal at this stage is to provide lots of hands-on and interactive
experiences, to give our kids “hooks” on which to hang their future
learning. We have an adult context, and we take that for granted, but
everything’s new and exciting to them, and they’re learning to make
connections in their world. Build in time to let them explore and pretend and try and
try again, and ask those zillion questions they ask, and then find out the answers
together. Take their curiosity seriously, because they do. And if you show respect
for their interest in learning now—in what seem to be, to an adult, such little
things—they’ll be encouraged to continue exploring and learning, and to
share those adventures with you.
Developing pre-writing skills [2:11]
Mike: Vicki, what do you think about preparing preschoolers for
writing in addition to reading? And do you have any thoughts on how to develop
Vicki: Well, first, start with gross motor: large movements, arm
motions in the air, moving cars along a path or a train on a track, and work towards
smaller movements, such as circles with a paintbrush and then a crayon. Arts and
crafts are great for pre-writing. They teach children control and motor skills and
hand-eye coordination. Peg boards, sewing cards, sandpaper letters, tracing shapes in
the sand, or pouring rice or water—these all help develop control.
Puzzles for fine motor skills and visual discrimination help them later
distinguish, say, a “b” from a “d” or a “p” from
a “q.” I especially like Lauri Puzzles for this. Activities that show
them working from left to right, mazes, tracing shapes. And let them write a note to
grandma or the grocery list alongside you even if it just looks like squiggles. And
let them dictate notes and stories to you so they associate their thoughts with the
Spend maybe 15 minutes a few times a day. Their little eyes aren’t fully
developed to spend a lot of close bookwork. Real-life activities, rather than
workbook pages, are the best curriculum at this stage.
DUPLOs and read-alouds [3:18]
Mike: Vicki, how can parents homeschooling older children balance
spending hands-on learning time with their preschooler without neglecting their older
Vicki: Well, Mike, I found it helpful to work with my younger
children first, and then frequently, whether it was to spend a few minutes in an
activity that we’d planned, or just to check in and maybe get a snuggle. Most
preschoolers need about 15 minutes to get really involved in their imaginative play.
They’ll often spend another 30 minutes or more playing, and this is their work.
This is time for you then to work with an older child, while still being close enough
to supervise the younger one, of course.
And some of the hands-on time can include tagging along with the learning
experiences that are going on with you and your older children. Your younger ones can
play with DUPLOs, or maybe color while listening to read-alouds, or they can play
word games with you and be included in some of those other activities. My 3-year-old
granddaughter learned the basic parts of speech by playing Mad Libs with her older
Teach to the level of your older children, but include your little ones as part of
the learning team. Put them on your lap, ask them questions. Your little guy will
ride the mental bus to his own mental bus stop. And when he hops off that mental bus,
you’ll know he’s hopped off. And then you’ve got those
developmentally appropriate activities waiting for him again.
From preschool to kindergarten [4:30]
Mike: Vicki, how can parents help their young children to
transition smoothly from preschool to a more structured environment in
Vicki: Well, in the early years, there are five foundational
abilities we can nurture to contribute to our children’s learning abilities and
their emotional security. Those are independence, order, self-control, concentration,
and service. In her book Mommy, Teach Me, Barbara Curtis shares activities,
tips, and techniques to help your preschooler develop these abilities.
Also, a consistent daily routine at home can help children feel more secure as
they segue into a bit more structure in those primary years. So read to them a lot.
Discuss what you read to help them develop language skills and critical thinking
skills. Include books that will also build their knowledge base as well. Let young
children explore and experiment through play to develop those gross and fine motor
skills they’ll need in kindergarten. Games such as marching and hopscotch and
handclap games encourage hand-eye coordination and brain development that facilitate
We want to encourage curiosity, a love for learning. At this stage, our focus is
on providing lots of experiences to give them lots of “hooks” on which to
hang their future learning, giving them a context for more structured learning
Mike: Vicki, I know the insights that you’ve shared with
our listeners this week will be very helpful for our parents. And thank you so much
for joining us again! Until next time, I’m Mike Smith.