Preschool At Home: Part Two

June 2, 2011

Carlee has already written about setting up a preschool cooperative at home.  You can find her great advice here.  Today, I'm going to tell you about my experiences with the preschool cooperative, and what exactly a typical day looked like for us.

My Experiences

As Carlee already mentioned earlier, she and I both participated in home preschool as kids.  And, as she also eluded to, my husband and I were in the same preschool as kids.  Yep, love at first sight.  Or, we had to know each other for a REALLY long time before we figured out that we could love each other.  But love at first sight sounds a bit more romantic.
Me and my husband attended a home preschool together.  I'm in the front with the bad haircut and blue/white coat.  My husband is in the back with the blue coat and hood on.
In September 2010, I decided to start my own home preschool group for my daughter.  In my group there were three kids: my daughter was just three, and the other kids were two-and-a-half years old.  My group was smaller for two reasons: first, each mother had or were about to have a newborn baby, and second, our access to like-minded stay-at-home mothers was a lot more limited than Carlee's was.  We still managed to make it work, and all three kids loved it (plus the mothers really enjoyed the time off each week).  We met on Wednesday mornings from 9:30 - 11:30, and hosted every third week.

Daily Schedule

Our preschool group was pretty relaxed.  Or, as my friend said quite eloquently, "it was pretty much a glorified playdate."  And you know what?  That's okay, because kids learn best through play.  Kids also thrive on routine and predictability, so my friends and I tried to set up our preschool so it was pretty similar from week to week.  In designing our preschool routine, we looked at the Joy School website (especially the guidelines and get acquainted documents).  We also used a daily schedule that Carlee shared with me.  I think we modified it a bit to suit our needs.  We had a preschool bag that went from house to house.  This bag contained our puppet (which was used during circle time), and some red velvet squares which the kids sat on during the circle and story times.
My friend hosting a preschool about buttons.  Here you can see our puppet  and one of the red velvet squares that the children would sit on.  Photo by Adriel Driver.
Here is our daily schedule.  I'll explain each section in further detail and also give some more suggestions for resources and classroom management.  I don't give times for each activity because it really depends on the kids.  Some days the kids were really into the puzzles or sponges and water or whatever was the first activity, so we would spend 20 minutes doing it.  Other times, they were done in 1 minute.  If all else failed in my lesson, I knew that I could rely on some good free play at the end.
Preschool Schedule

Gathering Activity

Circle Time
  • Hello Song
  • Weather
  • Day of the Week
  • Month
  • Season
  • Story/Introduce Theme
Singing Time
Story Time

Freeplay Time
Home Time

Gathering Activity

This is what you do while you wait for everyone to arrive at preschool.  It may or may not be related to the theme of the day.  Some activity ideas include: colouring, puzzles, sponges and water, a simple craft project, matching games, or playdough.

These children are matching colors and patterns for their gathering activity.  Photo by Marjorie Lemire.

Circle Time

Most likely, your preschoolers will be most attentive at the beginning of preschool.  So, your circle time is where most of the teaching gets done. 

We started out with a welcome song (I always sang "The Good Morning Train," saying hello to each child including our puppet).  Choose a song that both you and the kids are familiar with.

After that we did calendar type activities, talking about the weather, the day of the week, the month and the season.  I liked to sing the song "Days of the Week."

At the end of circle time I introduced the theme for the day.  You can introduce the theme in a number of different ways: a story, a game, an object, a picture, a song...  One idea that I used a lot was to put objects inside socks and have the children feel to guess what was inside, and then guess what the theme for the day was.  For example, when the lesson was about babies, I put a soother (pacifier), a bottle, a rattle, a diaper, and a baby spoon inside of socks.  I also liked to play matching games.  When we talked about houses and homes, the kids each had two pictures of different animals, and then I held up pictures of animal homes asking who had the match.

The children are playing a shape matching game during circle time.  Photo by Marjorie Lemire.

Singing Time

If you search on the Internet, you'll find a zillion songs corresponding to every preschool theme imaginable.  For each preschool day, I liked to introduce a few new theme-related songs and then sing a bunch of favorites.  It's good to have lots of movement songs such as head and shoulders and sleeping bunnies so the kids aren't tired of sitting still.  I also found it helpful to give the kids a rhythm object such as a shaker, or jingle bells so they could "play an instrument" while we sang.


Your art time is the other part of preschool where you can really stress the theme.  When I had the kids sitting at the table for art time, I would repeat over and over "we're painting with sponges today because preschool is about sponges."  The Internet of course is a great source for craft ideas.  I would usually google "preschool craft apples" or whatever the theme was for the week.  Some specific websites that I like are The Artful Parent, The Crafty Crow, and Everything Preschool. 

My daughter coloring her body in preschool.  Photo by Marjorie Lemire.
Snack Time

I think without exception, snack time was the highlight of preschool.  We chose to have a prayer at the beginning of snack time, usually offered by the host child.  Two of the families in my preschool were LDS, another was Anglican, so this was appropriate for us.  Snack was usually fruit, and then cheese, crackers, goldfish, etc.  One of my friends was really good at having themed snacks (eg. "leaf toast"- pita bread cut in the shape of a leaf), but I didn't usually have my act together enough for that.

Story Time

After the kids were finished their snacks, they put their dishes away, washed their hands, and then found a book to read.  I would lay out books on the carpet for the kids to choose from.  I usually had picked up a few library books related to the theme, and would also include some of our own story books as choices.  When I was finished cleaning up snack, I would read a story out loud to the kids.

The children during silent reading time.

Kids need to run around!  For the large movement or game time, I usually just put on music and let the kids dance!  My friend who lives in an apartment building (with understanding neighbors) would have the kids run around in the hallway.  You could also do hide-and-seek, somersaults, or go outside and play games like tag or throwing balls.  I think the idea here is to tire the kids out.

Free Play

Kids also like to just play.  Sometimes for freeplay time I would set out specific toys (eg. little people when preschool was about community workers).  Other times I would just let the kids loose in my house.  My daughter had a pretty difficult time sharing her toys during the preschool freeplay time.  To solve this problem, we would talk about sharing before preschool had started, and also hide a few toys that she thought she would have a hard time sharing.  When it was nice outside, I just liked to let the kids play in my yard until their parents picked them up.

Final Suggestions

Don't forget about field trips!  We had fun going on tours of both the fire station and the local grocery store with my preschool group this year.  Some other field trip ideas include: the pet store, a farm, city hall, the police station, a bakery, a park, or the beach.

Although my daughter was too nervous to ask questions, or check out the fire truck she loved the field trip to the fire station.  I loved the fact that there was a lady firefighter!
During preschool, my ultimate goal was for the kids to have fun.  We did had a few "rules," however, which I think are common to most households. 
  • We clean up after ourselves.
  • We are kind to our friends.  (In other words, don't hit, bite, yell, etc.)
  • We are kind to our things.  (In other words don't throw toys, break crayons, etc.)
Aside from these few rules, I like to let the kids make their own choices.  If they didn't feel like listening to the story or participating in the craft, it was okay.  I tried my best to engage and distract the children, and mostly it worked out, but sometimes it didn't.

So, after reading all of that, are you inspired?  Do you think you can do preschool at home?  I have two final resources to share with you.  I ordered the book Easy Daily Plans: 250 Plans for Preschool Teachers by Sue Fleishman online.  This book is awesome!  It contains simple lesson plans and has a lot great ideas for math, art, literacy and music extensions.  Still don't think you can do it?  A friend shared with me a link to The Learning Box Preschool.  You can order your preschool lesson plans and all of your craft supplies online.  Everything comes ready to go each month.  This is a lot cheaper than paying for preschool, but not as much work as doing everything yourself.

I hope you've found something useful in this post.  Please share with us what resources you've used for preschool in the past, or any advice you have for a smooth home preschool experience.

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