Preschool At Home: Part One

May 31, 2011

When I was visiting Emily a few weeks ago, we were brainstorming about some of the things we wanted to blog about.  One of our best ideas was to talk about doing preschool at home (sorry, no sewing again this week).  Both of us had a successful year doing a home preschool co-op with a group of other kids and mums.  Since it's still fresh in our minds, we wanted to share some of our ideas on the topic.  I am sure there are a few of you out there trying to make plans for next year for your 3 and 4 year olds, and doing preschool at home is a great option!
My son on our way out the door to his first day of preschool

Why do Preschool at Home?

Many of my friends' children, and most of the kids in our neighbourhood, attend preschool at an official preschool center.  While I don't think there is anything wrong with that, I didn't make sense for us for a few reasons.  First, my husband is a graduate student and our income is, um, small.  There was no way that we could afford to pay the tuition for any of the preschools that I was interested in (why do they cost more than what I paid for college tuition?).  Even the very least expensive option would have been a real stretch for us.  In addition, I didn't feel quite ready to send my child out into the world.  I am pretty careful about media, and language, and other influences of that nature, and I know as soon as I send him to school he will be exposed to things that I haven't chosen.  Both my family and my husband's family participated in home preschool groups, so it was in the back of my mind as a possibility.  I knew both of us needed something, and was very happy when a friend approached me with the idea of starting a preschool group for our children.

Recruit Others to Join You

I am fortunate to have a built-in network of mothers (that mostly stay home with their kids) and kids through church.  Last year, I asked around to see which families had existing preschool plans, and was lucky to find a group of 5 kids to form our preschool.  All of the children in my group were 3 turning 4 (with only an 8 month gap between the oldest and youngest) and we had three girls and two boys.  For this age group, I think 4 or 5 kids is ideal.  You want enough children to make it feel official, but more than that sounds unmanageable for one adult.  If you have more kids and mothers that are interested, you could also organize things so that two adults are present during preschool.  And a smaller group is okay too.  Emily had a group of three kids, and it was still a good experience for them.  

To form your group, ask mothers and kids that you (and your child) like, live close by, and if possible, also share common ideas about discipline and child rearing.  I mentioned that my group was formed from families at church, but this isn't the only way to find interested people.  One of the mother's in Emily group was a friend she met at the swimming pool.  I find people at the park, or swimming pool, and other kid places are friendly and eager to chat about preschool and similar topics.  I know in our area, there is a great website that lists many play groups, and these types of groups are perfect for meeting other interested families.

Before Valentine's Day I hosted preschool, and we made cards for all the mothers.  The kids loved lacing the cards!
Setting it Up

When you have identified a group of mothers (or fathers) and kids, invite all the adults over for a planning meeting.  This is a good time to discuss everyone's general goals.  We wanted our children to become accustomed to having a regular schedule, participate in enriching and fun activities, play with kids their age, and practice having a teacher other than their parent's.  This next year, now that our kids are a year older, we will be doing more kindergarten preparation (pre-reading and early math type activities).  We also decided on a general weekly schedule.  We met twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 9:30 to 12:00, and alternated houses each week.  Since there were 5 families, I had preschool at my house every 5th week.  Some of the families have older children, and we were careful to plan around school holidays.  At this meeting, we also decided upon themes for each week for the first half of the year.  We chose not to use a set curriculum (like Joy School), but instead we picked topics that the kids would be excited about.  To see our full year schedule, click here

But I'm Not a Trained Professional?

I have talked with a few mothers that worried about their own ability to participate in a home preschool co-op.  My feeling is that you don't have to be a trained professional to prepare good lessons and facilitate learning and fun.  Obviously, having child care experience is helpful, but if you have a preschool aged child, you have quite a bit of this experience from being their parent.  On Thursday, Emily is going to discuss some of the specifics of running preschool on a more day to day basis, and lucky for us she is a trained professional!  The other good news is that the internet is a pretty fantastic resource.
Here are a few of the places I visited often when planning preschool:

  • Everything Preschool - I especially found their song section helpful 
  • Preschool Expresss  
  • One Pretty Thing - they often feature kid craft projects, and the site has an easy to use search tool 
  • Google - As I sat down to write this, I can't remember which websites I've specifically used.  When I'm preparing my lesson plan, I always start with a google search and go from there (typing in my theme and the words preschool, craft, songs, etc).
The week of Halloween I had the kids at my house.  Everyone dressed up, danced to the Monster Mash, and practiced some simple counting, addition, and subtraction with Jack-o-lanterns on the felt board. 

Doing preschool at home has been such a great experience for us this year!  I really encourage you to consider it!  It wasn't perfect all the time, and sometimes it was pretty crazy keeping up with all five preschoolers plus my one year old, but I would do it all over again given the chance.  In fact I'm planning to continue with my group next year as well.
Dearest friends on the internet, if you have done preschool in the past, please tell us about your experience.  How many kids were there in your group?  What ages (and range of ages)?  How often did you meet?  What did you like about doing it?  What didn't you like?  What did you learn the hard way?  Or did some of you participate in a similar program when you were kids?  What are your favourite memories?  Mine is of watching a movie in Steve's basement (Winne the Pooh I think) and getting my own bag of fresh popcorn to eat.  It was just as good as watching it in the real theatre I'm sure.  Maybe Emily's favourite memory was spending all that time with her future husband?  I'm only kind of joking on that one.  I hope Emily will tell us more about this...   

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