5 Tips to Start Planning for Preschool
I am so excited! My little girl is almost 3 (which I can't believe). This means it is time to get ready for preschool! No, I'm not researching and touring the best preschools in the city. After nearly a decade teaching preschool, I am gearing up to teach my own littles. I can't even tell you how long I've waiting for this (basically since I started college).
This summer, I intend to share with you the things I am doing to prepare for preschool come August. First up is 5 Tips to start planning for preschool. These were the first things I did each year when I was teaching, and they will continue to be the first things as I start homeschooling.
1. Decide your schedule. You need to decide your daily and annual schedule. Don't worry! This can be flexible. You don't have to stick to it 100%. However, having a schedule will help you know how to plan. Are you following the local school schedule? Are you doing school all year? Are you only taking designated breaks?
Once you have your annual schedule planned, you can look at your standards and spread them out over the year. I use a spiral approach when teaching. This means I will cover the same concepts multiple times a year. For example, I spend one week each teaching counting, 2D shapes, 3D shapes, measuring, and colors. Once I have gone through all these concepts, I start over and teach them all again.
There are a few reasons I use the spiral method. First, Children learn through repetition. Instead of teaching something once and expecting our kids to remember it, spiraling allows children to hear and experience the same concept multiple times and truly learn it. Second, a child may not be ready for a concept the first time it is taught, but they are ready for it later in the year. By coming back to the same concept, we are giving children a chance to truly master that concept.
I am expecting baby #3 in August, so this year we will be taking off a few weeks not long after we start. However, because I use the spiral method, I'm not concerned about this break at all. I know she will still get all the knowledge and experiences she needs throughout the rest of the year. (By the way, I will be using quinmesters for my homeschooling schedule. If you are interested in learning why, read my blog Quinmesters: A Year Round School Schedule)
It is also important to have a plan for your daily schedule. You need to have realistic expectations about how much school work you will be doing each day. I have to say here...let your kids be kids. They have years of school ahead. Don't try to shove it all into year one. Plan for them to have plenty of play time and use play to learn.
My preschool daily plan is to do a daily review, read one PLANNED book, read one Bible story, and do one PLANNED activity. (Click the links for more information of Why You Should Use Daily Review and 5 Benefits of Reading to Your Child Daily.) Notice the word planned. If my child asks me to read them a book, but I have already read the book I had planned for the day, I am not going to say no. Some days I may end up doing a lot more than this simply because my kids are needing more mommy time that day. However, this is what I am planning for.
The time does not matter as much as the overall plan. However, I do recommend having a schedule in place to keep you on track. You may not end up doing everything at the same time each day, but if you don't have a schedule in mind things will fall through the gap.
Here is our daily schedule:
8-8:30 Wake up
9-9:15 Daily Review
9:15-10 Get dressed/Clean Kitchen
10-11 Outside play
12:30-12:45 Bible story
We don't follow this schedule exactly everyday. However, it does help me stay on track. For example, if it's time for us to go outside, but I haven't done any of my plans for the day, I know we will have a hard time getting to everything. It helps me prioritize my time to make sure I get done what is important.
2. Use Themes to plan your year. It can be very daunting to lesson plan for preschool. Sure, you need to practice counting...that's easy. You head over to Pinterest for inspiration, but are completely overwhelmed. There are so many cute ideas. How do you choose just one? You have themes!
Kids love themes. It gives them a chance to learn a lot about topics that interest them. However, the biggest reason to use themes is to make it easier on yourself. (For more reasons, read my blog Why do Teachers Use Themes.) A theme will give you guidance on choosing books and activities. If you are simply trying to decide what book to read each day, you may simply pull a book off the shelf.
"Oh, we read this last week. Oh well! We'll read it again."
There's really nothing wrong with reading the same book or doing the same activity multiple times (our kids ask us to this a lot of times). But it can become very boring and we miss the opportunity to expand our kids knowledge. By reading different books and activities each day, our children are gaining new information and experiences.
Instead of just grabbing a book off the shelf or whipping out yesterday's activity, a theme will help you make a new decision. It will keep things fresh and interesting as you teach your child.
"We are learning about Dinosaurs this week. Oh, we've not read this book before!"
3. Use a Preschool Assessment to guide your instruction. First, I need to clarify that you MUST use an assessment that is standards based. Each state has preschool standards to guide instruction (though they are usually very similar from state to state). I'm not going to lie, the standards can be overwhelming. However, using an assessment that is based on the standards can be a lot more manageable.
This is what I use to determine what concepts I am going to teach throughout the year. (The spiral method talked about in tip 1) When I plan my individual lessons, I look at the standards themselves.
An standards-based assessment will include the key skills preschoolers need to have mastered to start kindergarten. This is why it can be so helpful for guiding your instruction.
The standards go a lot deeper. They look at skills students need to START developing in preschool. This definitely has it's place and should not be ignored (I intend to talk more about this in a future blog). But for the main guide on what to teach use a standards-based assessment.
You can grab my FREE Assessment for Preschool (Based on the TN-ELDS) here.
4. Find (or create) a curriculum that meets your needs. There is a ton of preschool curriculum out there. But as a former preschool teacher (B.S. in Early Childhood Ed.), I have to tell you that a lot of the preschool curriculum I see available is ridiculous.
They focus on things that are not academic (coloring, while important, is not a learning activity); are made up of worksheets (worksheets are not for preschool); have way TOO MUCH (your preschooler should not spend the majority of their day on academic pursuits); miss valuable concepts (focus purely on letter recognition, instead of letter sounds).
I am not saying this to discourage you from teaching your preschooler at home. I am simply saying that you can't grab any old preschool curriculum and expect things to go great.
You need to find a curriculum that:
is play based (Read more about why play is so important here.)
follows preschool standards (each state has its own preschool standards; however, they are very similar state to state)
You can get the Teach for Mastery Preschool Curriculum (currently in progress) from TPT.
More coming soon...
(I highly recommend using the Jesus Storybook Bible for teaching your preschooler Bible stories.)
5. Be consistent. I know this is the last tip, but this is really the most important. Whatever curriculum you choose; whatever method you follow, you have to be consistent. There are always shiny new ideas out their. However, you can't keep jumping from one method or curriculum to another. You have to be consistent.
Remember, earlier I said that kids learn through repetition. This is not a new or novel idea. Educators world-wide understand this. Most curriculum are based on this idea. However, if you are constantly switching things up and using this lesson from that person and this unit from that blog, you are messing up the repetition that has been planned for that curriculum.
You need to do your research now. Make an informed decision. Stick with it. Give it some time. I mean, at least a year or two. After giving your curriculum/method of choice a chance to show itself, if you don't feel like it is a good fit or working well, then you can change. However, you should not be changing curriculum every year.
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make in homeschooling. They feel like their child is not doing as well as they should be with a curriculum and they switch. But curriculum is created to build on itself. You need to make sure you are consistently following the curriculum long enough for it to build and grow BEFORE you decide it is not working.
P.S. Here are a few things I recommend you get in order to start preparing for preschool at home.