Homeschooling preschool through experiences

The best preschool years we can give our child are those filled with experiences!
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As homeschoolers, it’s easy to let the academics of school become all-consuming. School is supposed to be about active practice in numbers, words, and facts we would otherwise not find very interesting. At times, it’s hard to let ourselves stray very far from that mindset because surely if we’re hammering down the academics hard enough, we won’t need experiences. 

In case the sarcasm isn’t shining through with enough intensity to wreak further damage on the Three Blind Mice, please hear this: school (including homeschool) is wasted if academics are given priority over experiences (or family relationships, or spiritual instruction…lots of things trump academics). This will always be true regardless of the age of the pupil, but it’s especially true of young students.

The best preschool years we can give our child are those filled with experiences!

To be fair, the need for experiences has been recognized in both the public, private, and homeschool sectors. It gets worked into the curriculum on occasion, cloaked by the ambiguous phrase “field trip.” It can mean anything, from a trip to see how candy is made to a visit to a herpetarium. I’m thankful for field trips but in the end, they just don’t cut it.

Do what matters

Moms-of-preschoolers, let this time of gentle learning with your kids start with experiences. Resist the urge to print off another worksheet and print off a recipe you can make together instead. Take a long walk through the woods without telling yourself it’s taking away from flashcard time. Expose, experience, examine…excite your child with a world beyond just math manipulatives and letter recognition games. At least for now.

I’m a a huge believer of the benefits of reading aloud to children (as you might already know), so of course I can’t help but share with you why life experiences are almost as important as reading to your kids. In his book The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease explores the idea that reading aloud becomes an even richer discipline when children have an array of experiences (or background information, as I believe he calls it) to pull from.

And you want to know something encouraging? These experiences I’m talking about…they don’t have to be a big deal. They don’t have to be expensive (though some certainly can be), complicated, lengthy or even definable. Translation: roaming aimlessly though a forest counts!

Experiences are valuable!

I love thinking that with every new and basic experience my kids have, their little minds are making dozens of connections! Elements from stories come alive and take on new meaning, or a conversation we had a few days ago that didn’t really make sense to them suddenly clicks.

Think of experiences as the way the world takes form in the eyes of your child. Think of them as a way to bolster the more “academic” aspects of their learning by providing valuable background information and giving purpose to theory.

During our time in America while on furlough, my boys (particularly the three year old) have added lots of things to their lists of life experiences. So far, one or both of them have:

  • Visited a waterfall
  • Seen a wolf, turkey, buck and duckling
  • Caught a fish
  • Flown a kite
  • Helped make a resurrection roll
  • Traipsed through western Michigan woods
  • Taken a ride in a Jeep
  • Flown across the country
  • Watched birds on the feeder outside a window
Practical benefits

These experiences have provided greater comprehension of the world and increased vocabulary (some would consider that pretty academic). Ty (3) now knows what it means to reel a fishing line and can identify a woodpecker. Preschool points? Yes!

What experiences have your preschoolers had so far? Do they come about naturally or do you feel yourself leaning towards more traditional academics?


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6 thoughts on “Homeschooling preschool through experiences”

  1. Such a great article. I definitely lean towards the traditional academics and often go to bed at night thinking we didnt do much because we have nothing to ‘show.’ This has been helpful and an encouraging reminder. Thank you!

  2. Great ideas! It’s easy to get caught up in the academics. It’s refreshing to remember that it doesn’t have to be formal. Play and adventure can be the best “academics”.

  3. I also found this very encouraging. We baked together today and some aspects of the experience left me frazzled but this helped me remember the bigger picture rather than giving up on attempting it again! 😊

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