Miss A Columnist

Tracy Brennan is a working teacher momma to her daughter Abigail, born Nov. 2009, and manages the blog Liberating Working Moms: One Voice At A Time. She was born and raised in South Florida, and studied Journalism and Mass Media at New York University. After college, she moved across the country to the Pacific Northwest. This move and giant change was spurred on after she became an eyewitness to the 9/11 attacks. She knew life could change at a moment’s notice and felt that she needed to make changes to find her true calling.

Once she fell in love with residing in Washington State, and fell in love with her now husband, she decided to go back to school to become a Secondary English Teacher. She began teaching in 2007 and has 1.5 years of working momma status under her belt.

Preschool At Home: Preparing A New Generation For The Future

It seems that as years go by, the pressure on parents to equip their children for school heightens, especially as school districts around the country continue to raise the bar for students. For some parents, choosing the right preschool becomes a rite of passage in and of itself, sometimes spending a year researching and prodding through school tours attempting to find the right fit. However, for others, the choice is increasingly becoming keeping their children by their sides to provide preschool at home. This may be due to financial reasons, or personal reasons, but overall, this had led to a new trend popping up everywhere, where SAHM has turned to WAHM, where the work is becoming a lead preschool teacher for their child.

The key to preschool at home is structure, and this organization of the day can come in all sorts of forms and styles.

Preschooler Poppy (Photo Credit: Emily Bilbrey)

For Emily Bilbrey, mother to two-and-a-half-year-old Poppy, they key to her day is making sure to ease into their daily lesson. Morning time is for hanging out and reading stories, where Poppy joins in to show off her memorization skills, sharing in the task of telling the story. After lunch-time, where Poppy gets her daily Home-EC lesson, helping mom prepare lunch, is nap time. Upon waking up, Bilbrey prepares the days lessons, which is focused around a letter of the Alphabet, constituting workbooks, puzzles, art projects, music, and if the weather permits, a trip outside to continue learning. Bilbrey said, “We go from learning time to unstructured play pretty seamlessly.”  The key is for Poppy to have fun throughout her day and see learning as fun.

Conversely, for Amber Stiles, mother to two-and-a-half-year-old Alexa, her daily lesson starts the night before with excitement of what is to come. “I try to set out some teasers the night before so her interest is piqued upon waking,” Stiles said. “I think seeing a new queue each day helps make it special,” she added. The next day is filled with an activity set up in the morning so Alexa can see what is to come, as well as spending the rest of the day maneuvering through songs, stories, crafts, and time outside to explore the topic. Stiles, just as Bilbrey is doing, focusses on the concept of teaching her daughter using the a letter of the Alphabet, where they may sing the song about ants marching, or eat ants on a log for snack, or color an alligator, as well as practicing saying the letter “A” and words that start with the letter, in addition to reading books about animals.

Preschooler Alexa (Photo Credit: Amber Stiles)

For these two moms, who are sharing ideas and working together in the creation of preschooling at home, they glean many ideas from the internet. Three sites they have found the most useful for plotting around this letter focused curriculum is Letter of the Week: Preschool Curriculum, Preschool Palace, and a blog called Preschool Alphabet. There they find coloring sheets, activities, arts and crafts projects, and lesson plans on how to go about teaching their preschooler.

Don’t be mistaken, though, as preparing curriculum for the preschooler at home is a lot of work than just looking at websites. Moms know their children best, where their skills are and what would spike their interest. Not only are they planning and preparing activities for each school week, but they are sifting through various sites and reading various books in order to provide the best education for their children. And with that, Bilbrey takes her role as teacher very seriously. “Keeping up my personal motivation to implement an expansive teaching modem (can be daunting). Not being a trained educator, it is admittedly intimidating to step into the role of “teacher,” and since it’s up to me to create the schedule, it’s also my responsibility to make sure we are actually productive.”

You could say, though, that Bilbrey is succeeding even in these first few weeks of transitioning Poppy into preschool at home. “She ADORES it. Poppy is very sensitive, bright, and inquisitive, and responds wonderfully to pretty much any new situations. I’m also very careful to make sure that our preschool routine is a 100% positive experience for her.  She’s absolutely loving the new toys, workbooks, art projects, physical games and songs!”

And for Stiles, her daughter Alexa is thriving. Before starting this new program at home, the television was on a lot, as Stiles is pregnant and that first trimester left her with little energy this past summer. Stiles stated, “(Alexa) seems to love it (and) she also seems to be doing amazingly well without her TV crutch.”  Stiles added that Alexa is too busy with her new activities and structured day to realize the television isn’t on, though she does supplement lessons with videos appropriate to the daily learning target.

These ideas, though, for preschool at home, aren’t exclusive to moms who stay home with their children during the week. “At-home preschooling can be done by anyone at any time, even working parents whose kids are in daycare, or by parents whose kids attend regular preschool. Educating your kids at home through learning-play is completely natural and can be as structured or casual as you please to make it,” Bilbrey stated.  She further encourages other parents as she said, “Don’t be afraid to dive right in, and tailor it to suit your needs! Even a once-per-week family art project or nightly alphabet lesson can be very enriching to a young child.”

Stiles concurs. “I think that being part of your child’s educational experience, whether full time at home, or on the weekends, is very important. Fostering a love of learning will only help them in the future.”

Ultimately, it’s very easy to get started enriching your preschool aged child, whether you are a parent staying home, or a working mom looking for more structure  to your child’s weekend time, in order to practice those skills learned at school. Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Other parents can be a great resource. Find out what they are doing with their children at home, and if they are a parent taking their preschooler to school, find out what the kids are coming home with.
  2. The Internet is also a great resource. Bilbrey said that you can easily search for seasonal craft ideas, toddler cooking projects, free preschool printables, or fun kid’s sing-alongs to help you come up with a plethora of resources.
  3. Utilize Pinterest to organize all that you come across. Take a gander at how Stiles organizes all of her resources over here. (And check out how to get started using Pinterest here).
  4. Bilbrey recommends the book, Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years, to help you understand the background of Montessori teaching, as well as providing you with instructions on how to implement Montessori methods.
  5. Decide on a method and stick with it. Children do best when they know what to expect. Bilbrey is focusing more on the Montessori method, utilizing My Montessori House, where the child takes the lead on their education, while Stiles is loosely basing her curriculum on this method as she tries to make learning as organic and tailored to her daughter as possible, where she is ready to give more guidance when needed. Having a clear plan helps not only the parent, but also the child.
  6. If something doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up. Being a teacher is all about trial and error. Adjustments may need to be made along the way, but once parent and child are zoned in and focused, knowing what works and what doesn’t, the comfort level for both will fall into place, allowing for quality learning to occur.

You can follow along with Bilbrey as she blogs about home schooling her preschooler, at Last Train To Pooksville. As well, Stiles also shares her journey in home preschooling blogging at Backwards Life.

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