Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Advice to a New Preschooling Mamma

Every summer, I’ll see a round of first-time mammas start questioning, “What curriculum should I use with my 2yo or my 3yo?”

And I’ll see the seasoned homeschooling blogging mammas answer, “Really?  Really?”  “Just let them play, be kids!”  “Just read to them!”  “Just involve them in your everyday life!”

And I’ll get frustrated, as a first-time only-time mamma myself, albeit now into the 7th year of it…

Let’s start with “Just let them play.”  Really?  If my daughter wasn’t underfoot begging me to play with her, she was either:

  • In great danger, or
  • Destroying property.

So play of necessity involved ME, and I didn’t have a clue what to play. 

Now “Just read to them!”  I’d been reading to her since before she was born.  Five picture books a day, minimum, for the most part.  That only takes up so much of a 24-hour day.  What about the other 22.5 hours?  And WHAT to read?  My daughter wasn’t a repetitive book listener, which meant freshening up the book stack regularly.

Let’s talk about “everyday life.”  Obviously, my daughter was involved in everyday life stuff.  She’s been frying her own eggs since she turned three.  The sad thing is, my everyday life isn’t very exciting.  At least not from a 2yo/3yo perspective.  I’d been working most of the time, either from home or part-time, so spent lots of time on the computer, doing minimal “homemaking” stuff and even less “going places and running errands” stuff.


And then there is the “newness” factor, the insecurity that comes with raising a first child, especially if you have decided to homeschool and don’t have a strong support system or have people questioning that decision.  “What do people expect a child of her age to know?  How can I make sure she’s not way behind?”

Playing is good.  Reading is good.  Life experiences are good.  Some of the best things for a little one.

But what to play?  What to read?  What life experiences to share?  These are the real questions driving a new mom’s quest for the perfect preschool curriculum, I think. 

And you know what, seasoned homeschooling mammas?  A good preschool curriculum can actually give that first-time mamma some ideas.  Some assurance that her child is doing just fine.  Some answers.

So, first-time mamma, what is the perfect preschool curriculum, you ask?  I can’t answer that for you.  Every family is different.  Every child is different.  You’re going to have to figure this one out for yourself.

Here some things I’ve learned; some things that have worked for us:

  • Think hands-on activities, stories, life experiences while reviewing your options.  Don’t pick a curriculum that is worksheet-intensive.  Unless, of course, your child loves worksheets. 
  • Don’t overplan.  And don’t overspend.  Be flexible and ready to change things up as your child’s needs and interests change.
  • Surround your preschooler with learning opportunities.  Nature table, writing and art tools, picture books, games.  Don’t rely solely on a packaged curriculum.
  • Make the curriculum work for you.  Don’t force yourself to fit the curriculum.  Alphabet school was awesome for us – it kept me creative and allowed a lot of flexibility to adjust to Esmé’s interests.  When I started working more hours and didn’t have time to prepare, a prepackaged book-themed curriculum was a lifesaver.
  • Follow blogs of other preschool mammas. 1+1+1=1’s Tot School posts were another lifesaver.  In addition to awesome activity ideas, they let me know I was not alone!
  • Check out my tongue-in-cheek post of preschool tips written when Esmé was 4yo and I was an “experienced” preschooling mamma.  That advice still applies.
  • Foster that love of learning in your child however it presents itself!  You will get all kinds of advice if you ask for it.  Some will say “read a lot” – and your child can barely sit still for two minutes.  Or “use play dough” – and your child hates the sticky feeling of it.  Or “don’t use worksheets” – and your child will beg to do one after another.  It’s all okay…  Figure out what your child loves, and do that!

Above all, treasure these days!  Every day will show more evidence of learning than you ever thought possible, though not necessarily through the lessons you plan.  Don’t rush the growing up; instead, take a moment to be a kid again!