The poet, William Wordsworth, titled one extraordinary year of his life Annus mirabilis in latin meaning “the year of wonders.” I'm curious if all the years of our lives were titled like chapters of a book, what would our preschool year be called? It was filled with delight and the riches of knowledge like I had always hoped but couldn’t always put a finger on- even being the trained teacher that I am. At the risk of sounding too idealistic, we had our share of normal life frustrations too.
The summer before preschool, a couple friends and I read a thought-provoking book titled
Home Education. I read one review of it online that said, “This is the first volume of the complete six volume set of the finest material ever written on education. I wish I had read this book years ago. It would have saved me heartache and misery. At least I have read it now though, before my kids are too old. I've decided that every young woman needs to read and study this thoroughly before they become a mother. This needs to be part of the "preparing to be a mom" curriculum. Not only is it fantastic as a teaching resource, this is also the very best parenting book that I have ever read.”
Thankfully, I didn’t have to do all the work on my own to come up with materials to begin with! There are many encouraging and practical blogs, books and a couple of modern day curriculums put together that revolve around these ideas, though they don’t look like the typical teacher-guide-and-textbook-curriculums that I was used to in teacher's college. (You can read more on the resources tab at the top of this page.) I found this curriculum, which is free I might add, to be the best starting place when I really had no idea. It has given me invaluable help. I read it in little chunks here and there or else I get overwhelmed. My son is now 5 1/2 and I started immersing myself in these ideas when he was 3. I now feel much more equipped to pick and choose what living books/ materials/ activities fit best for us. Though, there are still days I feel incredibly 'new' to it all.
From my reading I came up with 4 priorities I wanted my son to experience during his 4 year old year:
Bible reading- I most importantly wanted to encourage the habit of reading the Word daily in our family. In Home Education I read a quote that taked about children not being able to remember a time when the beautiful words of scripture were not in the background of their minds. I loved the picture that quote gave me. It moved 'Bible reading' off my to-do list and over to my daily joy of living. I believe that children are able to understand the beautiful language of Scripture far more than we give them credit for. After all, they are persons made in the image of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and given to us from heaven. Here is the lovely version that we read during preschool and now again a second time through in Kindergarten. (We hope to move to a NKJV or NIV version in 1st grade.) This one is not over-simplified, as many kids' Bibles are with cartoon-y illustrations. Reading together each morning has made me gain a fresh adoration for the word of God, and I see the seeds settling in my son’s heart as well. He loves to act out the battles in the OT. I read a short section, sometimes only a few lines. When I noticed his attention fading, I stop. This is an important thing to do, keeping in mind that we are working to develop the habit of attention that is so necessary for future narrations (telling back what we read) and comprehension skills. The next day we recall a little of what we read the day before and move on. I don't require narrations just yet, though they do come voluntarily sometimes!
Outside Time- I wanted my son to experience long hours playing and exploring in the fresh air, building forts, getting dirty, and observing the wonders of creation. If you've heard any of the current research you know how critical it is in our technoloical era and about the great benefits for kids who are outside daily. I tried to make sure that this made up the majority of our hours each day, as much as possible depending on weather. That means we ate meals outdoors and I joined my son outside playing with him, reading, knitting, or working on other things while he played nearby. We noticed tiny bugs and changing leaves and lovely sunsets together. We listened to birds, collected wildflowers and took hikes. The memories I have are happy ones.
Reading living books- I grew up reading stories at bedtime and wanted to continue the tradition of reading quality books to my kids. We started with this list of picture books for preschool, and added in read-aloud time with Dad at supper. Our first read alouds were E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Trumpet of the Swan, and Stewart Little and then some of the Little House series..
While preschool and kindergarten are often considered the 'easy' years, which they are, in some ways I think they can pose a lot of fear because of the fact that they are the time to introduce the habits of education that will continue throughout a child's life. Yet, I see this time as an incredible opportunity to be siezed in order to give each child the gift of a gentle and joy-full introduction to the rigors of a full-fledged living education.
I can't stress enough how much LIFE! can be recieved for both parent and child when entering into this kind of relational education; it's amazing and so worth it! At this point our mornings often but not always, consists of my son asking me,
"Mom, can we pleeease do school today?"