I’m over zealous when it comes to teaching my 2.5 year old. I admit it! I’d love it if we were doing daily alphabet coloring pages and arranging numbers from 1-10, but Ty has a low tolerance for coloring and we’re still working on identifying our numbers, much less ordering them. If my idea of “preschool” was completely bound to this traditional idea, I’d be stressed and frustrated with him (still am sometimes…).
Do a little YouTube or blogosphere tour of preschool and you’ll see all sorts of genius ideas. Some kids have it together, I mean they really know some stuff. They can match objects with their beginning sound letter, they can work puzzles and even do sophisticated fine motor activities. Not gonna lie, it’s discouraging for those who didn’t win the child genius lottery, and by that I mean ended up with normal two year old boys.
When I first started preschool with Ty he had just turned two. I’d spent some time putting together what I thought was an extremely basic “curriculum” (that’s a strong word…think coloring sheets and manipulatives). But it turned out that even the bare bones structure I’d put together was too much for his maturity level, or lack thereof. Each morning we did “school time” I was almost immediately frustrated and I didn’t want that to be his impression of school and learning…and me.
Thankfully, a couple of things happened that gave us a very natural long break in our preschool journey. We moved, which is enough to interrupt even the most rigid regime, and shortly after that we spent a month with family in America. We did some of our original “school time” activities between the move and the trip to America, but after our return things started to look a bit different.
During our time in the States I read a great book by Jim Trelease called The Read Aloud Handbook. Totally recommend it. It talks about the importance of reading aloud to children (both very young and not so young) and some of the benefits associated with it. It confirmed my own love for reading and really helped bring home how significant something as simple as reading aloud can be for my kids.
I also amassed a huge collection of books to bring back to South Africa (thanks, mom) as well as the popular program, Before Five in a Row. Armed with knowledge and almost an entire bookcase worth of books, I was ready to start over.
Now our day includes lots of reading aloud and I’ve become a huge proponent of that practice. I read aloud to Ty since his baby days, but other than before nap or bedtime I didn’t have regular times during the day that I set aside for reading. Now I know that is just about the best way I can teach him, both in matters of faith and more traditional school subjects. It’s also a great way to increase his vocabulary and expose to him a big world that reaches far beyond his little corner.
In addition to reading aloud, I will sometimes pull out an activity or two from my closet of wonders, if everyone appears to be in the right mood. Ty’s almost always excited to do the activity, but I have to make sure it’s fairly open-ended (i.e., it doesn’t require a lot).
That said, I think it’s beneficial to give a child some instruction when it comes to certain activities. Requiring them to spend a few minutes sitting or standing still and completing a short one-to-one correspondence activity or sorting a few objects by color isn’t “too much.” Just don’t over do it.
A tip here is to make the activity fun and interesting for them personally. Ty loves his toy cars and has recently started to line them up on his own, just because he likes to. So, the other day, I asked him to count the cars in his line. Math win! Sometimes I ask him to count his fingers or toes or number of birds on the page of a book we’re reading (another math win!). Other times I’ll ask what letters are on a sign, or what shape something is. For preschoolers, life itself is one big learning experience!
If you’re like I was, setting standards a smidgen too high or trying to confine “preschool” to a little red plastic table for thirty minutes each morning, it might be time to take a step back. Relax. Get a good book and just read together. Go dig for worms, or sort rocks from the driveway. Talk about your faith. And take it from someone who had to majorly rethink her strategy: they’re totally learning!