Thinking about homeschooling your preschooler? Well guess what: you already are! Join
us on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat as HSLDA consultant Vicki Bentley
shares some preschool tips and insights you won’t want to miss.
Mike Smith: This week, my guest is Vicki Bentley. Vicki is
HSLDA’s Early Years educational consultant, and a veteran homeschooling mom.
Vicki, thanks so much for joining us this week!
Vicki Bentley: Thanks, Mike! It’s great to be here with
You’re already homeschooling [0:27]
Mike: Vicki, parents of preschool-aged children may be thinking,
“Why preschool? Do we really need a plan? Is this really homeschooling?”
What do you say?
Vicki: Well, I like to remind parents that they’ve already
been homeschooling their young children. They’ve taught them to talk, to
communicate. They’ve taught them a variety of basic skills as well as character
lessons. So preschool should just be an expansion of what they are alreadydoing to
motivate and stimulate and teach them.
Now, in the context of that natural relationship, parents can just be a little bit
more purposeful in providing what Renee and Mike Mosiman refer to in their book The
Smarter Preschooler as an “intellectually stimulating environment . . . sort
of a Lifestyle of Learning!” Now, a lot of moms feel more comfortable having some
specific goals, so I usually encourage them to have age-appropriate and developmentally
appropriate expectations. For preschool, an hour of one-on-one structured learning time
is usually plenty—even in four 15-minute blocks, say—and then provide lots
of intellectually stimulating play!
Easy ways to help your child grow [1:24]
Mike: Vicki, for parents who are embarking on preschool, how
academically structured should that program be?
Vicki: Well Mike, if you mean structured learning as opposed to
play-based learning, studies show that developmentally, young children benefit
from—they actually need—lots of physical and creative play:
building, pretending, exploring, discovering, trying out their ideas. We have to
remember that what looks like play to us is work to them.
So for basic academics, foundational math encourages everyday mathematical thinking.
Things like counting and sorting objects, cooking, measuring and pouring, dividing the
pizza, counting out the M&Ms. Even setting the table is one-to-one
correspondence—a math skill!
Everyday language practice includes alphabet puzzles and notes to Grandma, telling
you about their latest adventure, or even just cuddling up for read-aloud time. And if
that’s not structured enough, there are guides to help you plan a few activities
based on some of those library books you are already reading together, or on other
interests that your child has. We have some suggestions for parents at hslda.org/preschool.
Their play is their work [2:26]
Mike: Vicki, what do you say to parents of preschoolers who are
worried that their child doesn’t have the attention span to do schooling?
Vicki: I’ve had moms tell me, “My 2-year-old and
3-year-old doesn’t want to sit still and read a book. They just want to play with
toys and pretend!” I tell them, they’re little! Let them play with toys and
pretend! But you pick the toys, so you shape the play. Their play is their work, their
early learning. It looks easy to us, but it’s not all easy to them, and it’s
developing their thinking and providing life experiences—sort of like hooks on
which they can hang their future learning.
So provide them with stimulating, age-appropriate, developmental toys like Duplos or
LEGOs or building blocks, thinking skills puzzles, art supplies, life-skills, imaginary
play. Even your music can be educational and inspirational. And everyday activities can
be helpful for their brain and skills development, like working
puzzles—that’s a pre-reading skill. Helping mom set the table is a math
skill (one-to-one correspondence). Tidying up includes classification and
organization—basic science, math, and English skills.
So in the context of everyday living and their everyday play, it’s much easier
to move at the child’s natural pace and in his learning style—and in only a
few 15-minute sessions a day!
Decisions, decisions [3:30]
Mike: Vicki, what does a child need to learn in preschool?
Vicki: Well Mike, we’re introducing colors and numbers,
shapes, size, social skills, emotional development, listening skills, reading readiness,
motor skills—things like that.
According to Barbara Curtis, there are five qualities we can help our kids develop
that are going to facilitate their lifelong education: independence, order,
self-control, concentration, and service. So we want to create a learning environment
that develops these through, say, sorting, and pouring, and using scissors, and
matching, and puzzles, and those lacing sewing cards, and imaginative play, some
foundational math, and nature studies, and some basic science experiments, culture, and
geography, fine arts—and then lots of read-aloud time!
If you wonder which concepts you should be covering at various levels, check out our
article, “What Should I Be Teaching?” And we have suggestions for curricular
materials for you to use (from less structured to more structured) in our article,
“What to Do with Your Preschooler,” at hslda.org/preschool.
HSLDA for preschool parents [4:30]
Mike: Vicki, would you tell our listeners about HSLDA’s
membership option for parents of preschoolers?
Vicki: Well, our free membership for qualifying parents of
preschoolers—whose oldest child is not yet 5—gives parents virtually the
same benefits as a paid membership. Their children will generally not yet be compulsory
attendance age. But parents of preschoolers will still have access to our legal staff,
who can help them understand their state’s requirements, such as notification,
visits, proof of progress, and so on. They will have access to latest Court
Report magazine, plus our PerX program [and] our online curriculum market.
But a major practical benefit is the personal access to our toddlers to tweens and
special needs education consultants for help with preschool suggestions, getting
started, learning styles, curriculum options, and lots more! Our desire here at HSLDA is
to equip parents to make an informed decision about home education. And the place to
begin is www.hslda.org/preschool.
Mike: Vicki, we’re really excited to be able to offer our
experience and assistance to parents of preschoolers. Thanks for joining us this week!
And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.